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Biting at the breast is something that’s of major concern for breastfeeding mothers. While a correct latching technique can keep smaller infants from biting, it may not effectively work for older infants. Older babies, 6 months and older can be painful biters, which causes anxiety in many moms and some of them even get discouraged from breastfeeding their babies. While not all babies bite, some do. Being bitten can be painful and many mothers may wrongly think that the baby may want to wean. Most of the time, biting is a temporary problem and babies can be taught not to bite.

First, babies don’t bite intentionally, and they don’t understand that they are causing you pain. Second, babies cannot bite when they are actively sucking and feeding, as their tongues cover the lower teeth. But, they can stop sucking, remove the tongue and bite on your breast. This is typically at the end of the feeding, he may have a playful look on his face and may push the nipple down to the front of his face and take a chomp. Hence, it is important to make sure he is really hungry before you feed him next time.

Disciplining your child is definitely one of the major tasks as a mother and the first disciplining you will do as a mother is ensuring your child understands that you do not encourage biting. You can respond by shouting “No” or “Ouch” when the child bites and immediately unlatch your child by slipping in your finger into the mouth and breaking the suction. Never pull hard, you might end up damaging your nipples. Biting is not good and your child needs to understand that the consequence of biting is you refusing to feed her further. The flipside of this is some babies get scared and go on a nursing strike. Some other babies may find the “game” entertaining and continue biting.

The most effective thing is stopping the nursing immediately after the child bites by releasing the suction. It is not advisable to flick your baby’s cheek or pulling baby close to you such that she won’t be able to breathe. Babies are learning to trust you and harming the baby, however small it be, will make the baby lose her trust. Ending the nursing immediately teaches baby that biting is not acceptable. But mothers have to understand that the baby is not going to learn this in one attempt. The mother has to be consistent in this method to ensure that the baby learns that if he bites, he will not be fed.

WHY DOES YOUR BABY BITE?

A baby may bite during a nursing session for many different reasons – distraction, teething, cold or ear infection (it’s hard for your baby to swallow while breastfeeding with a blocked nose).

WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOUR BABY IS TEETHING AND BITING YOU?

Try the PACED approach:

Positioning – Review how your baby latches. As he has grown have you been less attentive to how he latches? Position so that the nipple is aimed to the roof of his mouth and wait for a wide open mouth before quickly hugging him close.  Keep his bottom close to help angle his head back. When your baby is latched on correctly and nursing actively, getting milk from your breast and swallowing, it’s physically impossible to bite.

Act fast – Try and watch for a hint that your baby is about to bite – usually after their initial hunger has been satisfied – when you feel your baby pausing and her jaw tensing, quickly break her suction, slide your index finger into her mouth and between her gums. Remove her from the breast. Pulling your baby straight off is a very natural and almost automatic response, but it may cause damage to your nipple.

Comfort – Your baby doesn’t know it hurts you. He may be surprised and unhappy that you have stopped the feeding. Give a cuddle with a firm “no bite” and then offer a cold teether – a wet washcloth wrapped around an ice cube or a home-made ice water pop – or a commercial teether. Offer the breast again if baby is still rooting.

Expression/compression – Keeping milk flowing can help. Baby can’t bite if she is actively sucking. If your baby seems to be slowing down (jaw tensing may or may not be present), do breast compressions to increase flow which will remind her to suck and swallow. You can also express a bit to start flow at the opposite breast and quickly move baby there to continue feeding.

Distract – Talk to your baby. Say his name. Play a game to get him to laugh for a quick please from the breast.

COPING MEASURES FOR BITING:

  1. Avoid letting the baby snack at your breast. If your baby has nursed well in the past one hour, delay the feeding.
  2. Shortly before the feeding is due, offer the baby a cold washcloth or a teething ring.
  3. Pay attention to your baby while feeding. If your baby stops taking long, even sucks and begins short choppy ones, then it indicates that she has stopped feeding and want to play at your breasts. It is time to end the feeding.

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