What Should I Do if My Baby Bites Me?
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). Once it has happened, it may cause you to be tense or fearful at the next feeding. Here are some thoughts that may help you based on questions that arise at this time:
My baby bit me! Does this mean I have to wean?
Weaning is rarely the answer when a baby bites. It is important to identify the cause and work to correct it.
My baby is teething and bit me! What can I do?
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 release from the breast.
Since I began working, my baby has started to bite at the breast. Should I wean?
Not at all!
- Review the PACED approach above for feedings at home.
- Ask the caregiver to demonstrate how she is feeding your baby.
- Observe for a paced manner, so that your baby is not clamping to stop a fast flow.
- Make sure your baby is not allowed to tug and chew on the bottle nipple.
- Make sure your baby is not being given a pacifier if you do not use one at home and/or not allowed to chew on one if one is given.
My baby has a cold and has started biting during feedings. Should I wean?
When your baby is ill, continued breastfeeding with all of the active antibodies is more important than ever!
- Review positioning – Your baby may need to be more upright to allow congestion to drain more easily and for easier breathing. You may want to adjust your usual positioning to one where baby is in a more sitting position or even laying on top of your chest.
- Consider wearing your baby to keep him upright and nursing him while wearing him.
- Some mothers will run a humidifier in baby’s room or run the shower in the bathroom. The increased humidity can open up your baby’s airways for easier breathing.
- If the baby is tugging at her ear, she may have an ear infection. See the pediatrician to check for an ear infection or more severe illness.
Published Jan 2018.