Nipple Bites During Breast Feeding

6 min read

Written by Pradeep


There is no doubt that you feel relaxed feeding your child until ‘that day’ when spontaneously you screech with pain. Of course, your child will be startled and will have no idea what happened, but you know the culprit—teething process. Naturally along with the teething process comes the tendency of biting.
Nipple bites during feedings
It is difficult to enjoy breast feeding now and you can hardly relax when your baby shows the tendency of biting your nipple.

Why Does My Newborn Baby Bite When I Breastfeed Him?

Obviously, you can’t blame the teething process when your new born baby starts to bite while breast feeding. Four possible reasons behind this and their solutions are:

  • Sense of alarm: When you put the baby on his back and you lean towards the baby while feeding, your baby may not be able to latch deep enough on the breast. To make sure the food source does not slip away from the mouth, your baby tends to bite the breast.
    To avoid this, instead of leaning towards the baby you lean back and bring your baby towards you. Make sure your baby is tummy to tummy with you. This position will help the baby to latch deep enough to suck the milk
  • Fast flow of breast milk: If you have fast flow of breast milk, baby bites the nipple to control the flow of milk due to the difficulty in gulping more milk continuously. To avoid this, pump out some milk just before feeding. This will reduce the strength of the jet of milk into the baby’s throat so that he can suck the milk normally without biting.
  • Less flow of milk: If your baby is not getting enough milk it also makes him bite as he tries to get more milk. Gently massage your breast while feeding. This will let more milk to come out as the baby sucks
  • Blocked nose: When your baby’s nose is blocked due to cold it will be hard for him to suck the milk properly. Your baby tends to bite your nipple in despair. A more elevated position will help your child to breathe easily. Breast feeding your baby while walking is another option. You should also give proper medication like salt water nasal drops or infant’s nasal suction bulb to reduce the stiffness of the nose. When breathing becomes normal he will stop biting
Can An Actively Feeding Baby Bite The Nipples?

An actively feeding baby can’t bite because it is physically impossible as the tongue covers the lower gum and teeth during the time of feeding. He should pull the tongue back to bite you which is not possible when he latched on.
When you watch closely you will find that usually your baby starts to bite you during the beginning of the feeding or during the end of the feeding (both times most probably you pay comparatively less attention which your little one can easily grasp) when the tongue is pulled back.

Why Does My Baby Bites My Nipples When He Is Teething?

First you should try to find the reason that makes your baby bite you. The reasons of the biting habit of teething baby vary from the reasons of the biting habit of a newborn baby. The often found reasons are:

  • To draw your attention: Sometimes biting is a way that your baby opts for getting your full attention. You can confirm this by noticing that if the biting happens when you divert your attention from your child, like attending a phone, watching television or reading a book while feeding
  • When your baby is distracted: It is possible for your baby to get distracted easily as he grows older. Even if he is hungry and needs milk, he might not be able to concentrate on the feeding process
  • Teething: Teething is the most common reason that makes babies resort to biting. He always tries to bite on things as a part of soothing his tender and sore gums. Naturally he bites you while feeding to soothe his discomfort
  • When your baby gets bored: When he has had enough milk and is no more hungry, he may get bored. He doesn’t want to let you go as he needs your presence. So he will start to play with the nipple in his mouth and biting comes as a part of it
  • When your baby is impatient: When your baby is very hungry and the milk is not flowing properly he will get impatient and tries to get more milk by biting the nipple
  • When he dozes off while feeding: When he falls asleep while you feed him he may bite you unknowingly

Breastfeeding mother

What Should I Do To Not Get Bitten During Feedings?

You can try any of the following tips that suit your child’s character, age, and according to the reason behind the biting habit:

  • Give teething toy prior to feeding: If your baby’s biting habit is due to teething, provide your baby a teething toy or something hard or cold to chew before feeding. This will help to reduce the discomfort that arises due to teething. Massaging the gum before feeding will also give the same result. Once the discomfort subsides he will not try to bite you
  • Giving proper attention and minimizing distraction: Let him understand that he is getting proper attention. Always interact with your child while feeding. You could sing to him, tell him how much you love him, give him a mild massage on legs and hand while feeding him. This will ensure your undivided attention for him. Distraction can happen to your child also. He will try to turn around and watch the surrounding with the nipple in his mouth. So try to select a quiet room with not much things to attract his attention
  • Increasing your breast milk production: When your baby is not getting sufficient milk he may get impatient and tries to bite the nipple. To avoid this,
    • Gently massage your breast while feeding. This will let more milk to come out as the baby sucks
    • Offer the other breast immediately when you notice his sucking is slowing down which is the indication that the force of the milk flow is also slowing down
    • Drink more water and eat food that helps to increase breast milk production (example: Asparagus)
  • Avoid forceful feeding: Don’t fix feeding time according to your convenience. You can’t be sure whether he is hungry enough to feed. When you try and he shown no interest then don’t force him
  • Recognize the biting cues: If he tends to bite at the end of the feeding, you can easily find some signs telling that he finished feeding or he is getting bored if you observe him closely. Consider these signs as biting cues. When he shows these cue you can stop feeding take your breast out of his mouth safely. When you feel his jaw is tightening put your finger into the corner of the mouth between the gums
  • Do not let him interpret this as play: Stop screaming when he bites (sometime he may think it is fun and starts to bite more thinking it is a play or get scared and refuse to suck anymore-nursing strike). Instead, say “NO” and take him away from the breast. Don’t feed him for few minutes. Give him another chance. Repeat it whenever he bites and he will gradually understand that nursing and biting will not go hand in hand
  • Never pull him away: Never pull him off the breast as it may damage the tissue and cause more pain. Instead, pull him close to you and as his nose get pressed against your breast he will be forced to open his mouth to breathe properly. Now you can pull your breast out of his mouth safely

Even after trying appropriate tips we mentioned above your child doesn’t quite the habit of biting, it is time for you take some attitudes. Don’t underestimate your little one. He will definitely catch the cue. Breast-feeding mothers are found to develop a healthier bond with their babies than formula feeding mothers- this is the result of a new research accomplished in this field. There is no doubt that the process of breast feeding gives your baby the feeling of being protected. It is during breast feeding that he will have his mother on his own and could enjoy all the undivided attention given by his mother.
There is no need to wean your baby just because he is biting your nipple while feeding. Consider this as a temporary issue. There are various plans to stop him biting you.
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