Saturday, February 12, 2011

Twice Bitten, Once Shy...

Torturing Chicken Little by trying to get a photo of his chompers

This week I've been feeling nibbles and clamps from my 4 month old baby Chicklett. They don't necessarily hurt, but they surprise me every time and it was a sudden reminder that I'm about to go through all of this teething business all over again. Sigh.

Being bitten is a huge fear for many mothers, and is sometimes the deciding factor of not breastfeeding at all - or that is the automatic end point for the relationship. I will admit that in my 28 months of breastfeeding there was a period around 9 months old with Chicken Little that I uttered the words, "I don't know if I can do this." But, you all obviously know that I can and did do this... and you can too!

It is a good test of your commitment to breastfeeding. But with support from those who have gone through it before you will be just super!

  • IF you are being bitten your baby is not actually hungry. It is physically impossible for them to bite/clamp and eat at the same time. During teething you will be acutely aware of when they slow down on sucking and probably start to make the decision to end their nursing session a little earlier than normal.
  • Nurse with your thumb near the corner of their mouth, so when/if they start to bite you can quickly unlatch and remove baby before injury occurs.
  • If you end up being injured, a trick I used was to pump and give the breastmilk to baby in a cup. He thought it was awesome, and it gave me time to heal... and build up the confidence to trust in nursing again.
  • If you are bitten, try your best not to laugh (baby will then think it is funny too). Tell baby "NO, that hurts mama" in a firm serious voice and end your nursing session (since they obviously aren't hungry anyway)
  • Remember that this is a relatively short period of time in your nursing relationship. Once those teeth poke through baby is usually done looking for something to chomp on.
Who could resist that face??

While nursing him now I do occasionally have that, "Eekgads, if he really wanted to he could take a nipple off" thought in my head while looking down at his mouth full of teeth... but I trust in our nursing relationship and it's been over a year since I was last bit. Your baby isn't trying to hurt you, just looking for a way to relieve the pressure of that tooth popping through. Give them something they CAN chew on and stay strong. This can be a big speed bump, but it's not the end of the road.


  1. Mother Hen, AWESOME post! This is a huge fear among breastfeeding women, and you're right; I have seen it end many a breastfeeding relationship. Thank you for posting some really good advice! I have heard some really strage advice on the subject, but you're right on the money: If baby is biting, he's not hungry anymore. Can't bite you if he's nursing efficiently - he'd bite his tongue!

  2. Great post!! A friend just asked me about her daughter biting her. This is a great post and I forwarded it on to her. :)

  3. Thank you for sharing this post. My son is 13 months old and has Down Syndrome. Right now he only has 2 bottom teeth. He has bitten me quite a few time, but it seems to be when he is having a bowel movement or is in pain. I simply take him off and say no. He knows how to sign milk and if he has bitten me and I take him off he will sign for milk. I always make sure I wait a little bit (just a few mins) before I put him back on so he knows that it hurt me. I was very hesitant in putting him back on after the first bite. Now I know that I would never let such a little innocent thing end out nursing relationship. Afterall breastfeeding a baby with Down Syndrome is the best for him because it really helps strengthen his mouth and tounge.

  4. Good post, but the 'they can't nurse and bite at the same time' is VERY frustrating to hear repeated so often. I've nursed 2 babes, both if which were/are perfectly capable of actively nursing (swollowing milk every one or two sucks) AND biting/clamping down hard enough to leave teeth marks. Yes, in a perfect latch if baby bit with both top and bottom teeth he'd bite his own tongue. But not all nursing relationships are based on a 'good' latch, and some babies are perfectly capable of digging those top teeth in without hurting their tongue. My 1st child had a horrible latch that could not be corrected (he had been intubated for some time and had a feeding tube and they deterimined his bad latch was most likely do to his feeling like he needed to guard his throat/breathing from having too much in his mouth), it was painful the entire 13+ months of our nursing relationship and, since his tongue did not extend over his teeth he could and did very easily bite and nurse. My daughter has a great latch when she's awake, but when she's nursing while sleeping she takes a deep suck in, clamps her teeth down, let's her lips go slack, and works her tongue and jaw to nurse, using her bite to keep her attatched as opposed to a decent suction latch (we're still working to get her to stop 3 months after she started). It might be rare, it might only be possible because I have a very strong let down that requires very little of them other than swallowing, but everytime I hear someone say 'they can't bite and be nursing at the same time' it makes me want to growl and shake said person. I put up with painful teethmarks because the alternative is not nursing, not because I don't realize the difference between them eating and them comforting at the breast.

  5. I also wanted to pop in and say, when my lo was around 7 months ureter doing a sippy cup, she never took a bottle, well around the same time she started bitting, she drew blood a couple of times and our nursing sessions usually ended in both of is in tears. I tried every trick j. The book and nothing seemed to help. I stood fast and finnsly decided to take the sippy complete away. Well turns out the sippy was the problem. She has to bite and suck to get anything out, I've found most of the sippys for her age are this way. Well literally with in hours f me taking it away she stopes biting, we are bow at 9 months and her top 2 teeth are coming through and she still has not bitten me. I just want to tell you Mommas that might read this that are having this issue hold fast, I promise you will be able to fix it.

  6. Wow Jespren! Sounds like an amazing situation to have happened to you twice and for different reasons. I am in no way an expert, and just going off of what I've always been told. Do you have any tips for anyone that might find themselves in your shoes? Have you ever blogged about it? We'd love to tell your story!

  7. @ Mother Hen. My son's biting issue was actually quite easy to fix. Since he was still eating and did want to be on breast the standard 'no', put him down and then pick him back up and put him back on when he reached up (which for him was usually immediately) worked very well, because he wanted his milk! I think it actually worked better than average because instead of 'mom puts me down and I don't get to teeth on her anymore' if they bite it was 'mom puts me down and I don't get to eat anymore' if he bit. So, with occassional exceptions, it only took a few days of setting him down for a moment to get him to stop biting. But my daughter doesn't do it when awake, so I'm at my wits end to put a stop to it. We're working more on having a structured bedtime and needing to nurse less in general during the night, thus lowering the oppertunity she has to bite, more than on keeping her from biting. If I pull her off everytime she does it (which is actually rather difficult since it involves prying her off) she just wakes up crying then I have awake hungry baby on my hands, and since she doesn't realize she's doing it it's not really conducive anyway. It's very frustrating because her latch is so good when she's awake, although she does have an annoying habit of biting anything she can get to, arm, leg, belly, when she wants to nurse and I'm not quick enough to get her to breast. Ultimately though it's a lot less painful than my son's latch problems, which stubornly resisted multiple lactation consultants, so it's hardly a make-or-break thing.
    I have not blogged before about the bf trouble (biting or otherwise) I had with either child. I keep meaning to do a piece on initiating bf with my son. He was in the NICU for 32 days and was fed pumped breastmilk, once he was sent home we worked very diligently to switch him to the breast and off pumped milk (successfully) and that was probably the roughest 2-3 weeks outside the first couple weeks of his hospital stay I've every experianced period. It didn't help that he fed EVERY HOUR 24 hours a day. I'd love to write something up to submit for you, but internet access is spotty at best, so do me a favore and keep me in the back of your mind. I might drop you a line in the future.

  8. I was advised to clutch the little biter to my ample bosom. It is totally counterintuitive as you want to tear them off you. They can't bite when they can't breathe so they soon learn not to. That's what worked for me. Three times.