When your baby gets his or her first tooth, you may be scared to breastfeed for fear that they will chomp down on your breast. This can cause you to be tense and stressed out when you're trying to breastfeed your baby, hindering your natural milk let-down reflex. You may sit through a feed with clenched teeth, anticipating that any moment, your tranquil little slurper is going to sink his teeth into your breast. This can definitely make bottle-feeding look like an attractive option, but just because your baby has teeth doesn't mean they're necessarily going to bite you. And if they do bite, there are ways you can respond other than stopping breastfeeding altogether.
When babies first get their teeth -- usually the bottom middle two -- they might experiment with them by nipping at your breast, which is usually a sign that they are finished feeding and want to play or be burped. If they do nip, you may be startled into having a very strong reaction, shrieking loudly or pulling your breast away quickly, which can actually do more harm than good, as it will frighten your baby and might damage your breast even more.
In the normal course of breastfeeding, your nipple does not usually come into contact with your baby's teeth, because your nipple will be positioned at the back of your baby's mouth. Also, Baby's tongue should be placed over their bottom teeth when they are sucking, so the teeth won't even be in contact with the breast at all.
If your baby has bitten you, it has probably come as a shock to both of you -- Baby was just exploring and didn't quite realise what was going to happen, and you probably didn't expect to be bitten after your baby was full and happy. You might feel like they are trying to be defiant or "mean", but that is not at all the case. Please don't get mad at your baby for biting you -- they are only exploring their world.
Here are some ways to deter your baby from biting:
- Keep a finger on Baby's cheek, ready to insert into his mouth at the first sign he is ready to bite
- Remove Baby from your breast immediately, along with a firm, "No biting!"
- Have a teething ring nearby to offer him, in order to reinforce that biting you is not acceptable, but biting the teething ring is appropriate
- If Baby is not convinced, remove him from the breast and place him on the floor or in his cot, along with the same firm "No biting!" message
OHbaby! member Tavia has this to say:
"I breastfed one daughter until 6 months and the other until 12 months, and I want to report that never did I get bitten by either. Actually, my new baby daughter, who is just a few weeks old, causes me more pain by holding on tight with her gums and moving her head!
"A friend of mine, when her child tried to bite her while breastfeeding, would remove her child from the breast, put the baby in its cot, leave the room, and allow the baby to cry for a few minutes before trying again. It took her a few tries, but soon Baby learned she was serious and the biting stopped."
Another member, HameysMum, says:
"When your wee nipper nips, pull him close to your breast so his nose becomes blocked and he has to open his mouth to breathe. They learn fast not to bite the boob that feeds them."