Why do babies bite the nipple during a breast feed?Babies start to explore the oral cavity and start to put things in their mouth after 3 months. The mouth is a sensory place and a place of pleasure. We eat, speak and kiss etc. with our mouths and these are pleasure sensations so it makes sense that biting can be one of these. However for the mum biting at the breast is the opposite of pleasure and more akin to torture and extremely painful.
When a baby is breastfeeding correctly, he or she is not able to bite, because their tongue is over the bottom gum (and teeth).
It is when babies are not actively feeding/nutritive sucking that they may bite. This is usually at the beginning of the feed or at the end when you are not paying full attention to your baby, or they have had enough and are full.
Over and under supply are another common reason for biting and the biting can be a result of frustration that the milk is either not flowing fast enough or is flowing too fast.
The nipple is made of erectile tissue and has many nerve ending receptors and it has a good blood supply. It can easily get damaged and cracked and that's when problems start.
How can you manage this behaviour?Sometimes, a baby who has been frightened by his mother's reaction to being bitten, refuses to go back to the breast. Managing this correctly is so important as it can cause breast refusal.
If your baby tends to bite because he is impatient and wants the milk like yesterday, it may help to express a little milk before the feed so that the milk flows easily and immediately. You may only need to do this when your baby is tired or very hungry.
Watch your baby while he feeds and if he just seems to be playing, or gets a mischievous cheeky look in his eye, break the suction and take him off straight away. If he does bite, say 'No!' in a firm voice and taking him off the breast straight away will teach him not to do it. How you react to this is so very important. Try to avoid a loud 'Ouch!' as this may either frighten your baby, or alternatively amuse him, so he may try it again.
Scroll down for links to more helpful blogs on sore nipples, breast refusal, teething and increasing your breast milk supply.
Sore and cracked nippleshttps://nurtureparenting.com.au/sore-nipples-and-breast-feeding-causes-and-treatment/
Breast refusalSome babies seem to experience more pain and discomfort than others when teething and sore gums may lead to refusal to breastfeed. Give suitable pain relief and offering your expressed breastmilk, via a cup, spoon or syringe until feeding has improved.
A teething baby whose gums are tender often likes to bite and chew and may do so while attempting to feed. Try giving him something hard and cold to chew on, or rubbing his gums before a feed or massage via teething acupressure points (see my baby massage video and eBook https://nurtureparenting.com.au/product/baby-massage-e-book/ ) may relieve your baby's discomfort. This may make him less inclined to chew on the breast.
Increasing breast milk supplyhttps://nurtureparenting.com.au/10-foods-that-increase-your-breastmilk-supply/
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