Breastfeeding is not always easy and nipple biting can be a hit in lactations that are already well established. Although fortunately it does not happen in all cases, it is relatively frequent that, at some point during lactation, our baby begins to bite our nipples when breastfeeding.
This is extremely painful and in some cases is a reason for weaning by mothers. We are going to review below the main reasons why babies can bite us when they breastfeed and what solutions we can offer.
Why do babies bite?
There is no single reason. Most babies will bite their mother at some point while breastfeeding, and the causes are varied and may depend on age and timing.
- Newborns and very young babies can (or appear to bite) even without teeth. The reason is usually a bad latch on to the breast, which causes the gums to injure the nipple to be able to express milk. When babies are well latched on, on the other hand, the nipple remains attached to the roof of the mouth and the tongue makes an undulating movement over the areola, thus "pumping" the milk, which comes out through the nipple.
- Teeth eruption is a time when children are more likely to bite. Some may be upset and, just like biting their teether or toys, they bite their mother's nipple.
- As babies get older, around 8-9 months, they often bite as a wake-up call. At these ages, breastfeeding may have become so mechanical and habitual that we stop being so aware of babies while they eat. And they claim us by biting us.
- Some do it as a game. They accidentally bite us the first time, by chance, and our reaction (scream, fright) amuses them, so they try to repeat it.
- Finally, they can also bite involuntarily, especially when they fall asleep; they relax and slam their mouths shut, digging their teeth into us.
What can we do to avoid bites?
We must always bear in mind that breastfeeding should not hurt and the ideal is that it be enjoyed by both, mother and baby, so if at any time this is not the case, we must solve as before.
- If our baby is newborn or a few weeks old and we notice pain with the feedings, as if it were biting us, it is likely that it is a bad latch on. We should then consult with a breastfeeding specialist. In many cases, it is solved by correcting the posture and with adequate guidelines. In others, it could be an anatomical problem of the baby, such as a short lingual frenulum, that prevents it from latching on properly (but, in this case, there is also a solution).
- If the baby is older and bites us because it demands our attention or because he sees it as a game, it is important that we remedy it as soon as possible. It is not advisable (if we can avoid it) to yell or make sudden movements when it does, but to separate it and explain that this is not done. We must be especially aware during the shots, look at him fixedly, talk to him, so that he does not have to demand our attention. It is good that we place him in the traditional position to suckle (babies at this age are capable of feeding in the most unexpected positions). It may help to leave an object (a nursing collar might also do) so that she is distracted from thinking about biting. If he continues to bite despite this, we can say "no" when he does and keep the breast, implying that if he does that there will be no more.
- Finally, if he does it involuntarily, during sleep or when he falls asleep, we should try to remove the nipple before he falls asleep completely. Many children fall asleep nursing, but we can remove the nipple from their mouth when they are sleepy but not completely asleep.
What if she goes on a breastfeeding strike after a bite?
We have commented that, seeing our reaction after a first bite, some babies are amused and want to repeat it. Others, however, become so scared that they do not want to breastfeed again and begin a genuine lactation strike, a sudden refusal to breastfeed.
We should not force them to eat (and, on the other hand, it is practically impossible), so we have to arm ourselves with love and patience to get them to hook up again. Relaxing before the shot, making them laugh, caressing, caressing us ... it can help. Sometimes they reject the traditional suckling position and prefer to suck standing up or on the horse.
They may also find it easier to suck at night when they are sleepy. This "lactation strike" can last for a few days to a few weeks, and then the babies return to breastfeeding normally. In the event that they do not empty our breasts completely or take fewer feedings than usual, we can extract milk ourselves to guarantee production and even, if necessary, offer it in a glass or bottle.