My Baby Bites My Nipple While I’m Breastfeeding

“Help! Ever since my son got his first two teeth, he has been biting while breastfeeding. He thought it was a game, but it got to the point where I was bleeding and in a lot of pain. What should I do?” ~ Jessica G.

It’s like you have a mother eating a barracuda baby in your hands (and on your poor, sore breasts!).

Of course, your little Junior Jaws doesn’t mean to hurt you when he chomps down. In fact, because empathy isn’t even on his developmental radar yet, he has no idea that he is is hurting you — that he’s just getting your attention (something babies quickly crave). His first bites may be accidental – perhaps he’s trying to find comfort in teething or looking for a brand new tooth for a test drive, and your breast is handy (in his mouth, actually). But at this point, he seems to be in it for the entertainment value. That means he sees the value of being entertained by your reaction to his bite — especially when you jump, scream or cry out in pain.

But the beauty of breastfeeding the biter is that he can’t really suck and bite at the same time. Once he discovers that biting won’t get him anywhere milk-wise (or comfort-wise), he’ll likely choose sucking over biting. To save your sore nipples from abuse in the meantime, nip her biting in the bud. Each time he initiates a feed, make sure he opens wide and latches on properly (that way, his tongue will land between his teeth and your breast, effectively preventing a bite). If he bites, remove him from the chest — carefully break his hold on your pinkie to avoid further damage to your soft tissues — and say, “No biting. The bite hurt Mommy.” Don’t get involved — remember, reaction is what your budding artist is playing with you. No reaction, no satisfaction. Calmly offer him a biting substitute for your breast (for example, his beloved Sophie) and say, “This is for biting.” If he chomps down on it, well – the toy is better than you. If she sucks at it, she’s probably in the market for breastfeeding after all. Wait a moment, then try again. Praise goes a long way if he doesn’t bite this time — he’ll love the positive feeding feedback! If he bites, remove him again – and this time, end the feeding.

Does biting often occur at the beginning of a feed? Try offering him that cool teething toy first to relieve any teething pain or satisfy his compulsion to chew. Does the biting usually happen at the end of a feeding, or when he’s bored? Preempt this by stopping feeding when he seems to be over it (he’s squirming around sucking, his latch is starting to slip) — and before he starts biting. Also try paying more attention while you’re feeding to keep baby on task (you know — the eye contact, the talking and singing) and limiting distractions around him…and you (the your phone, the TV). Another trick to try if he starts to tire: Hold him close to your chest — he’ll have trouble breathing (he’ll choose breathing over biting).

And, of course, treat your nipples with TLC and cold compresses (or cool packs in your bra), take Tylenol or Advil if needed for pain, and let your nipples dry when possible to speed healing. You can also gently express milk and let the milk dry on your nipples (this is the best medicine!).



Help me, Heidi! is a weekly advice column where What to Expect creator Heidi Murkoff answers your most pressing pregnancy and parenting questions. He discusses the things you’re desperate to know right now — so if you have a question, Heidi asked here or to Facebook and he might answer in an upcoming column. (Not sure if Heidi answered one of your questions? See other columns here.)

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