Biting and Teething During Breastfeeding
Read time: 5 minutes
What to know about when your baby bites while breastfeeding
Why babies bite while breastfeeding
How to tell when baby is about to bite during the feed
How to stop your baby from biting while breastfeeding
Your soft, squishy newborn is now a ball of energy – with teeth. Ouch! This transformation can present some new challenges during breastfeeding, but nothing that you can't overcome.
The good news is that with the correct breastfeeding position, it’s nearly impossible for baby to bite down. First, you’ll want to figure out why your baby is biting. Once you know the reason, it will be easier to get back to a pain-free breastfeeding relationship!
Why does my baby bite me while breastfeeding?
There are a few different reasons why your little one might be biting.
Slow let-down. Sometimes your let-down (when milk starts coming out) may be a little slower. This could happen when your supply changes from overabundant hormonally controlled supply during the first 4 to 6 weeks, to a more tailored supply that is less forceful but meets baby’s needs better.6 It could also happen if you are stressed or distracted, causing the let-down to take a bit more time.7
If your little one is not used to waiting, they may get impatient and clamp down to help milk flow faster.1
Finished feeding. One of the more common biting times is at the end of the feed.12 At this point, your baby is no longer hungry and becomes bored, distracted, or ready for the next activity.
Attention. If you’re trying to multi-task, older babies may bite to get your attention (“Hey, down here, mama!”).1
Teething. Starting around 6 months, your little one’s first teeth may start to come through.45 This can be pretty painful for your baby! Sometimes to relieve their sore gums, babies will bite down while breastfeeding.3
Whatever the cause, there are things you can do to avoid these painful nips and continue a mutually pleasant breastfeeding relationship for as long as you and your baby desire.
Read about: What To Do About Sore Nipples While Breastfeeding
A good latch can help prevent biting
If your baby is latched properly and drinking – with your nipple deep in their mouth, lips flanged, and wide open mouth – it is actually quite difficult to bite.18
Babies aren’t able to bite while suckling mostly because in a correct latch their tongue covers the bottom teeth.3 That means in order to bite, baby needs to stop sucking, move their tongue, and slide their head back so that your nipple is near their gums.
If you watch baby’s mouth and jaw carefully while breastfeeding, you’ll start to recognize the little changes that precede a bite.
Learn about: Top Breastfeeding Latching Tips
Be aware of how you react to your baby’s biting
The most important thing to remember if your baby bites is to control your reaction as much as possible. Tough to do when you’re in pain – but a strong negative reaction from mom can scare baby and cause even more unwanted behavior.3
For example, a strong reaction may alarm your baby to the point of even initiating a nursing strike.1 On the other end of the spectrum, a strong reaction may delight and even entertain your baby who may then continue to bite to elicit your exciting response.2
Learn about: How To Deal With Nursing Strikes While Breastfeeding
Still confused about your newborn’s hunger and fullness cues? Reach out to our team of registered dietitians and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am-6pm (ET), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-2pm (ET). Chat Now!
Tips to help stop baby from biting you while breastfeeding
Let baby know that biting is not wanted
When baby bites, calmly unlatch your little one and end the feeding for a short while.36 You can do this by placing your baby down on the floor or by facing them away from you for a few moments. Try not to smile or laugh as this may send the wrong message to your baby.6
You may say something like “mommy is not for biting” or “if you want to bite, we’re not nursing now.” It can also be as simple as firmly saying “no bite.”9
Your steady body language and the termination of the nursing session will send a message. Your baby will eventually learn that biting means no more breast.3 It may take a few days or even a week, so be persistent.
Soothe sore gums
If teething is the culprit, try to give your baby relief before nursing sessions so that they are less tempted to use you as a teething ring.19 Offer a cold toy or frozen washcloth to chew.6 You can also massage baby’s gums with a clean finger.
Should your baby bite due to teething, stop the feeding, say “no bite”, and offer a teething toy. You may resume the feeding should it seem that baby is in fact still hungry.
Watch carefully for the end of the feed
Watch for changes in your baby’s jaw or mouth, especially at the end of a feeding when sucking has slowed.2
If you see your baby slide their head back or adjust their jaw, quickly unlatch your little one by slipping your finger between your breast and baby’s mouth to break the suction.1
Read about: Understanding Baby’s Hunger and Fullness Cues
Get your milk flowing
If your little one is frustrated with a slow let down, get your milk flowing before latching baby on.1 You can do this by using hand expression and breast massage for a few minutes to stimulate your let-down.
This way milk is ready to go once baby latches on!
Read more: How and When to Hand Express
Focus on a good latch
Go back to basics. Make sure your baby’s body is well supported, and that your little one is positioned close to your breast and body.6 Get your little one to open their mouth wide before latching, and make sure your breast is drawn deep into their mouth. Your nipple should be pointing toward the top back of their mouth.10
If the latch feels shallow, unlatch your baby and try again. You can also try varying positions while feeding.
Learn about: 6 Breastfeeding Positions for You and Your Baby
Minimize distractions (for you and baby!)
Sometimes nursing baby in a quiet, dark room can help. Wherever you decide to breastfeed, try to give your little one your full attention.111
Try to use this time to take a break and connect with your baby to help prevent biting for attention.
Pull baby towards you, not away
Yanking baby off while chomped down on your breast is an understandable reaction but will only hurt you more. Chances are your baby will quickly open up after biting, but if your little one stays clamped on it’s better to unlatch baby with your finger.
If you’ve got a tenacious little biter who won’t come off, pull them closer to you for a moment.11 This will encourage your little one to open their mouth to breathe, thereby releasing your breast.
Give positive reinforcement
When baby latches nicely and nurses without incident, reward your little one with extra hugs and praise.11
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET), and Saturday - Sunday 8am-2pm (ET). Chat Now!
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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:
Breastfeeding On Demand vs on a Schedule
Breastfeeding: How to Support a Good Milk Supply