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When Breastfeeding Babies Bite!

Biting has happened to most moms when breastfeeding. Baby bites, mom tenses and then what was once a relaxing time together, becomes an anxious time of worry when the next bite will occur.

Why Babies Bite

It is a common misconception that biting means the baby is ready to wean. Breastfeeding moms are also used to hearing the question, “What about when he gets teeth?” Teeth do not equal pain in breastfeeding. Sometimes your baby bites before he even has teeth. It’s like being caught in a clamp. Most times, however, it’s after the first teeth have emerged but the rest of his gums are hot and irritated with new teeth trying to push through. Teething is the most common cause of biting but it’s not the only cause.  According to La Leche League International (LLLI) babies will also bite because:

  • Congestion - it’s hard to swallow when breastfeeding with a stuffy nose
  • Attention - If you’re distracted while baby is nursing, he may just want you to pay attention to him.


When Babies Bite

During feeding time, when your baby is latched on properly and getting milk, it is physically impossible for them to bite you. The nipple is far back into the nursing baby’s mouth (shown above). Plus when he’s hungry, his focus is on filling his belly.

Biting typically happens towards the end of a nursing session when his belly is full and now he’s nursing for comfort or the bonding time with you.

What to Do

The first time it happens mom’s reaction is instant and strong. Maybe she gasps, tenses and says, “No!” Your baby may not have a grasp on language yet, but he most certainly is in tuned to your emotions. LLLI says that many times this jarring reaction can be enough to fix the behavior immediately but LLLI also cautions that some more sensitive babies may go on nursing strike because of it.

After it happens once, try to relax and not let it affect your nursing relationship. It can be hard to relax when you’re anticipating the next bite, but it is the best approach. Then, pay attention. Praise your baby for not biting. Again, he may not understand your words but he will understand your emotions.

LLLI suggests to watch when the eating for hunger stops. When you feel your nipple slip forward, slide your finger between his jaws to prevent the clamp down. Have a teether handy and offer it to him saying, you can bite this. Not mom.

If congestion is the issue talk to your pediatrician about options. Sometimes a more upright position for nursing will help keep him clear.

If the bite occurs for attention then put away distractions and enjoy the time with your baby. Turn the TV off and put your phone down. This is special time with your child.

Discipline Options

If the biting continues and he is more persistent to bite try not to simply pull the nipple from his mouth. LLLI warns that this will cause more damage to your skin. Instead, wedge your finger between the jaws of your baby to get him to release and again tell him no.

LLLI also recommends a stronger action is to immediately sit the child on the floor. End the nursing session. The physical removal will convey the important message that mom is not for biting. If this upsets him it's okay to let him cry for a minute or two so he gets the message before you pick him up again.

More information on the LLLI site here:

Photo Credit: Flikr Creative Commons. Andrea Wolford

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer and mother of two. If you liked this posting please follow her on Twitter @writerbonnie or like her on Facebook at

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