ask an expert

My son bites during breastfeeding. What should I do?

I need advice and support on how to deal with biting. I have been breasfeeding my 7-month-old son and hope to continue breastfeeding until he's ready to stop.

However, now that he has gotten his two bottom teeth there is a lot of biting. It's very painful and even breaks the skin sometimes. I don't know what to do. I have been trying to stop him with a firm "no" and also removing him from the breast for a couple minutes. It doesn't seem to be helping.

It's been going on for a month now and my nipples are so tender. Even when he does latch on and not bite, it still hurts because my nipples are so bruised from the previous bites. It's so painful I am tearing up. What used to be my most favorite time with my little one, is turning into something I'm afraid of.

What do I do? I really don't want to wean him. How long does this biting phase usually last? And is there anything I can do so my bruised nipples aren't so sore?

McKenzie Jones | Other Provider

McKenzie Jones

If a baby is going to bite, it is usually toward the end of the feeding when he is no longer hungry, but wants to explore what his new teeth can do. 

Be aware of when his feeding vigor starts to slow, and remove him from your breast before he gets a chance to bite. If he does bite you again, remove him from your breast by sliding your finger between his gums so he will release your nipple. 

Keep him off for the remainder of that feeding, not just a couple of minutes. Offer him a teething ring or whatever method you prefer to ease the discomfort that comes with teething. 

If he bites at the beginning of the feeding, offer him something cold to chew on before nursing. Giving preparations to numb his gums might numb his tongue (or your breast) and make breastfeeding difficult. Most importantly, stay calm and give him your attention to keep breastfeeding positive and enjoyable for you both.

Remember than when he is actively nursing and drinking, his tongue will stretch past his lower gum ridge and cover his lower teeth. So if he is biting, he is not nursing. 

Now, you have to help your nipples heal.  Provided they are not continuously reinjured, they will heal quickly, usually in a matter of just a few days.  If the skin is broken, wash daily with soap and water.  Rinse his saliva from the broken skin after each feeding and you can use either gel soothies (read package directions) or your favorite nipple cream (I have no financial interest in any brand and find Lansinoh to be wonderful) after each feeding.

Your baby will learn what to do with his new teeth. He doesn't understand that biting causes pain and will benefit from lots of hugs and kisses from you when he nurses gently.

Read more answers by McKenzie Jones