I looked down at my beautiful girl’s face as she snuggled up against me to nurse. She was 5 months old. We were well established into our breastfeeding routines. She was a fantastic eater. Her eyes started to close slightly and her body started to relax. We had done this so many times. I knew she was slipping off into her afternoon nap. I started to relax and then out of nowhere… chomp.
My sweet little girl didn’t look so sweet anymore. I yelled loud out of shock and pushed her face away from my body. She looked at me like I had done the worst thing ever. She broke into uncontrollable tears. So there we were both crying — yes I admit this one brought on some tears. After she calmed down I allowed her to nurse again, and she fell asleep like normal without any biting. I thought that would be it but it was only the beginning of my saga with my little Vampire baby.
In the months to come I found a definite pattern to my dear little baby’s blood lust. It was unequivocally a teething thing. Each time she would get a tooth she would bite me while nursing several times a day for three days in a row. Then like clockwork a tooth would pop out and the biting would stop. Each time I thought that we had stopped the bitin,g but unfortunately it would start back up again and we would repeat the cycle. There were times that she broke the skin and drew blood; other times it was just enough to make me discontinue the nursing session. Each time she was teething and would get hungry, I would cringe at the thought of feeding her knowing that at some point she would probably bite me.
I started researching what to do with a biter. These were some of the recommendations I found.
- Pay attention to baby’s cues. Biting often happens when the baby is done eating and bored. Make sure if they finish eating to take them off of the breast.
- If the baby is teething offer a teether before nursing. Say things like “please bite this, but be gentle when you eat.”
- Make sure that they have a good open latch at the beginning of each session.
- Make sure the baby isn’t distracted. If the baby is rolling or pushing, give them some time before forcing a nursing session.
- Use positive reinforcement and praise baby for good nursing
- When baby bites calmly remove them from the breast and tell them that they are not allowed to bite while they are eating.
- Do not yell. A baby can get spooked and go on a nursing strike.
- If the baby doesn’t let go, put your finger in between their gums and pull yourself away, or pull the baby into your body. It will be hard for the baby to breathe and they will open their mouth and let go.
- If they bite hard enough to cause lasting pain, the sore area can be iced in between nursing sessions.
One of the suggestions that I had to work hard at was to not yell. It can be incredibly painful when a little one bites down while nursing. Most women can understand that that area of the body is fairly sensitive. I was able to start holding in my yelps of pain and only let out a small gasp each time she did it. I would take her off and put her down on the floor. I often said things like, “you can’t bite while you are eating; it hurts mommy.” I know at 5 months she couldn’t really understand this but she did understand that she didn’t get to eat anymore. I tried teethers and pacifiers but she was never a fan and would just throw them on the floor.
By the time she was a year she had 12 teeth. I don’t even want to think about how many times my little vampire bit me, but it was quite a bit. I decided to continue nursing for a while even though she kept biting me, but when her canines started coming in I was a little afraid. I did wean her at 16 months just before those four teeth dropped in.
While I was doing my research, I found that most babies only bite once or twice but quickly learn not to. My little lady has always been a bit strong willed so she didn’t fall into that crowd. She liked to bite and she continued to do it up until I weaned her. I have heard tons of women ask if they have to stop nursing when their babies get teeth. I have always told people no, you don’t have to stop nursing. Most babies never bite. Some do and they can learn not to. Some never learn but they can still be nursed as long as you are willing to deal with the some bites here and there.
Has anyone had a child bite while nursing? How did you handle it?