Today’s post is a guest piece by Carrie Huggins Willard. Thanks Carrie, for sharing your experiences with us!
Ouch! Dealing With The Determined Biter
I can finally say that I’m back to enjoying breastfeeding my 15 month old daughter. You see, she had been biting me while nursing for the last few weeks. While I wasn’t considering weaning her, I was literally a little worried each time I sat down to nurse her.
I’m not new to breastfeeding. This baby is my 5th breastfed child. And I’ve dealt with biting before. In fact all of my babies have attempted it, once or twice. I even had another determined biter, my 2nd baby, who otherwise was the sweetest, most easygoing of my babies!
Biting can be a bit confounding. Why would baby want to … well, bite the boob that feeds her? Why would she want to inject pain into an otherwise beautiful relationship?
Here’s what I’ve learned about biting and how to bring it to an end, once and for all.
Figure out WHY baby bites
This requires some detective work on mom’s part. Biting is sometimes related to teething, or it’s just an experiment (hmm… what happens if I do this_?). While some say that biting has to do with low milk supply, I haven’t found this to be the case at all. I’ve nursed a few toddlers through pregnancies when my milk was almost nonexistent, and biting wasn’t an issue then. I think moms get this idea because biting almost always happens near the end of the nursing session.
With older babies, biting is often about getting mom’s attention. For me and my latest baby, this was definitely her motive. I had fallen into a trap of doing other things too often while nursing. And she missed me and wanted my attention! Once I figured this out, I started really loving her up and looking her in the eyes while we nursed. I didn’t have to do this every single time… I might go nuts if I didn’t read an occasional book or email while nursing! But as long as I spent a couple of minutes focusing on her at the beginning of a nursing, she would be happy and not attempt to bite.
An advantage of paying close attention is that you can see a bite before it happens! My son, mentioned earlier, would literally get a twinkle in his eye right before he clamped down. I learned to look for that look, and end the nursing session before he had a chance to make a chew toy out of me.
Some older babies are “done” but don’t know how to end the nursing, so they bite because they’re bored. If you suspect this, then be proactive and stop when you sense baby isn’t actively nursing. Technically, a baby can’t bite if they’re actively nursing, because they would bite through their own tongue. If baby is just “playing around”, end the nursing. Be ready with a finger to slip into baby’s mouth to break the suction and protect sensitive breast tissue.
Don’t stand for biting… but don’t overreact
It’s only natural to jump or even shout when you’re bitten, especially the first time. But try not to let this happen often. Some babies will enjoy the show and bite just to see you react. Other more sensitive babies may be so shocked and hurt (if their bite was accidental) that they refuse to nurse for a time, called a “nursing strike” – which is no fun for mom or baby.
At the same time, don’t stand for biting either. At the breast, a baby is learning all about relationships. When you lovingly removed your newborn from your nipple when he latched on incorrectly, you were actually teaching him boundaries and discipline. You knew it was best for both of you for him to be latched on well, so you were unapologetic about repositioning him.
Now that your baby is older, don’t allow him to hurt you. If he bites once, tell him firmly “Ouch. That HURTS mama. Nurse gently please.” END THE NURSING immediately. You don’t have to do so in a punitive way, but it’s ok to be firm with a toddler or a determined biter.
The only thing that ended biting with my son was when I immediately removed him from the breast, placed him on the floor, and left the room for a moment or two. It only took two “mommy time outs” for him to get the message! And we went on to nurse happily for a couple more years.
Carrie is a mom of 6 who writes about natural family living, homeschooling and simplicity at http://www.