Breastfeeding and biting

Breastfeeding has many challenges. Here are some tips to deal with a very common one – biting.

Breastfeeding can be challenging in the best of circumstances, but when you start to have complications, you really start to wonder if it’s worth it. One of the recent challenges I have been dealing with is biting. Here are some of the things I learned to get me through and continue to breastfeed.

  • It hurts. You will react spontaneously the first time you get bitten and many times after. This reaction may be all you need to do to stop your child from biting.
  • Be consistent in your response. You need to do the same thing every single time. What worked for me was to remove the breast, say “No bite,” firmly, and give her a pacifier. I did not let her try to nurse for a minute or two at least. For babies, a minute or two is a long time and all that you need to wait. Then I would try again if she still wanted to nurse. If she did it again, I would respond the same way and we would go do something else for a while. Sometimes if she really did need to eat, I would give her a bottle of expressed milk or have someone else give it to her, and then I would pump.
  • Try to figure out why. In my case, my daughter was having teething issues. I found that if I gave her a cold teething ring to chew on for a while before we tried to nurse, we didn’t have as many issues. I also stopped letting her chew on my fingers. She was no longer allowed to bite any part of me. Another reason for biting may be that the child is not hungry. Your child will not starve themselves, so listen to their cues.
  • Pay attention to your child. You know your child and their regular nursing behavior best. Look for patterns in when they bite or cues they have before they bite. When they seem to be in a biting mood, do something else to change their mood before putting them to the breast.
  • Talk to others. Other mothers are a great resource and support system. Ask around – biting is a very common breastfeeding issue and getting support can help you tremendously. You can also look for Michigan State University Extension or WIC breastfeeding peer counselors in your area. Local hospitals may have lactation specialists to help as well.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond with your child, provide comfort and support, as well as being nature’s perfect food. Keep at it, you are doing a wonderful job!

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