Berkeley Parents Network
Google Custom Search
Home Members Post a Msg Reviews Advice Subscribe Help/FAQ What's New

BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website! Read more, and see how you can help: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org

Biting while Nursing

The Parents Network > Advice > Advice about Breastfeeding > Biting while Nursing



11-month-old is holding my nipple between his teeth

Feb 2006

I have always nursed my now 11 month old son on-demand. He has always been a very avid, very frequent nurser, and we're still nursing at least every 3 hours, including at night (co-sleeping). I have always suspected that he had a relatively crappy latch, as he just never seemed to have his mouth open as widely as I always read and hear should be the case. He was sometimes prone (especially when drowsy or comfort sucking) to gentle chewing, I think, but before he had teeth I couldn't even tell for sure. Plus, I have experienced bouts of nipple pain, though I tended to chalk that up to yeast, since a few days of acidophilous seemed to help. I would often unlatch him and try again, but getting him to open up wider was always so frustrating and rarely fruitful. We both tended to be mutually comfortable and satisfied with our nursing experience, so I was relaxed about it.

Now, though, we've got trouble. His top teeth just came in last week, and it seems clear the more they grow, the less room there is for my breast. I feel like he is holding my nipple (not the whole areola, by any means) between his teeth and sucking through that. He's not biting down, but the position of his teeth combined with his sucking makes it seem like he's chewing. And it hurts! Repeated attempts to reposition and to un- and re-latch are incredibly frustrating for us both. There is certainly no comfort in it for either of us.

I truly do not want to wean him yet, but I can't figure out how to fix this. Please advise!!


Ah, top tooth scraping. It almost brought me to weaning my first when she was ten or eleven months old. The good news is, we fixed it, and went on to nurse for another six months.

Lots of people will tell you that it will get better on its own, so maybe that will be your experience as well. I wasn't so lucky, and ended up with bleeding nipples and a lot of pain.

I have tons of advice -- too long to post here -- but I got all of it from a wonderful LC, Fritzi Drosten, who saved our nursing relationship. I don't have her number any more, but she is local, and hopefully you'll be able to track her down. It can be hard to find someone experienced with older baby nursing issues, but she was great.

There had never been anything wrong with our latch as long as my daughter was gummy, but once those teeth were in, yowza. I was also skeptical of correcting a ten-month old's latch, but Fritzi got us on track so quickly. Basically: 1) make sure that the baby's mouth is lined up with the nipple. And, 2) don't let the baby pull (squirm, etc.) or knead while nursing.

If you don't want to wean, do persevere and find an LC who is experienced in these issues. And good luck -- you can fix this! My e-mail is below if you want to talk further. Happy nursing! anne


I know your pain! I'm not sure I have as much advise as sympathy! My son started getting teeth early! When he had the four front teeth (by about 5 months) I wasn't even thinking of weaning, but our nursing relationship was definently changing.

He would nip, chew and sometimes bite hard (essentially teething). At 15 months, he hasn't gotten much better (he really bites hard sometimes, and he often clamps down just as he's falling off to sleep and its hard to get him to let go).

When he bites, clamps, teethes, etc. I pop him off and say no, whatever it is, forcefully (which does make him cry sometimes), then we readjust and I let him go back to nursing. It usually works the first time, but if he repeats it 3 times, he loses his nursing priviledges(usually when he's biting or teething on my nipple he's either nearly asleep or asleep and not eating, so I don't feel too guilty.) until he's ready to be serious.

He fusses, but will often calm down/go right back to sleep. He has always had a pretty good latch, so that hasn't been a problem in our case, though I've noticed as he's gained more teeth, he's gotten lazier with his latch. This often causes a power struggle (me popping him off to re-latch, he lazily latching on, me finally just ending the nursing session, until he's more serious (it sounds so cruel when I type it!). You might consider talking with a breastfeeding consultant. i am sure you will get more solid advise than I was able to give, but if you would like to contact me for more details, it's okay to e-mail me. Good luck, I hope you can work it out for the both of you. kukana


New teeth scrape, scrape, scrape, with every suck

March 2004

My daughter's top two teeth finally broke through. And, it turns out, they scrape my nipple when she nurses. She's not a biter, but there's this scrape, scrape, scrape, with every suck. It's not a lot of pressure, so my nipples are holding up for now, but I'm worried about how long that will last. Will she learn to ''nurse around'' her new teeth? Can I do anything to help her learn to do so? not ready to wean


This happened with my son, too. In our case, things did get much better over a few months. He did adjust to having teeth, and better still, the sharp cutting edges of those new teeth smoothed out. Took a couple of months, but we got there. I hope you do too. Carolyn
My baby also rubbed my nipples raw with new teeth. Actually I think there were 2 or 3 different periods of time that it happened. I never figured out how to stop her from doing it, I just tried to tolerate it as best I could and eventually she stopped (maybe it took a week or two). This isn't really advice, just reassurance that it is probably just a stage. I found it frustrating that all the nursing literature I had read acted as if teeth were never a problem. My 14 month old is great at nursing now with no tooth friction, so it worked out in the end. Hang in there. Lori
The scraping is the same as biting basically your baby is not controlling the way she's sucking. I had the same problem and suspect many moms do and it only gets harder the more teeth they get especially when they are actually teething. Those sharp little piglet teeth hurt! The advice I got and followed which seemed ridicualous at the time but did seem to work was to unlatch my son and say no biting, just sucking. I did this each time he sucked wrong (in fact I still do this) and it seemed that evetenually he got the picture of which kind of sucking was ok and which was not. He still bites me here and there and now that he's older I add - that gives mommy owie on her boobies- at which point he usually laughs at me but usually s! tops biting! Good luck with this. juliette
You should speak to a lactation consultant because proper nursing should not involve the teeth at all. Typically if you feel the teeth, the child is not latched correctly as they can not effectively nurse if you feel their teeth on your breast. Good luck and keep at it-- a mouthful of teeth shouldn't spoil your nursing...... LogicalMama
Hi, I had a similar experience with my first daughter and it stopped bothering me after not too long. I'm not sure if her nursing changed, or my nipples toughened up or what. Keep up the nursing! Jessica
The scrape, scrape, scrape does go away eventually. It bothered me too at first, but they learn how to nurse without their teeth getting in the way. I can't remember how long it took to change, but ! long enough that I remember thinking, ''When is this going to end?'' but not long enough to make me wean him. It does stop. I'm not sure if there is anyway to help this process move along quicker, it just happened naturally for us. Good luck! Abbie
Teething isn't really pleasant for anyone. My son has 14 teeth now and I've learned that they are sharpest when pushing through the gums. Then the baby learns to use their tongue more to guide the niiple around the new teeth. Plus where the teeth hit on a consistant basis you develop a callus of sorts and it does stop hurting. It'll all work out. =) Amy

6-month-old is biting me - considering weaning

Jan 2003

My 6 month old daughter has had teeth for about a month and I am getting bitten hard at pretty much every nursing. I've tried all the advice I can find on getting her to stop biting, but I think she's just too young to understand ''no'' or anything else I've tried. The biting is sometimes playfulness at the end of nursing and sometimes is chomping down during nursing as if she's trying to get pressure on her gums. I don't think I can hold out much more. Does anyone have advice on 1) getting her to stop biting or 2) the best strategy for weaning a 6 month old? I've been trying to substitute bottles of pumped milk or formula during the day, which she will gladly take, while keeping morning and evening nursings, which I'd eventually replace with bottles too. However, the more bottles I give her, the more she seems to bite. I feel like I'm in a real catch-22. Lori


Hi -- My daughter also started chomping with her gums and biting while nursing, but once her teeth fully came in, she just stopped. Thank goodness! Talk about a painful, blister-y experience. I am careful to end the feeding the second it seems she has had enough to avoid the playful biting. Good luck! Candace
Boy can I remember this! My daughter bit me so much during nursing my breasts were just covered in teeth marks, welts and bruises! She even drew blood a few times - and I swear I saw her smile when I cried out in pain. It made nursing so unpleasant for me after she got her teeth - I would become tense because I anticipated the painful CHOMP DOWN on my nipple which would come after I relaxed. I struggled with it for 6 weeks and finally weaned her just after 7 months - she took to formula and food quickly and had no problems with the transition. Now, she is 5 and I can tell you that this biting thing was just early evidence of her hearty enthusiasm for everything in life. Congratulations - you have a lively kid on your hands! anon mom

How do I stop 9-month-old from biting me?

July 2004

Does any one have any tricks that stop a nine month old from biting the breast other than weaning? I have been firm, told him no, taken him away from the breast and recently I have tried to push him into the breast; he laughs! Really I think the whole thing is a game with him. Most of the time it is at the end of a feeding or when he is not very hungry. It is worse when he seems to be having lots of teething pain. I would really like to keep breast feeding especially since he is also refusing to drink form a bottle or sippy cup. jenny


My twin girls started biting at 7 months, at the same time that I went back to work full time, which I think was part of the reason they started, but I wanted to keep breastfeeding them in the evening so found that if I kept my full complete attention on them while they were feeding I wouldn't get a big chomp on the breast. That means I couldn't watch tv or talk on the phone or just ''zoning'' and relaxing away. I'd speak to them and tell them how my day was and they would suck away, but as soon as my attention shifted, I'd get a great big chomp, like they were saying, ''Mommie pay attention to ME!'' It was difficult to just sit and focus on them, but well worth it and I was able to continue breastfeeding for 4 more months. If that doesn't work, and you mentioned that it happens normally at the end! of the feeding or when he's not that hungry, then pull him off, it might just be his way of telling you he's done. Eventually, if you are persistent enough and consistent with you telling him, ''No biting'' he'll stop. It's a phase with most children and goes away. Good luck! Leah
my one year old also did this, laughed, thought it was a game. it was really bad for about 3 days, then became only occasional when really tired. to stop the bite in the moment, i pull him into the breast. this causes him to let go. then i will often not latch him back on immediately. instead i sing to him, play, distract him (still in the nursing position, though). eventually he seems to settle and can go back to nursing. hang in there, it should pass... --Ouch

Nursing 8-mo old with teeth - Ouch!

Nov 2002

I am nursing my 8 month old daughter who has two top and two bottom teeth. She has never bitten me, but her top teeth are making it painful to nurse her. My goal is to nurse her until she is at least a year old, but now I'm entertaining thoughts of weaning her. It is becoming unbearably painful. I have tried relatching her repeatedly but it barely helps. And tips or recommendation are greatly appreciated. Please help!!! Cringing Nursing Mom


I happened to wean my daughter at about 8 mos for several reasons, not excluding her teeth. Weaning went very well for us, taking out 1 feeding per day until the last one was at night, then stopping that one as well, instead giving her formula in a bottle. I had intended to nurse for the first year as well, but now that I look back on it, I think weaning her when I did was fine, and may have even been easier than if I had waited until she was 1. It may have even helped us wean her off bottles shortly after her first birthday (now I guess we have the issue of weaning her of sippy cups!). I honestly don't know what to tell you about her teeth hurting you even if she isn't biting. My daughter's teeth didn't hurt unless she bit down, to which I would pull her off, tell her no biting and let her latch back on. I guess I thought I'd tell you how weaning at 8 mos went for me, in case that's what you decide to do. Jennifer
My 2 year old nursling has had his upper teeth since he was about 6 months old. Like you, I found it took some getting used to nursing him with his upper teeth. Like you, we didn't have much trouble with biting, but nursing was uncomfortable. Paying close attention to the latch helps a lot. (I'd gotten a bit lazy about checking and correcting my son's latch before he got teeth. I think I thought it wasn't such an important thing once nursing was well established. As a result, he had some bad habits by the time his teeth came in.) A La Leche League leader suggested trying to aim or the nipple towards the roof of the baby's mouth. This really helps, as does making sure that my son's mouth is open really big. I also found that I eventually got a bit less sensitive to the teeth thing. Good luck! Grace
I went through the same thing with my son, when he got his top teeth, and again when he got his canines. In both cases, it was a real problem for only three or four weeks. Those teeth have to be very sharp to cut through the baby's gums. But they dull a bit as they get more chewing action. I know it's no fun being the even unintentional object of that chew. In our case, I tried different positions to nurse, and that helped. The lying down pose, especially, was more comfortable. Good luck Carolyn
Try holding her in a different position, if possible getting her mouth rotated to a new place on your breast, so that the pressure of the upper teeth isn't in the same place every time. And use Lansinoh (or whatever similar product you like) to ease the soreness. I found that as my son's teeth came in (and he got larger and squirmier) we just had to adjust periodically, and the sore spots always went away after a short time. Holly

13-month-old biting - is she ready to be weaned?

While we're on the subject of weaning, I'd like to ask people's advice: My 13 month old baby still breast feeds a few times a day. I don't want to wean her, but last week she was biting me every time I fed her. My mother said this meant she should be weaned. I don't think she was biting because of teething since she's had her molars for a month. My only explanation was that she thought it was funny when I yelled "Ouch!". She's been good for the last few days, but I can't help wondering if she would/could signal to me that she is ready to be weaned. Does a baby ever decide to wean before her mother wants her to? If so, would she bite? Also, does anyone have other solutions to a biting nurser (besides weaning)?
I had a biter too. you are spot on that the reaction encourages them to do it again. So the theory is to not give them the reaction (which is extremely difficult when you get chewed...)

What i did was a stern `no' and withdrew the feeding -- and then i would feed her later. you have to be consistent. this worked for us. she hasn't bit me since. (As to weaning--some toddlers loose interest, they will not sit down to feed, or will not last for the feeding--but i'm not sure i would put loss of interest dowm in the same category as biting).

good luck


The Book *Mothering Your Nursing Toddler* has a whole section on biting and the list of potential reasons why your daughter could be biting you is very long. It could be teething (even though her molars are in), she could be getting bored, she may think it's a game, she could be angry at you over something, etc. etc. A few suggestions. 1) Watch her closely as she nurses. If you're the type of mother for whom "baby at the breast" means, "great, now I can chat on the phone" (BTW, I'm exactly like this) then she may be wanting your eye contact and attention. When she looks like she's finished, try to pre-empt the bite by breaking her off. 2) If she bites, don't scream or push her away. A baby can't nurse and bite at the same time. Pull her *closer* so that she can't breath through her nose. This will force her to let go and end the fun very quickly. 3) If that doesn't work, then firmly end the nursing session. *Talk* to her. At 13 months she understands much more language than you think she does. Explain to her that she is not allowed to do this and that this *hurts* mommy. Allow her to kiss the boo-boo to make up for what she did.

There was a case in the book where a mother said, "You don't have to nurse if you don't want" and the child weaned, but I believe the child was much older.

---Sophie


My daughter only bit me a few times while I was nursing her, and she was much younger than 13 months when she did it, probably more like six to ten months. She also seemed to think it was a bit funny, at least she smiled when she did it. I pulled her away, said no, tried to look a little stern, and waited a minute or so before I would let her resume nursing. That worked for me, but as I said, she was younger.

Weaning was a different story. I wanted to wean her when she was about a year old, so I started to decrease the number of nursings per day. It was then that she really started to bite me, but not when I was nursing her. If I held her in my lap, she would bit my shoulder and face. If she were crawling on the floor close to me, she would bite my legs. At that point I started nursing her more, and she stopped biting me. My conclusion was that her biting was a sign that she wanted to be nursing more. But I haven't talked to other mothers who had a similar experience with non-nursing biting.

Janet


15-mo-old is drawing blood

I really want to keep breastfeeding my 15-month-old daughter. But for the past month or so she has been digging her very sharp bottom teeth into me at the beginning of each session and bearing ever-deeper cuts into me that never get a chance to heal. It's partly my fault for having shared my 'hydration pack' with her (a water bottle with a tube that ends in a 'bite valve' that you have to literally bite down on prior to sucking the water up the tube - I can't believe it didn't occur to me that she might transfer her new skill). Needless to say, I've stopped using the hydration pack and have tried to re-train her by giving her water out of baby bottles and urging her to suck gently, not with the teeth, etc. She's pretty good with the bottles but breastfeeding is still pretty horrendous. The thing is, I'm not even sure if she's actually biting anymore because just the sucking is enough to burst the cuts open.the sharp pain could just be the partly-healed wounds being pulled apart. So I'm hesitant to remove her from the breast when the pain comes (as a means of training her), because if she's NOT actually biting then it will just be confusing. A couple of weeks ago I did try to wean her and decided that the emotional pain on us both outweighed the physical pain of nursing (plus I learned that we'd gotten thrush and once that was overcome I figured that it would hurt much less. true, but it's still awful).I should also say that nipple guards didn't work - I tried many times and she was horrified. Screamed, bit them off, cried pitifully. Any advice would be hugely appreciated. Thanks so much.
Oh dear, this sounds horrible. If it were me, I'd consider myself done with breastfeeding and save my breasts from further abuse. I've nursed two babies - I don't think I could bear what you've been bearing! Wean, I say!

15-month-old biting after being bitten by another tot

Aug 2005

We have a 15 month who began biting her breastfeeding mother quite recently with the frequency that goes beyond the biting which seems to accompany breastfeeding. It appears that our baby was recently biten by another baby and has taken to experimentation with this type of behavior. We are looking for advice on how to work with this situation beyond a scolding or angry response. Thanks


I had good luck with the simple closing of the nursie factory for the time being. No scolding or display of anger, just an uncontrollable yelp, put the baby down and close up shop--stand up and move away. She cried, but only did it once more. Best of luck meg

16-month-old biting me very hard

Jan 2000

My sixteen month old is still nursing at bedtime to fall asleep, in the middle of the night and in the morning. He has taken to biting me very hard at the bedtime nursing which makes me think it's time to stop that session. (He knows it's wrong to bite anywhere and always gets told no biting and is set down by himself for a minute or two for a timeout.) It isn't teething - he has all of his teeth - but seems to be more of a playful, testing bite. Often I can tell he is going to do it but can't quite stop him in time and last night couldn't pull him off either. Needless to say, I am still in pain and he got in trouble. I would like advice on how to wean him from the bedtime nursing and get him to go to sleep on his own. We are still doing the family bed at night and I'm not quite ready to let him cry it out - besides he wouldn't stay in the bed! I have tried backrubs, special music and stories but those don't seem to work. Any other ideas would be much appreciated.


To my knowledge, there is no connection between biting and nursing. I've nursed two and both experiemented with biting me at around 5 or 6 months. It is a natural thing to do when you have teeth. But I made it clear from the outset that biting was not acceptable with a very firm "No biting mommy!" each time they did it. A couple of times my frown and stern voice made baby cry, but the problem never persisted more than a day or two. But usually they would stop a minute and look at me quizzically and then resume nursing. Once I did end the meal for my son but he seemed to have forgotten about it the next time around.

Weaning a 19-mo-old nursing fiend who's biting me

Aug 2003

Hi, I have a 19 month old son who is a nursing fiend-he doesn't eat a whole lot of food still, he likes eggs and peas, noodles corn and a few other things... but is very picky he looks at each bite going in his mouth there is no sneaking him food. he also smells everything. The only thing he does consistantly is nurse many many times a day and all night lately, he just finished getting his molars and now starting the corner i teeth.. so my question is how do I wean him? when we are out during the day he dosent nurse so much and he will dring some juice, water or milk... but now a lot -never a whole bottle unless it is in the car and real hot. My secondary problem is that with all these sore teeth he has been biting me and I am so sore I can barely stand the pain anymore. For a while it was only the left side was sore but now he has macerated the right side as wel. HELP I don't know how to stop him, he is so insistant ansd if I don't nurse he screams bloody murder... last night over an hour before he passed out-I don't like the cry it out method but I just can't take the pain. I have tried to reduce the number of times he nurses but it just makes him stay on longer other times. Also has anyone have any advice to put on to help heal from the biting...I've used comfrey salve calendula, aloes, and even neosporin-nothing is helping? very sore mom and out of sorts babe


Ideas:

Shout ''no'' when he bites.

Give him something else to bite, e.g. frozen celery sticks, teething toys, Daddy, or a sibling.

Stop nursing every time he bites. Take him outside to help calm him down.

Decide on a nursing schedule and stick to it so that you can deliberately drop the feedings one at a time.

Go to a La Leche meeting to get creative ideas.

Best of luck! EM


My 15 mo. old son got his teeth earlier and was not such an avid nurser, but the biting during teething sure rings a bell. Once the worst of the teething was over, the biting stopped, by the way. But, whether you decide to wait it out or wean, it sounds like your little guy does need some help. What seemed to help with mine was to put baby anbesol on his gums right before nursing, and when he was really miserable, tylenol during the day. At night, the ONLY thing that worked was motrin, hands down. He would wake up screaming just as the motrin wore off, and we'd give him a dose plus more teething gel. Good luck! anon
Those molars are a b!*@%, aren't they? :-) Chances are, your son really needed the extra comfort, and had a hard time chewing and swallowing solid foods, while those teeth were coming in, and now that they're in, you'll get some relief.

As far as biting, the usual method of training that out of 'em is: (1) Push his head in very close to your body. This is the opposite of the usual reaction which is to try to pull him off, but it will block his nose and force him to open his mouth wider so that you can unlatch him. Pulling him off, on the other hand, will cause his teeth to scrape your nipples. Ouch! (2) Stop nursing immediately. Put him down on the floor and, if you're at home, walk away. You can also say something like, ''Biting hurts Mommy.'' Don't nurse again for at least 10 or 15 minutes, no matter how he cries. Preferably, with a verbal toddler, wait until he's calm enough to agree ''no biting'' before you start again. You shouldn't have to do this more than a few times before he learns, although the problem may occur again with a new round of teeth or the like.

Your son sounds like he's really just not ready to wean. Never fear, at some point he WILL be, and possibly sooner than you'd think. But if you MUST wean him prematurely for whatever reason, probably the simplest (though not necessariy the easiest) method is to never sit down. :-) The idea is to avoid all situations in which he's used to nursing -- spend as much time as possible out of the house, and when you're home, stay on your feet and busy. Don't try to wean all at once; focus on eliminating one usual feeding time before you start on the next. The bedtime and/or first-thing-in-the-morning sessions are typically the last to go, so unless it's the night nursing that's REALLY getting to you, don't start there.

And ditch the bottles. A nursing 19-month-old shouldn't need them, and it'll probably be easier to get rid of them now rather than later. Use cups for his water and milk. If you're going to wean him, you might allow him to keep a bedtime bottle, ideally of water, as a comfort thing, but during the day use cups. It's better for his teeth and his jaw and speech development, plus, if he's used to bottles, he may be carelessly treating *your* nipples as if they were bottle nipples, which don't mind being chewed on!

For your sore nipples, I recommend ComfortGel or Soothies gel discs. (The ComfortGel, formerly known as Maternimates, I found to be much more effective, but they're harder to find; you'll have to order online; try sites that sell breastpumps and the like. Soothies are available in most drugstores.) They worked far, far better for me than Lansinoh or any kind of lotion. Also, take ibuprofen or Tylenol for pain relief. Once you're no longer in such pain, you will probably find it much easier to start some ''gentle weaning'' (the ''don't offer, don't refuse'' method) and you won't have to let your baby cry.

Best wishes to you and your son Happily nursing a 2 1/2 year old


Home   |   Post a Message  |   Subscribe  |   Help   |   Search  |   Contact Us    

this page was last updated: Jan 2, 2009


The opinions and statements expressed on this website are those of parents who subscribe to the Berkeley Parents Network.
Please see Disclaimer & Usage for information about using content on this website.    Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network