As your baby's teeth start to come in, biting becomes inevitable. Your little one is just figuring out how to use his new chewing tools, after all! It's common for babies to want to bite or chew on pretty much anything they can get their hands on during this time. When your baby bites, they don't associate the action with causing you or anyone else pain — they're simply experimenting with different surfaces and textures.
Your baby also might start biting before teeth even appear, and this could be because they're trying to alleviate teething pain. You'll know if your baby is teething if they also:
- Drool more than usual
- Are cranky or irritable
- Have a low-grade fever (99 F/ 37 C, as measured in the rectum)
Some babies bite more than others, so it's important that you monitor your baby's biting habits and intervene when necessary. It's especially important to intervene if your baby starts to bite you while they're nursing.
Breastfeeding can be hard enough as it is, let alone having to contend with a biting baby. While biting might seem harmless if your baby is chewing on a teething ring, toy, or stuffed animal, if they start to bite you — especially on an area as sensitive as your nipple — it can become a painful problem.
A baby who is biting while nursing is simply trying to learn and is experimenting with how to use their mouth and teeth; they're not intentionally trying to cause you harm. In fact, a baby can't actually bite you while they're actively nursing because their tongue covers their lower gums (where their first teeth typically come through). The deeper the latch on the nipple, the less likely it is that your baby will bite.
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If you do feel your baby bite your nipple (and trust us, you will feel it), it's typically just before or right after they've been feeding, or if they're having a break between sucking. Your baby might also be biting while breastfeeding because they've become bored. If this is the case, try to breastfeed in places that are quiet and dark to limit the number of distractions around. If your baby is congested, they may accidentally bite while trying to breathe through their mouth. In this case, hold them upright for nursing, in a room with a humidifier.
Painful as biting during nursing may be, try to keep your reaction to minimum. If your baby starts to notice that they get a reaction out of you if they bite, they may learn that the behavior is one way to get your attention.
It's important you try different strategies or techniques to try and stop the biting. If your baby bites hard enough to break the skin of the breast or nipple, you could develop a painful infection like mastitis. Take your baby off your breast when they bite you; otherwise, they'll learn that biting still gets them what they want! If the baby doesn't let go, you can try to break the suction by inserting your finger into the corner of their mouth. Do not pull.
You don't necessarily have to stop breastfeeding altogether if your baby bites you or they've started to develop teeth. In some cases, a baby's biting habit can be managed so that you and your baby can continue to enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding for as long as you're able.
Now that you know why your baby is biting, you might be wondering "how do I stop my baby from biting?" As with any new habits that could potentially cause harm, it's important to manage children's bites by nipping the action in the bud before it goes too far. While you might be more forgiving of a small bite, other people might not be. If your child's bites continue to go unchecked, they may end up biting other children in the schoolyard as they get older.
If your baby bites on something they shouldn't, it's important that you interrupt the behavior as soon as possible. Separate your baby from the person or thing they have bitten, while calmly and directly telling them "no." Once you've intervened, be sure to give your little one something else to chew or focus on; offer a teething ring, distract them with their favorite toy, or sing them a song.
Prevention strategies can also be helpful to avoid children bites. Try to notice if there is a pattern or trigger for their biting. Perhaps they only bite when they're tired, overwhelmed, hungry, or wanting your attention. If you can identify the reasons why your baby might be biting, you can do your best to prevent those situations from happening.
Biting is just your baby's way of testing out their new chompers, but that shouldn't mean that you (or they) should have to suffer while they practice. Follow the above tips to keep your baby's biting habit in check, and check out Flo for more tips on caring for your newborn and your postpartum self, and other guides for all things fertility and menstruation.