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How Do I Nurse My Teething Baby Without Pain?

My baby has just started biting me when he nurses. He used to gnaw a little when he was teething but his new upper and lower teeth make for a mean bite. It really hurts! It makes me really angry even though I know he doesn’t mean it. I can’t exactly explain the situation to him. And I don’t want to just stop breastfeeding. Any ideas? - Once Bitten

Dear Once Bitten,

When babies start to get their teeth, they do sometimes experiment with biting the boob that feeds them. Mothers can easily panic and take this as a cue to wean, but biting can usually be controlled pretty quickly. Distraction might cause a baby to bite, so feeding your baby in a quiet calm place could discourage it. Giving your baby other things to teethe on, especially near feeding times, may help too. But the important thing is to teach your baby that biting has an undesirable outcome.

Here are some ideas to try:

When he bites, simply and firmly remove him from the breast (using your finger to pry open his teeth first!). He will probably want to eat more than he wants to bite.

Show him it hurts, saying “ow!” or whatever other exclamation comes to mind. If he reacts with shock and cries at your expression, he may quickly make the connection that what he’s doing is causing it. We’ve heard that saying “no!” to the baby works, but others think this is unnecessarily punitive. That’s your call. Some babies will think a loud exclamation is funny, however, so if yours doesn’t seem to be making the association, try another technique.

Smush his face in towards the breast. This is not easy to do when you’d rather be ripping him off, but people say it works: he will have to unclench in order to breathe through his mouth. If this happens repeatedly, he will begin to associate biting with being smushed.

It is generally suggested that grinning and bearing it is a bad idea in this case. It’s true that the urge to bite may well pass as his teeth stop bugging him. But if left unchecked, this behavior could become part of his permanent nursing repertoire, which would be extremely un-fun for you. So we’d definitely advise that you, ahem, nip it in the bud ASAP ( for your nip’s sake)!

Have a question? Email parentaladvisory@babble.com

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