Biting while a baby is breastfeeding is a relatively common occurrence and is generally developmental. It is most common between the ages of four to six months and onwards. Most biting occurs in a playful fashion at the end of a breastfeed. Your baby often does not realise what they are doing.
Babies do not automatically start biting once they have teeth. A correctly latched baby covers their teeth with their tongue when feeding which protects your nipples.
Pay attention to your baby’s activity at the breast. If you stop feeding at the first sign of your baby losing interest and the feed is about to end, your baby will not have an opportunity to bite.
If your baby does bite, you should remove your baby from the breast immediately and say ‘no’ firmly and quietly (try not to yell). Do not offer the other breast or any other food (if your baby has commenced on solids) immediately, as this is likely a sign they are no longer interested in the feed. If your baby is breastfeeding only, you should wait at least 30 minutes before re-offering the breast and then, only if your baby is demanding a feed.
In many cases, mothers misinterpret their baby’s desire to finish a feed believing that the feed should last a certain length of time. As babies get older, the time spent at the breast becomes much shorter. The average five to six month old infant may complete a feed within 10 minutes at both breasts.
Biting is seldom a cause for weaning. Babies learn quickly that biting results in separation from the breast and will usually stop within a few days.
Some babies will bite when their gums are swollen and painful with teething. If this is the case, it may help to offer more frequent and shorter breastfeeds.
Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Last modified 16/11/2015.