Getting help for breast refusal and baby biting breast
If you'd like some help with breastfeeding, support services are available. Your midwife, child and family health nurse or GP or the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) can support you with breastfeeding your baby. They can also help you find a lactation consultant if you need one.
An ABA counsellor can also help - phone the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268.This article covers breast refusal and babies biting the breast. If you're having other issues with breastfeeding, you could check out our articles on sore nipples and nipple infections, mastitis and blocked milk ducts, how to increase supply, how to manage oversupply and engorgement and attachment techniques.
Breast refusal: causes
Now and then a baby will refuse the breast. Breast refusal is often just a passing phase, which can be caused by one or more of the following:
- Your baby has a cold.
- Your baby is uncomfortable or in pain.
- Your baby is having trouble attaching.
- Your baby is overstimulated, overtired or distracted, which is normal in older babies.
- Your milk tastes different, possibly because you are taking medication, are experiencing hormonal changes (you might be about to have a period again), or have eaten something unusual.
- Your milk flow is faster or slower to let down than usual.
- Your baby might have a strong preference for one breast.
Most of these causes of breast refusal will either go away on their own or can be sorted out with a few simple changes to your routine. None of them means you have to give up breastfeeding.
Breast refusal: options
You might want to try the following to help get your baby on the breast:
- Relax and be as patient as you can.
- Try a new feeding position - see our illustrated guide to breastfeeding positions.
- Hand-express some milk into your baby's mouth. This might encourage him to feed.
- Give your baby a breastfeed after her bath, when she's warm and relaxed.
- Try breastfeeding in a quiet place.
- Play some relaxing background music, or feed in a rocking chair.
- Offer a feed when your baby is first stirring from sleep or just going to sleep.
- Try again later when your baby is more settled. Forcing the issue can make breast refusal worse.
- If your baby seems unwell, treat his symptoms or take him to see your GP.
For help with working out why your baby is refusing the breast, talk to a lactation consultant or ABA counsellor.
Baby biting breast: causes
As babies get older, they get more playful - and they get teeth.
It's almost physically impossible for a baby to bite while sucking, but she might find it fun to bite your nipple once she's finished - particularly if she thinks you're not paying her enough attention!
Some babies might bite because they can't wait to start feeding and your let-down is slow. In this case, it might help to express a small amount of breastmilk to trigger your let-down before you offer the breast.
Baby biting breast: options
If your baby does bite, say 'No' calmly and firmly, and take him off your breast. But try not to get too cross, because your baby might think you're playing a game - or it might frighten him.
You can also try offering your baby something else to chew on, like a teething ring. Some mothers switch to expressing if their baby keeps biting, but try to avoid this.
Take care if the bite breaks the skin on your nipple, because this can lead to infection.
Luckily, biting breasts is usually a passing phase.