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Breast refusal and baby biting breast

0-18 months

Sometimes breastfeeding mums have issues with breast refusal or with their baby biting the breast. These problems can usually be sorted out, and getting help early can make all the difference.

Getting help for breast refusal and baby biting breast

If you’d like some help with breastfeeding, support services are available. Your child and family health nurse, 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 infectionsmastitis and blocked milk ducts, how to increase supply, how to manage oversupply and engorgement and attachment techniques.

Breast refusal

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.

You might want to try the following to help get your baby on the breast:

  • Try a new feeding position – see our illustrated guide to breastfeeding positions.
  • Express some milk into your baby’s mouth. This might encourage her to feed.
  • Try walking and feeding at the same time.
  • Give your baby a breastfeed after his bath, when he’s warm and relaxed.
  • If your baby has just refused a breastfeed, try distracting her – show her some toys, sing a song or walk outside for a while. Then try to breastfeed again.
  • 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 even still asleep.

Try to stay calm and patient, and avoid forcing the issue, because this can make the breast refusal worse. For help with working out why your baby is refusing the breast, talk to a lactation consultant or ABA counsellor.

Baby biting breast

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 he might find it fun to bite your nipple once he’s finished – particularly if he thinks you’re not paying him enough attention!

If your baby does bite, say ‘No’ calmly and firmly, and take her off your breast. If you get too cross, your baby might think you’re playing a game – or it might frighten her.

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.

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.
Video

Breastfeeding: getting support

6:00

In this video we hear from a counsellor and lactation consultant who says that if you’re having problems with breastfeeding, get support early. Mums talk about having mastitis, nipple pain and attachment issues – and about getting help. One mum says she was about to give up on breastfeeding but got help from a lactation consultant. This meant she could look at her baby breastfeeding and smile for the first time.

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Last updated or reviewed
28-07-2016

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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