As a daycare provider, I have seen my fair share of toddler biting. But never with my own children. Yet, last night, it Happened. Honestly, I thought this was something I would encounter long ago. O is my second kid, 17 months into our breastfeeding journey. For some reason, last night, while snuggling and nursing before bed, he looked me square in the eye, and he bit me.
“He Bit Me!”- 5 Steps to Stop Toddler Biting
And he didn’t let go.
Fortunately, It wasn’t hard enough to cause immediate , excruciating pain. Rather, it was more of an experiment on my little guy’s part. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been nipped plenty of times. Teething is painful, and they try to adjust their latch. Or they are stuffy and have a hard time breathing, but they REALLY want the comfort and nutrition of mommy’s milk.
This was not that. This was intentional.
“OW!” I scolded. “That hurts Mommy’s boov.”
Steady eye contact. And no release.
Instead of pulling out and creating a type of tug-of-war with my all-too-sensitive nipple, I pressed my breast into his face, pushing more into his mouth and making it uncomfortable for him. I reiterated “You are hurting your boov, Ollie. Let GO!”
So I fished my pinky finger into the corner of his mouth to pop the suction, as if correcting the latch on a newborn.
His little experiment went horribly wrong for him. It was not fun to bite his boob, and he hurt mommy. Oliver was swept up in a wave of regret. He kept putting his little chubby hands to his mouth, “boov” he cried, “boov!”
Correcting Infant Biting
For those “breastfeeding butter’s”, who say that once baby has teeth, it is too painful to nurse, are full of baloney. If your baby has a good latch, which should be established in the beginning of your nursing relationship– far before he or she starts teething, then teeth are never an issue. My son has a (late) diagnosed minor lip tie that doesn’t affect his breastfeeding, but it does tend to make nursing uncomfortable when he is teething and trying to find a latch that doesn’t hurt his poor swollen gums.
That being said, it doesn’t mean that a baby won’t experiment, much like my little man did, with biting while nursing on your poor, tender nipples. The biggest tip I can give, for any biting situation, is not to overreact. Even a negative reaction, is still a reaction. It may give some negative reinforcement, ie “Oh, mom made a loud sound when I did that, it really got her attention! I should do this more often!”.
A calm, firm, “That hurts!” or “Ouch!” lets baby know that you do not like what he is doing, and it affects you. Next, do not pull your breast out of baby’s bite. It can cause all sorts of damage, and it may not tell baby to let go. Instead, force more of your breast into his mouth so that he HAS to release and let go. It may take a couple of times of baby experimenting, but as long as your remain consistent, your baby won’t turn into a tiny chomping vampire.
Toddler Biting Troubles
Toddler biting is a whole-other ball game. As a nanny, with a smaller, one on one situation, it was something I never encountered before. Until I opened my daycare. I was horrified when one of my more non-verbal kiddos began biting. Everyone.
Every day I had to send a kid home with fresh teeth marks. So I reached out to my local Child Care Answers (The Childcare Resource and referral center for the Indianapolis Area) and they sent out a Child Inclusion Specialist to come and give me some pointers. What a Lifesaver! Over the last 4 years, I have used her advice over and over again, with several of my sweet daycare Littles.
1. Don’t Over-react
Again, I cannot stress this enough. Negative reinforcement is still reinforcement. Do not yell or shout, spank, or bite back. Your kiddo will quickly learn that he gets attention for the behavior. It is better to remain calm, and keep it short and sweet. Show the child the bite mark.
You bit So-and so. That hurts. I won’t let you bite. Be Gentle”.
Use short sentences. The more you go on and on, the more likely you are to lost the child’s attention.
2. Replace the negative action of biting with a positive action
A lot of toddler biting stems from frustration. Not being able to communicate effectively can create a LOT of frustration. (Hence the “terrible two’s”) The impulse-control center of their brain is still developing. When you see your chomping toddler about to pounce, jaws open, firmly tell them “stop” while using the sign language for stop. Walk to your kiddo, get on their eye level. Next, calmly use the above phrase, while taking the child’s hand, and having them gently stroke the offended victim while reinforcing “Gentle”. You can model it to your child as well, but gently rubbing their arm, back, or leg, repeating “Gentle.” The idea behind it being that they will replace the biting action with the “stop” or “Gentle” action. Believe me, if you are consistent, it works!
3. Be Consistent
Children need consistency. This is probably the area of childcare where I flounder the most. My ADD and general personality is all over the place, so it’s something I really have to focus on. It is important to keep your reaction to the biting the same. Do not give up, and try resorting to other disciplines. This does work. In fact, it is so engrained in my daycare Little’s psyche that to this day when they say sorry for anything to an offended friend, they do it with a gentle pat on their friends arm or chest.
4. Be Patient
This is not an instantaneous, overnight fix. Share your calm, not their chaos. Be firm, and consistent. Eventually, you will notice the biting ease, until it is gone altogether. It took almost a month for my daily, regular biter to stop the behavior altogether. Now that I have these tools, I can correct the biting behavior more quickly, ke as long with my other Littles when the toddler biting presents itself. The first time I watched my biting Little stop herself mid-chop, step back, and gently pat her offending friend, I stood there in shock, awe, and elation. Be patient, and they WILL stop.
Toddler biting is no joke! What are some way’s you have helped your toddler overcome the urge to bite? has your baby ever bitten you while nursing? How do you react?
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