We have all seen the blissful babes at breast with the mom. So, what is going on???? Your baby is biting??? Do you have folks saying that this is normal discomfort of start-up breastfeeding, your nipples will toughen up, you will get used to it, baby will grow out of it? Ouch, ouch, ouch and ouch.
Some women have a little discomfort at first. Excruciating pain is not normal. Biting is not normal, and it does not work for breastfeeding on every level, for baby or mom. Tissue damage to your breast is real. It can get worse. Not to be gruesome, but, really, nipples can get blisters, crack and bleed. Milk production may be greatly reduced, as the easy action of the baby’s mouth at breast triggers letdown and making more milk for continuous supply. Biting does not stimulate milk production. Plus, stressed moms often experience reduced milk supply.
Why is baby biting? Depending on mom and baby, there are various sources of the problem. Among them, good latch depends on many factors. We are looking for how wide the jaw opens, and stays open. The jaw is only half the picture, as it swings from the ear bone (temporal bone). The opening of the jaw is affected by the placement of all the bones of the head. The head is a three dimensional puzzle. Baby’s cranial bones are normally displaced during birth. They can get thrown off so much that the jaw doesn’t have full range of motion. When the temporal bone is still squished in from birth, it is immoblized and restricts full movement of the jaw.
Breastfeeding also depends on baby having access to their essential reflexes for feeding – latch, suck and swallow. A latch problem typically is a restricted cranial nerve. The nerve for the latch reflex between bones in the head. If those bones are displaced or overlapping, then the nerve for latch cannot function very well. Or cranial innervation may not be available at all. Then we have biting.
Latch is a reflex – for breastfeeding. Biting is a reflex – for eating. The brain has all sorts of work-around pathways. If the main default reflex for breastfeeding, the latch reflex, isn’t working, then the next neural pathway that comes on board is biting.
What we do about biting? Call on a craniosacral therapist who specializes in babies and breastfeeding. This uber-gentle therapy is perfect for sorting out cranial bone alignment. Call early – before tissue damage gets worse. Call early because the sooner your baby gets help, the fewer sessions s/he will need. Usually biting can be turned around to good latch in 2-3 sessions if you call in the first week. If you call a month later, your baby has now developed habits, and it will take longer to sort it all out.