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Mom to Mom Monday: Breastfeeding When Your Nursling Bites

Posted by Becca on 3/10/2014 to Breast Feeding

Breastfeeding in pain, ouch!

I had ten minutes before my first class and I had set up all my Medela equipment and found a relaxing spot at my lesson planning table to pump. As usual, I wasn’t trying to get any schoolwork done while I expressed milk, I was just relaxing so the oxytocin could flow better and produce more milk for my little guy. As usual, I had my smart phone out and looking at pictures of my kids and meandering around facebook and Pinterest. About a minute into the normal routine, I looked down to check my progress and was horrified tobreastmilk,pain,blood see about an ounce of pink milk settling into the bottom of the left bottle. Up in the breastshield I watched my nipple being pulled in and out while smearing bright red blood all over the plastic. I freaked out. I ripped the piece off my breast, wiped it off with a cloth (which left red smears all over one of my favorite prefolds) and horrified, I examined my nipple to see where the blood was coming from. It was oozing from a single spot and continued to ooze after I’d dabbed it, but I could see no cut. My hypochondria kicked in and I started imagining that one of my milk ducts was broken and producing blood instead of milk which lead to terrible fear that my nursing days would be cut off way too soon. I wiped myself down again and stuck that breast back in its boulder holder and tried to refocus. I still needed to be relaxed because I didn’t have enough milk for my little buddy yet. So I pumped from just the one breast while texting photos of the pink milk to my sisters because we have a tradition of oversharing amongst ourselves. I filled the one five ounce bottle just as the bell rang and I rushed to put away and clean all the pieces of the pump as my 9 th graders started filing boisterously into the room. Soon, the pink milk was all but forgotten as I entrenched myself in the particulars of present tense verb conjugation and ser vs. estar.

Two hours later it was time to pump again. I checked the left breast. No blood. Phew! I repeated the steps to fill my bottles and again, wasn’t watching when the milk first started flowing. After maybe 30 seconds, I looked down to see more pink milk filling my bottle. WHAT ON EARTH?!?!? I freaked out again. More this time. My heart was racing and I imagined the worst. Not only was I broken, but I must have cancer. I was dying. The world was ending. And I’d probably been turning my sweet little boy into a vampire all morning because who knew how long I’d been producing mixed drinks. I did a Google search in vain. Anyone online who was dealing with blood from their nipples was usually a new mom getting accustomed to breast feeding for the first time. I’ve nursed a child through toddlerhood already. Not only are my nipples quite tough, but I’d never once seen blood in them before this moment. And they weren’t hurting. Not at all. Why else would they be bleeding but not hurting? I was certain, I was dying. It may sound funny to you, but I’m serious. I started lamenting the fact that I probably wouldn’t be able to see my boy walk his first steps or say his first words as I dialed my midwife’s number with shaky hands. I left a message with the receptionist and tried to swallow the fear so I could fill another bottle from the right breast (poor thing had been doing all the work all morning!) When I finished I still hadn’t pumped nearly enough milk. I wasn’t sure I’d have enough for my own son rather less enough to donate as I usually do. I decided to try to hand express from my left breast. It was a relief that when I did so, no blood came out.

breastfeeding,pain,blood,nipples The milk was perfect and my heart stopped racing while the surging fear got a bit of a kick in the head.

The morning passed as mornings do and I was more than grateful when it was time to go home and have lunch with my kids and get them settle down for their nap. Over the course of the afternoon, through conversations with my midwife and her nurses, we figured that Baby Bear had probably nicked my nipple with one of his new, little teeth. She let me know that since I had no fever or warm, painful spots on my breast, she was confident I didn’t have mastitis. She said that it was encouraging that when I hand expressed, no blood came out. She gave me a couple of tips on speeding up the healing process of my bitten, left breast.

1) No more pumping for 48 hours. “Pumping is really hard on nipples,” she told me.

But I could hand express. And I did. I was eager to keep the milk production even on both sides. Also, I’d just gotten my production up to a point where I could donate an extra 20 ounces a week and I was trying not to lose all that work.

2) It’s totally safe to nurse on the injured side. The little bit of blood won’t hurt the baby. Also, a baby isn’t as tough on the nipple as the pump. So when I was home with my son, I nursed more from the healing side and when I was at work, I pumped only from the uninjured side.

3) Rotate baby’s position so that he’s not rubbing his teeth on the sore spot. This will also help him empty the milk ducts evenly. In other words, if you normally do a football hold while nursing, switch it up to side lying or the cradle hold.

4) Use lanolin just like you did when you had a newborn. Lanolin is great on sore nipples.

5) Make sure the baby knows not to bite. If he bites, take him off the breast for a while so he knows that behavior is unacceptable. Cry out in pain too so he associates that result with his action.

I followed my midwife’s advice and within a few days my nipples were back to normal.

Now I try to be a little more vigilant when I pump. I investigate the nipple before pumping and I watch that first milk flow to make sure it’s okay. Nipples cracking and nicks from new teeth happen when your breastfeeding, but it doesn’t have to mean the nursing stage is over. As long as you take steps to take care of both your breasts and your milk production and you teach your baby not to use his (or her) teeth, the nursing relationship can continue after a couple of adjustments.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? Did you discover the cause or worry like I did? Please share your experiences.



michelle welch
Date: 3/10/2014
I didn't have problems with the pumping. However all three of my BBS gave me scabs during the first few weeks. Lanlion was my bff. My youngest was nursed till he was three. While in the hospital at six weeks my milk was in full swing. We went home with over a weeks supply.
Tiffany Sanders
Date: 3/10/2014
I actually pumped only for 10 months. I could never get my little one to latch right and was in pain. After trying for a month, I could not handle the pain anymore and decided I would pump until I could not anymore. I was able to pump and produce enough /save in my deep freeze that I had 2 months extra when I stopped pumping. Needless to Say Lanolin was my best friend all 11 months of pumping. It does wonders!
Date: 3/10/2014
I dealt with this soon after my littlest one was born - she had SUCH a strong latch from day one that my nipples were broken and bloody! It freaked me out a bit to pump any, but she didn't seem to mind the taste, whether pumped or "from the tap." A couple weeks with plenty of lanolin and nursing (and rubbing breastmilk on the affected spots) and I was as good as new. Rotating her position was crucial to me getting through the pain, and occasionally I took Tylenol or Motrin to keep me from the worst of it.
Amy Calzada
Date: 3/12/2014
Thankfully my son never was a biter while nursing.
Date: 3/12/2014
Thanks for the info. I'm pregnant with twins, so I haven't nursed yet, but I sure hope they're not biters! That sounds painful!
Stephanie Slavy
Date: 3/12/2014
Thanks for the information. I've just recently started having problems nursing; so this information was very helpful.
judith martinez
Date: 3/13/2014
Yikes! What a mess that was! My friend taught me to pull baby in closer to the breast when she bites as it forces her to release the breast. It works like a charm.
Ashley Smith
Date: 3/14/2014
Thanks for the info! Hoping to be able to breastfeed this baby (wasn't able to with my last) so this is all very good to know!
Marina Knott
Date: 3/14/2014
This is very interesting and important to know. I plan on breastfeeding when I have a little one and I would have been scared out of my mind if this happened to me and I hadn't read your article. Thank you so much for writing this.
Katie Ohning
Date: 3/15/2014
Thanks for writing this! One of the moms in an online parenting group I belong to was asking for advice on this subject and I referred her to this post!
sherry blamer
Date: 3/15/2014
I find this quite helpful imformation. I will defiantly have to remember this when I nurse my next child so I don't freak out because I totally would.
jennifer laur
Date: 3/17/2014
i exclusively pumped for my son, so i have not yet had to deal with this. i am commited to nursing this babe (25 weeks along) for a natural duration, and i have bookmarked these tips!
Shanna M
Date: 3/18/2014
I've never had blood when pumping, and that picture makes me cringe. Knock on wood- it won't happen with his little one coming soon. Thanks for the tips
Kim H
Date: 3/20/2014
Ouch! Thankfully we have never had to deal with that! I had to work with my oldest for awhile because he would bite after his teeth came in, but never drew blood thankfully! Amazing tips!
Leela Rao
Date: 3/21/2014
I had to deal with cracked nipples while pumping for a while, but I found that my pump flange was probably not the right was too big! I went down two sizes to the smallest they make and my nipples were able to heal. My little guy also finally learned not to bite, but it took a lot of effort and crying on both our parts (I would cry out in pain, he would cry out when I cut him off).
Colleen Cameron
Date: 3/24/2014
Aaa I'm getting nervous about this because my daughter is starting to teethe!
Rita Topper
Date: 3/25/2014
these tips will really come in handy someday soon i'm afraid
Jenny W H
Date: 3/26/2014
I've had my LO bite but no damage done, thankfully. I cringed reading this! I feel your pain.
Date: 3/28/2014
I've been bitten a few times and it really hurts!! But what hurt worse was getting thrush on my nipples. Nursing with extremely sore and cracked nipples was no fun!!! But I powered through it, with the help of medicine. :)
Amanda Castell
Date: 4/16/2014
I would be so scared if that happened to me. I have been biten a few times now and it is so painful, my baby girl doesn't have any teeth yet so I cannot imagine what that would be like.
Maegan Washington
Date: 4/17/2014
Ouch. We are just now getting to the biting issue. Thanks for the tips!
Date: 4/18/2014
I needed this so much. My little one is starting to bite and it hurts.
Date: 5/6/2014
Thanks for sharing! Perfect timing! And I love that you texted your sisters. My sister and I over share too! Ha ha!
Lucy Mills
Date: 5/10/2014
I have been EP'ING. Trying to get baby to learn to latch but she bites every single time. Any advice on what to try?
Tara Cockrill
Date: 6/11/2014
Thanks for sharing. LO bites to stop the flow, but no teeth yet! Good to know.
Melissa G
Date: 6/24/2014
So glad i read this. Will be sure to remember for when I have my baby.
Chelsea Rutledge
Date: 8/21/2014
I would have reacted the same way! How horrifying! My little one bites and has from about 2 months. She chomps down and doesn't release! She is 6 months now and doesn't have teeth yet. But I have been trying since the beginning to get her to stop biting down. Hopefully it will get resolved before she does get teeth! Yikes!
Candice Balser
Date: 1/16/2015
It can difficult to keep up breastfeeding when little ones are teething. I didn't breastfeed much after my first two children started teething because of stories I heard. But I'm not letting that deter me from breastfeeding my third child for as long as I can. Thank you for writing this and giving the tips. Knowing beforehand from someone who has been through it always helps. :)
Candice Balser
Date: 1/16/2015
It can difficult to keep up breastfeeding when little ones are teething. I didn't breastfeed much after my first two children started teething because of stories I heard. But I'm not letting that deter me from breastfeeding my third child for as long as I can. Thank you for writing this and giving the tips. Knowing beforehand from someone who has been through it always helps. :)
katie m
Date: 3/8/2015
I'm nervous for the teeth coming in, but glad to know of these tips in case something like this happens.
Keara B.
Date: 4/29/2015
I just found this article and I'm so grateful! My LO has started biting and I wasn't sure what to do about the soreness. I had never even considered trying a different nursing position to help change the sore area! Thank you!!
Sarah Elyce
Date: 5/13/2015
This stage is in our realm. I hope she is gentle on me but we will worth through it either way!
Holly D
Date: 5/27/2015
My daughter was a biter. My son who was born four weeks ago bit for a little bit but seems to be rearing back on it thankfully.
Erica P.
Date: 6/26/2015
I think I'm about to appreciate this amazing advice-- baby is just starting to show signs of teething!
Mary Schuh
Date: 7/2/2015
I had some difficulty when my son was older; he would not stop gnawing on my nipple. I ended up having to take antibiotics for it. After a lot of air time, they healed and we didn't have to wean.

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