What to do if your young baby is biting
Young babies, especially newborns, are prone to biting. Being in such a radically different environment can really disorient a baby. Because of this many babies will bite down on the breast when they latch on because they don't want the breast to go away. It's comforting and they're scared. This can easily be missed because since the baby doesn't have teeth a new mother who is unfamiliar with breastfeeding may think that this discomfort and clamping feeling is normal. Often young baby biting can be diagnosed mistakenly on a bad latch (which may also be present) but a feeling of bruised nipples, especially with a fussy baby and pretty bad engorgement indicates that the baby is biting.
When a young baby bites down, the ducts that bring milk to the nipple become compressed, so very little milk gets through. This is painful for the mother because her tissue is repeatedly being squeezed in a way that is not normal and because the lack of emptying the breast can make for very bad engorgement which can in turn lead to mastitis, or breast infection. The baby, on the other hand, because he's compromising the flow of milk will work really hard to get nutrition, not succeed, get tired and still be hungry. Thus biting can cause major problems for both mom and baby and can bring an abrupt, exhausted, unhappy end to a breastfeeding relationship. I almost lost my breastfeeding relationship with my second son due to biting, and I can personally testify to the extreme pain that biting can cause in those first few weeks of breastfeeding.
However, this outcome does not have to happen. With this fairly simple technique babies can be taught to *not* bite. Once the biting stops the resulting problems resolve almost immediately.
Procedure for properly identifying and resolving biting in the young infant:
1. After washing your hands, latch your baby onto your finger (fingernail against her tongue) and see if you feel him/her little gums clamping down. If you feel clamping down at all your baby is biting. You should feel your baby's gums but they should never be clamping down in proper breastfeeding.
2. When she starts to clamp down with her gums you are going to angle your finger (think crowbar) so that she can't clamp down and suck anymore. Your finger tip will be pressing up on the roof of baby's mouth in a "come hither" flexing of your finger.
3. When she releases her clamping down you will release too, returning your finger to the first position and let her start sucking again.
4. When she has been suckling for a few minutes without clamping down, latch her onto your breast. You should feel suckling but not the clamping down anymore.
This should resolve any biting problem in those first few weeks, keeping mom and baby healthy and happy.