Biting and a Nursing Strike

Updated on March 25, 2008
J.T. asks from Chicago, IL
8 answers

My daughter is 8 1/2 months old and has been a great nurser from the start. However, now she has started teething and, late last week, bit me hard enough to draw blood. I have a little scab on my nipple and, although it's been very painful, I have continued to nurse. She has bitten me again since then and I have tried to be very calm and consistent in my response - tapping her on the nose and saying, "No, don't bite mommy." This morning she bit me so hard that the blood flowed - I yelled (I couldn't help it!) and I think she was surprised by the blood and by my yelling. Now she won't nurse at all. She has never taken a bottle and refused my milk in her sippy cup today (she's never had anything besides water this way). I would really appreciate any advice on how to end both the biting and the strike. I'm heartbroken AND engorged!

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So What Happened?

We're back to being a happy nursing couple :) I'm so pleased! Her nursing strike was scary and sad but, I was thrilled to find out that it wasn't that unusual and didn't need to be the end of nursing. There is so much info in books but it's so nice to hear from other moms with practical advice.

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answers from Chicago on

Okay she is scared because you screamed. so get an avent bottle & see if she will take it. But also try an advent sippy cup.

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answers from Chicago on

Hi J.,

I totally feel for you! I had the same scenerio with my second child around 8 months (he just turned one last week)and was too heartbroken when he no longer wanted to nurse. I got the bite/the sign "no" and the word "no" every time I tried to nurse - HE was done ( I wasn't!) nursing...I kept trying to nurse for a few weeks to no avail before I stopped -he was just fine - I was still sad!

For right now I would continute to pump (and pump and pump more - same as your nursing schedule) to keep your milk flowing. Keep offering her your milk in the sippy cup since she knows how to drink from one - a bottle now isn't necessary. I believe my pediatrician said they can actually go several days w/o milk and be fine. Call and check with your doc from the nutritional aspect to confirm. If she's eating food you can supplement more calcium type things to help out in the transition.

It is a big transition, especially when it's unexpected (again, I think harder for you than her). If you decide my suggested route is the way you want to go try and focus on what's most important - 1) You have a healthy baby that has decided on her own it's time to stop nursing. 2) You can still give her your breast milk. 3) You will have some new found freedom and a more flexible wardrobe :-).

Hang in there!




answers from Chicago on

I had the same thing happen to me with my daughter at the same age - only the first bite drew bloodflow and I screamed and she started crying and I became hysterical that I couldn't feed my baby. I tried to pump but it was so painful. We ended up switching to formula the next morning and my daughter didn't skip a beat. So it depends on what you and your daughter are ready for, but maybe it's a good opportunity to wean.

As for the engorgement, it depends on which way you're proceeding...if you think you will continue to nurse, then empty yourself as often as possible to keep up your supply. On the flip, if you go the formula route, then only express what is absolutely necessary to relieve the pain.

Good luck, and know that either way your daughter is going to be fine. You have already breastfed for 8-1/2 months which is longer than the average and you've provided so much nourishment to your child. :)



answers from Chicago on

It sounds as though she may have only stopped nursing because she saw your reaction. My mom always told me once they start biting, pull a little on their hair. She's too young to understand 'no biting', but she'll get the corralation. If you want to continue to bf then just keep offering it to her. If your about done with it, you can always pump and keep giving her your milk and that way you can slowly wean yourself and not be in so much pain. Babies won't let themselves go hungry for too long, their memories aren't that good. Hope this helps!



answers from Chicago on

I was really disappointed in how many women are encouraging you to wean your daughter. She just got a little freaked out and will come around. Just keep offering it to her throughout the day and keep pumping to keep up your supply and put some lanolin on your sore nipple. I think even a little breastmilk on the cut works wonders. The biting will end on its own. Just take her off your breast calmly, as hard as that is to do, and say no biting and wait a bit. You want her to get the idea that she doesn't get to nurse if she bites. If nothing is working call a LC or go to a LLL meeting. I attend them in Oak Park and they are a great group of leaders and moms. Good luck and don't get discouraged. You are doing an awesome thing BF your daughter.



answers from Chicago on

Hi J.,
I just read your post and almost cried; a nursing strike is a huge fear for me now that my daughter is 10 months and getting lots of teeth. I'm just not ready to give up nursing yet. So, I had to respond to your post. I've read a lot about nursing strikes, and the encouraging part is that your daughter has not weaned. She will go back to the boob. She had a scare and is a bit gun-shy (or nipple shy:) ) right now. I've read that a strike can last for as long as two weeks, but if you keep pumping and offering her the breast on the same schedule you always did and not make a big deal out of whether she refuses or takes the breast, she will get back on track. If your milk supply decreases a bit during that time it's OK, because once she goes back on the supply will increase again. You could also try nursing her when she's asleep just to get some milk into her. I'm sorry that my response is just "academic" because I don't have first-hand experience, but I just wanted to give you some encouragement. I've done a lot of reading on the La Leche League website; they have information about biting, strikes, everything! The website is:
Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

Pump at the same time she would normally feed to keep up your production.

Put lanolin or other soothing ointment on your nipple.

The nursing strike: have totally been there. The best advice I read that worked it this - - 1) if baby doesn't want to eat, don't force it. Say out loud (for your and her benefit) "no pressure. no pressure. it's cool. it's cool." And then turn her away from your breast so she doesn't feel like she has to eat. Then let her play or whatever. 2) Try feeding just as she wakes up when she is groggy or dream feed her. She'll eat when she is hungry and eventually she'll come back.

I found the strike lastet longer because of the tension I felt around wanting to make sure my baby is properly fed ("my baby HAS to eat") and the feeling of rejection at having my baby pushing me away ("what's wrong!").

It sounds like she may be teething.

Good luck!! And remember, this too shall pass.



answers from Chicago on


she is frightened.... time patience and lots of tlc...

or call a lactation consultant...

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