DESPITE their size, it can be quite painful when a baby sinks his/her tiny pegs into your flesh. Unfortunately, most do this at some point, and they sometimes do so at the most inopportune times, like while you are breast-feeding, for example.

But biting is a natural behaviour for babies, as it is one of the methods they use to explore and learn about the world around them. During the early years, they hardly know the difference between chewing a toy or your finger, and so pinching or slapping them for biting their sibling is nonsensical.

For older children, however, biting might have an emotional connection, like if your child is angry or is trying to seek attention. In this case, your child should have some inclination that what they are doing is wrong and so a firm warning about their behaviour can prove to be helpful in curtailing this behaviour.

One of the keys to stopping your baby from biting is to understand the reasons why they bite. Below we provide you with some of the reasons and what you can do to stop them from inflicting pain on you, the parent, their siblings or their friends and even your pets too.

Reasons your baby bites

1. They are teething: Teething babies generally gnaw on anything to ease their pain. Because human flesh is so easily accessible to them, they will bite you to ease their irritable gums.

2. They are in need of attention: Biting is a way for babies to say that they need some attention.

3. They are being provoked: Sometimes a baby will bite their playmate or sibling because they feel they are being provoked. Because smaller children are sometimes unable to communicate verbally, they express their anger or dissatisfaction by biting those who are provoking them.

4. They are curious: Babies are always testing themselves to see what they can do or what they can get away with; it’s part of their development. So when they bite, sometimes it’s simply because they are curious; it is not necessarily malicious or premeditated.

5. They are not latched on properly: When preparing to nurse your baby, do ensure that they have latched on to the nipple properly and if they are not, reposition them. If they are not able to get the milk, they will bite to get your attention. As soon as he/she is finished sucking, take the baby off your breast, so as to minimise the chances of getting bitten.

What you can do to stop them

1. Get your baby a soft toy: If your baby starts biting your shoulders or arms because they are teething, you can voluntarily offer them a clean finger to scratch their gums. A safer alternative, however, would be to get them a teething ring, or a clean soft toy or a piece of cold fruit like an apple.

2. Contain yourself: You don’t want to give your child the impression that biting you is the best way to get your attention. By shouting or laughing when they clamp down on your flesh, you inadvertently give this impression. If they are old enough, you can calmly tell them that biting is not acceptable.

3. Reduce their anxieties: If you realise that your child bites whenever they are anxious, try to limit the causes for their anxieties by assuring them, for example, that you are still there with them.

4. Don’t bite back: It’s so tempting to bite back when your baby sinks his/her pegs into your flesh, but this will not accomplish much but pain for them. Remember, they don’t even know that they are hurting you while they bite. So the next time your child bites you, control your temper.

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