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My baby bites. What's going on?

Is your baby biting everything and everyone he/she sees? It might be possible that he/she is teething. 

Some babies bite not out of spite but because it soothes their irritated gums. If this is the case, try giving him/her a frozen bagel or cold teething ring to chew on.

But what If teething isn't the cause and your child doesn't seem particularly anxious about something? (which can sometimes be behind biting), 

Here are some other reasons why your child is biting: 

  • Expressing emotion: Oddly enough, young toddlers can bite as a way of showing love. Toddlers have really intense feelings but don’t know how to show them. Biting can be a way of expressing their feelings. Mothers often don’t understand why it’s just them who get bitten.
  • Experimenting: Toddlers are learning how their body works – they put things in their mouths, and sometimes bite. It’s impulsive and they don’t mean to hurt. Often, a baby bites someone when they’re teething. Sometimes toddlers bite when they’re over-excited.
  • Defending: Young children learn to bite as a defense, especially if they can’t talk. Sometimes changes or upsets at home can bring on this type of biting.
  • Controlling: Some children know biting is a way of getting other children – or their parents – to do what they want. They don’t always do this consciously. Sometimes the youngest child in the family bites to gain power.
  • Frustrated or irritated: Your child wants a toy back. Or they want a cookie or adult attention, or can’t cope with a situation. They may not understand turn-taking and sharing. Or things may have changed at home or the child feels under stress. Your child doesn’t necessarily mean to cause harm, but just can’t find the words to express themselves.

How to stop it

  • Intervene: Open your eyes – look at how intense, how frequent bites are and what the triggers are. One of the best ways is to act before your child has a chance to sink their teeth into anyone. Sometimes, parents are slow to do this – but it’s one of the best ways. Don’t put them into large groups if that’s where it happens. Plan in advance for their behavior. Children often clench their teeth before they bite – an unmistakable sign. Take the child somewhere quiet to calm down. If a teething child is trying out his or her teeth, find toys to chew and chomp on.
  • Teach them it’s wrong: When your child bites, use simple but firm words. Try, “that’s biting, that’s wrong” or a firm “no”. If you’re in a group, remove them from the situation. Explain that it hurts others and why you don’t like them doing it.
  • Teach them to express themselves: When things have calmed down, try to help your child find a less painful way to express their feelings. This works well with children who are biting to try to show their affection, says Mr. Flower. “If your child’s expressing love, teach them to hug rather than bite whenever they feel strong emotions.” Likewise, if your child bites out of defense, show them how to tell somebody they don’t want him or her too close – to make the “stop” sign (a hand held up) – or even gently to push the other child’s shoulder – which won’t hurt but gives a clear message. Or teach them to come and find you instead if they’re angry.

  • Reduce the effectiveness: When children bite to gain attention, dealing with it is trickier. After the first big talking to, don’t try to continue to reason or explain. Give a firm “no”. Put your body between victim and biter and turn your back on the biter. Give the victim sympathy and the biter a clear message this is an unproductive way of getting attention.
  • If time-out is one of your methods, now’s the time to use it. If the bite was over a toy or treat, remove it for a short while. If a child tries to control his or her mom by biting, try physically putting a part of their body in the way as they go to bite – an arm or a leg, which will stop them in their tracks.
  • Praise them for good behavior: Catch your child behaving well – not biting siblings, playing well in groups, not biting to get his or her way – and be generous with praise. Be specific – “good boy” becomes like water off a ducks back to them. Instead try: “how well you’re playing” or “aren’t you kind and gentle to your little brother?”

Additional Tips: 

Some children learn at different speeds and won’t pick up on things right away – you might need to be more persistent. When nothing works try these additional tips:

  • Stick with it: Keeping to a plan of action is more difficult than it seems. You need attention, energy, consistency and support These methods aren’t rocket science, but need planning and determination. Make sure your family is on the same page – young children find it hard when they receive mixed messages.
  • Give clear commands and be positive: Young children can’t understand negatives, so avoid “don’ts”. Try “we keep our mouths to ourselves” instead. Try not to raise your voice and speak in a firm voice. Don’t overdo explanations: One of the biggest mistakes is to give the warning all over again. If they continue to bite, don’t go into why it’s wrong; just say ‘that’s biting, that’s wrong’.

Be sure that no one laughs when your child bites and that no one, including older siblings, treats biting as a game or ever gives your baby a "love bite." Also never use your child's biting as an excuse to give in to his demands. Make sure that daycare providers understand your approach and are willing to follow it.

When to ask for help: Don’t rush to a therapist; seek help or advice first from friends and other parents, or teachers and nurseries who can also point you in the right direction if you want to take it further.


Source: BabyCenter, Supernanny.


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