Reasons for tugging, clamping, or biting

Why is my baby tugging, clamping, or biting at the breast?

Tugging, clamping, and biting are normal. They are not usually a major problem. Some babies do it because they are uncomfortable at the breast, can’t deal with a large let-down, have a tummy cramp, or are pushed to feed when they are not hungry. Others just misbehave at the breast. If they do it excessively, they may be unhappy, possibly because your milk supply is low or they have a latching problem.

A) Causes of tugging, clamping, and biting

All babies tug and clamp. Some occasionally bite. This is normal and usually a nuisance but not generally a major problem. Have your baby examined and weighed by a health-care provider if these behaviours do not settle.

1) Normal babies

This can happen if the baby is uncomfortable and:

2) Normal older babies

Some babies just misbehave a bit at the breast. Older babies may tug, clamp, or bite if:

  • They are distracted and suddenly look around without letting go.
  • They pull away from the breast without releasing the suction first.
  • They just want to experiment and see what happens when they clamp or bite down.
  • They have teething pain.
  • They are self-weaning and are being pushed to breastfeed.

3) Other situations

If babies tug, clamp, or bite at most feeds, there may be a breastfeeding problem.

a) A low milk supply 

A baby may act up at the breast if the milk supply is low. Other worrying signs include the baby:

  • Being unhappy, frustrated, or whiny while feeding.
  • Feeding frequently.
  • Being generally unhappy.
  • Showing other signs of not getting enough milk.

b) A latching problem

Tugging, clamping, and biting can be caused by:

c) Abnormal teeth

Babies with abnormal teeth may cause nipple pain and damage.