There are a few different points when young children might try to express themselves using their teeth. The point that usually gets the most press is during the toddler years, when big feelings and small amounts of impulse control can lead to lashing out in different kinds of ways. When younger toddlers, or even babies, bite, it’s often for other reasons, besides just lashing out before they know better ways of expressing themselves.
Experimental biting is the type of biting that happens when babies just don’t know what chomping down on someone else’s fingers, arms, or breast will do. Experimental biting is as exploratory as most things young babies do around this age, and many of them learn not to bite just by watching the person they’ve just bitten flinch, jump back, or shout involuntarily. On the other hand, this reaction can seem funny to some young children, who may be having a harder time making the connection between biting and pain. For children who are having a harder time making the connection between biting and actually hurting other people, it can be helpful to add a little extra emphasis when telling little biters, “No,” and “Biting hurts.”
It’s also a good idea not to encourage biting by rewarding it with attention. Instead of getting upset with a baby or young child who bites, it can help to step back and disengage with him. This starts to teach him about the natural consequences of his actions. It’s not a punishment, it’s just a fact that if he hurts people, they won’t want to play with him at that time.
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Many families also find it helpful to encourage and praise examples of gentle touching in babies and toddlers as they first experiment with biting. And no matter what, remember that Baby isn’t biting to be mean – he is biting because that’s what babies and toddlers do!
Mary L. Gavin. “Biting.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, September 2016. Web.
Raising Children Network. “Biting, Pinching and Hair Pulling.” RaisingChildren. Raising Children Network, September 18 2015. Web.
Barbara Taylor. “If Your Baby Bites.” New Beginnings. 16(2): 36-39. Web. March-April 1999.
“What Should I Do If My Baby Bites Me?” La Leche League International. La Leche League International, May 23 2015. Web.