During infancy, babies find satisfaction in sucking and biting. Until about eighteen months, they bite and chew on toys, household objects, and other things they find in their explorations.
Sometimes your baby will bite because her gums are sore from teething. Although such a bite can be painful, you should remember that she’s not intentionally trying to hurt you. Occasionally, a baby might bite while nursing. You may be so alarmed at this that you might wonder if you should start weaning, but such a drastic step isn’t necessary. If you take the breast away from her and say “no” firmly, your baby will learn quickly.
An infant’s innocent biting is very different from the deliberate, frustrated biting of a two-year-old. Sometimes a toddler’s anger cannot be expressed through words, so, she may impulsively bite. Parents of toddlers who bite don’t often feel understanding and accepting of the problem, and rightly so. When a child bites, parents should set firm limits, saying, “I don’t want you biting anyone,” or simply, “No biting.” Letting her know immediately and firmly that biting is unacceptable is important. After you experience your child biting, just once, you need to increase your watchfulness. The more supervision you offer, the less likely it is that your child will have the chance to bite.
And since all children act out for a reason, try to figure out what’s causing your child to bite. Are you spending enough fun and playful time with her? Does she watch you give a sibling more attention? Are your expectations reasonable for her young age? Are you arguing with your spouse in front of her? Are her days too scheduled? Are you setting enough, or too many, limits?
Occasionally you may be tempted to cure your child’s biting by biting her back to “show her what it feels like.” But biting a child back is wrong. First, you give a mixed message: you tell her not to bite, but then do it yourself. (Young children copy what their parents do.) Second, she’s too young to put herself in another person’s place and can’t understand that the pain she feels from your bite is the same pain that she inflicts.
You can teach appropriate behavior best by setting limits, spending a lot of time with her, helping her avoid too much frustration, and being a good role model for your child. And know that, at these young ages, children need constant reminders of how to behave in acceptable ways.