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The biter

She has a tooth now—a single, teensy little tooth—and oh boy, is she using it. At 8 1/2 months, she’s still investigating the world mouth first, except now she’s armed and dangerous. She’s managed to dig that little tooth into everything from her spoon during meals to every single one of her siblings to a creamer container...

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She has a tooth now—a single, teensy little tooth—and oh boy, is she using it. At 8 1/2 months, she’s still investigating the world mouth first, except now she’s armed and dangerous.
She’s managed to dig that little tooth into everything from her spoon during meals to every single one of her siblings to a creamer container I tried to distract her with last time we ate out (note to self: don’t give the baby creamer containers ever again). She’s still breastfeeding, and hallelujah, she has yet to try out her latest trick on me. But I know it’s coming. I vividly recall my oldest two chomping down on me once or twice, an experience I’m not psyched to repeat. I know I made a show of yelping and putting them down, and that seemed to do the trick. I went on to nurse both of them well over a year, anyway, and I sure wouldn’t have if they hadn’t knocked off the biting.
A friend had a champion biter—he was about 2, and he bit hard enough to leave bruises on the other kids at daycare—and I remember her telling me she thought he did it not to be mean but because it felt good. She’s probably right because they had a really tough time breaking him of that unsociable little habit. It jives with what I read online about biting babies and toddlers. Some of them do it when they’re teething (duh) or just excited, and others bite when they feel overwhelmed and need a little breathing room. For some babies, it’s a twisted little sign of affection. But the really deadly biting babies are the sharks—the exploratory biters.
I don’t want to jump the gun (and I’m hopeful that it’s just her age), but we could very well have a shark on our hands. She’s chomping down on board books—I can see the little dent she makes—and my finger when I’m distracted enough to let her pull it to her mouth. It’s the look on her face when she does it. When she’s biting something new, she’s clearly investigating. And the last time she bit me, she was definitely testing me, and she wasn’t messing around. It freaking hurt and I yelped as I yanked my hand away. She stared at me, wide eyes even wider, way too impressed with herself for eliciting such a response. And now my Internet research is telling me I handled this little scenario in the worst way possible. Here’s what to do instead:

  • Don’t pull away. Push into that little mouth with all those sharp teeth. Apparently, that’ll make your baby let go.
  • Make a big show of dramatic crying about how much it hurts. If you’re holding your baby, put that baby down pronto.
  • Ignore baby for a minute, making a big deal out of your wounded finger, arm, nose, whatever. This should drive home the fact that you’re in pain. Then give your baby a snuggle, assuring him or her that you’re OK, but biting really hurts.
  • That’s it. Repeat when your baby bites you again.

It’s not terrible advice, but I doubt it’s going to do much with my little shark. I’ll try pushing into her mouth, I guess, but the crying and telling her it hurts and ignoring bit? Older babies and toddlers may empathize—I’m not sure if she’ll make the link between my reaction and her action. She’ll probably start gnawing on the sofa arm until I pull myself together.
So note to self: Be afraid. Be very afraid. And cue the “Jaws” music.

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