OUCH! When a Baby Bites Another Baby — Good Parenting

 

Dear Dr. Debbie,

I don’t think I want to go back to my Mommy and Baby group. My son, age 8 months, bit another child today. And it’s not the first time he’s done this. The other mother, and even others besides her, gave me repeated reassurances that it was no big deal, but to me this is a huge deal. Is there anything I can do to get him to stop doing this? I’ve not been a Mommy for very long and feel like a failure. I’m so upset it’s hard to think straight.

Horrified

 

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Dear Horrified,

Indeed yours is not the first, nor the last, baby to bite a playmate. There are many possible reasons – teething pain, curiosity, hunger, frustration, and even as a way to get your attention.
It may be that your reaction is actually causing your son to repeat this behavior.

Teething and Exploring
Put toys and other mouthable objects between him and the other children in case he needs to counteract teething pressure or just wants to explore his world the best way he can – through his mouth. The nerve endings in the lips and tongue are very sensitive from birth until about eighteen months of age, thus providing an infant with valuable information about the physical aspects of objects around him.

Hunger
Be sure he’s well-fed before you arrive to eliminate hunger as a cause of biting. And be prepared to offer milk or an easy snack if he seems to need it. Choose food that travels well and doesn’t make a mess. Growth is still very rapid at this age which can drive near-constant hunger. Mommy groups sometimes encourage everyone to bring snacks to share, so follow the protocol or offer it as a suggestion. It’s a nice way to make new friends.

Social Awareness
Help your son to gently touch another child, with the other child’s permission of course. He’s too young to know that another baby is a person with needs and feelings, but will gradually learn, with direct guidance from you, how to interact properly with a playmate. Babies are usually very interested in other babies but are very inexperienced in how to interact in a mutually agreeable way. He’s still a couple years away from voluntary sharing. Cooperative play, in which children jointly plan and carry out roles with each other, gradually develops by age four through regular contact with other children and adult guidance as needed.

Attention
Keep a much closer eye on your baby when you attend future meetings. “Shared attention” is the skill of noticing what he’s noticing and responding appropriately to it. Direct most of your conversation towards him rather than the other adults so he doesn’t get the idea that you have lost your focus on him. You can find other opportunities to connect with other Mommies – maybe online or at a get together without the children.

The important thing is to try to prevent another bite and to not overreact if it happens. If the other baby will accept it, offer compassionate words and touches while ignoring your own child. He’ll soon catch on that biting isn’t the way to get you to say his name and touch him.

Dr. Debbie

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What do you think? Email your comments or questions to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com.

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