Hello and welcome to April’s blog! I’m Hannah and I have been working in the Baby room for several years now. 

A common question recently in the baby room is why does my child bite? This question is complex and has many answers dependent on the child’s developmental stage. The act of biting is something that can often be really upsetting for parents, both of the child who is biting others and also for parents of the child who might get bitten.

Teething, exploration, frustration, attention, excitement, tiredness and hunger are some of many possible reasons why children bite. As adults we see biting as an unsociable behaviour that causes much distress and worry however by been able to identify some of the triggers of this behaviour, we may be able to reduce and understand the reasoning behind it.

Over my time in the baby room I have noticed a common relation between teething and biting. Teething can cause huge discomfort for babies, as an adult who has experienced a wisdom tooth, I sympathise the pain they must be in, however babies do not hold the explanation of why they are in pain, nor can they communicate this. The urge for a baby to bite down on something relieves this pain and this act of biting unfortunately could be onto anything or anyone that is closest to the child resulting in a bite. We have found some soft teethers kept in the fridge, accessible for a child to use has hugely helped reduce the urge to bite a person, but instead to bite down on the teether to relieve the discomfort.

Another factor we must consider when talking about biting is; can the child communicate their needs? Is this act of biting a result in frustration or a lack of been able to communicate? As adults we use speech daily to communicate our needs and wants however babies are still learning this skill. By the age of 1 many babies only have 1-3 words that they can communicate, common words been “ma-ma” and “da-da”. If a baby cannot express or manage their frustration an act of biting may be their way of expression and to provoke a reaction. As practitioners at nursery, we promote the use of Makaton to support babies’ communication along with developing the language skills of the child, helping to minimise the frustration that they are feeling by empathising with them using emotional language where possible.

Babies learn and explore using their senses, mouths been a key sense. From around 3 months old babies learn to grasp objects and once they have learnt this, they’ll often place the item straight into their mouth. They learn how objects feel whether squishy or hard, hot or cold and this stimulation is the same with biting. In a babies mind they are exploring using this sense, the same they would learn through the objects been placed into their mouths. They are exploring and learning what happens when they bite and to see the reaction they may get. This is commonly referred to as cause and effect.

We have also noticed that to a baby biting can be a cause to gain more attention, when they feel they are not receiving enough.

In the baby room we try to pre-empt situations that might lead to biting, learning and minimising certain triggers and providing babies with distraction to reduce the amount they want to bite. As adults we must remember that from a child perspective biting isn’t to cause harm or upset to others but merely to express themselves and how they may be feeling in that moment in time. As practitioners we understand how upsetting it is for a child to be bitten and continue to raise awareness and support as to why a child may bite. If you experience biting it is important to maintain the same approach. I will attach a Great Wood Farm information sheet on biting for further information. We also have found a useful book on biting for young children which you may find useful to share with your child, 'Teeth are Not for Biting' by Elizabeth Verdick.