Q My nine-month-old daughter has started biting me. If I tell her not to, she laughs. How do I teach her I’m serious?
AClinical psychologist Dr Sally-Anne McCormack says: Most babies try biting at some stage in their development – and sometimes during breastfeeding, which can be very painful for the mother. At this age, biting is often related to teething issues, but it could also be for attention or to express anger or another overwhelming emotion.
Babies have limited ways of expressing how they feel. For example, biting when feeding might be a way your baby indicates she is not hungry, or that her gums or ears are sore. Or it may be that she has no other way of expressing her frustration.
Firstly, it is important to know biting your child back (or smacking her) is ineffective. She is too young to understand why her beloved parent is hurting her, and this could lead to more interpersonal relationship issues later on. Also, it’s not helpful to yell or scream at your baby (unless it is an involuntary response to the pain). Some babies consider this to be a great game to play, others may be traumatised by their mum’s response and, if it was during a feed, may not feed for a while.
The immediacy of your response is crucial. Although your daughter laughs when you tell her not to bite, it is still important to use language to let her know this behaviour is unacceptable. At the same time, remove her for a few minutes from whatever situation she is in. You may offer a biting toy (where appropriate). It is also important to read her frustration levels and keep her distracted if you think she may be about to bite.