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Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Real Advice -

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.

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