Why do infants bite?

Incidents of biting in early child care can be alarming for everyone involved: the child who bit, the child who was bitten, the caregiver, and the families of the children. Biting can happen without warning, even when a caregiver is nearby. As unpleasant as it is, biting is a normal phase that some children go through.”

Preventing biting is a major challenge. Effective prevention strategies must begin with an understanding of each child and address the reason for biting in each particular case. Whatever the reason for young children’s biting, you must remember the following points:

  • Biting is usually a short-term phase that has no lasting significance in terms of the child’s development.
  • Biting is not an occasion for blame. Do not blame the child, the child’s parents, or yourself.
  • Biting is not a sign that the child is “bad.” It is not cause for punishment.

Children bite for different reasons during different periods of development. Infants learn through their senses—they explore their world by touching, smelling, seeing, hearing, and tasting. An infant may mouth an object to learn more about it much as a toddler would touch or grasp an object with his or her hands. When infants bite, they do not do so with the intention of causing pain.

Infants who are experiencing the pain of teething might try to find comfort in applying pressure to their gums in the only way they know how. Have a supply of suitable objects for chomping ready for teethers. Chilled teething toys or a frozen wet washcloth can do the trick. Stay close to the teether and be prepared to whisk them away (in a kind, playful manner) if you suspect the child may bite.

Infants learn by doing and are learning cause and effect. The infant might push toy buttons to make sounds, knock over a tower of blocks, or splash water with their hands. The infant might also bite another child. While a child’s interest in exploring cause and effect should be encouraged, he or she needs guidance to learn what things are okay to bite (food and toys) and what things are not okay to bite (people and animals). Provide many opportunities for infants to explore cause and effect with a variety of play materials, as well as appropriate opportunities to explore what their teeth can do.

Click here to learn information about toddlers and biting.

Take the Care Course Biting Hurts! to learn more about why young children bite and how to respond effectively. This course will help you develop strategies for preventing and handling biting incidents and communicate with parents about biting.

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