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. So, why do infants bite? And how can you pre­vent it?

Preventing Biting

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. 

  • 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.

Reasons Infants Bite

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.

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.

You can also learn more about why tod­dlers bite by read­ing our blog on the subject!

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Please let us know how we can be of addi­tion­al assis­tance! Call us: 1–800-685‑7610, Mon­day through Fri­day, 9–5 ET, or email us days, evenings, and week­ends: We’re here to help!

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