Q&A: biting, introducing formula, teething, and the 9-month sleep regression

Lisa writes:

"I know you've touched on some of my issues in your column, but here's a new combination: my son is 8 months old & is breastfed. About a month ago, he started taking a bottle a day of formula from my husband. About a week after that, he started taking it from me as well, so I dropped one breastfeeding session. (Previously he would usually only take a bottle of breast milk from him.) All was great until he got sick about 2 weeks ago, when he flat-out refused any kind of liquid in any kind of container except me. Now he's mostly over his coughing & sniffling, but still has no use for anything in a bottle or sippy cup. He's happy to play with them & chew on them, but won't drink from them.

In addition to the cold, he's teething like CRAZY. He got 2 teeth around 6 months & is cutting at least 4 more now. Around the time we started the formula, he had started biting me while nursing, but he had stopped with the introduction of the formula. While he was feeling the sickest, he wasn't biting, but now that he's feeling better, he's biting again.

Am I insane to even consider trying to deal with any of this until the teeth come in? Am I going to have any nipples left by that point? None of the things people have suggested for the biting do any good....when I yell, "NO BITING," he gets the biggest sh*t-eating grin you've ever seen..he knows exactly what he's doing! The very first time I yelped in pain, he cried, but not since. Fortunately, he's usually almost done when he bites, so I just sit him up & that's the end of the feeding. But YIKES! Help!"

Yowza. That's kind of a trifecta of nastiness. And I bet by now he's into the 9-month sleep regression and things are even crazier.

There's no way to be able to deal with all of this at one time, so let's separate it all out and prioritize. Personally, I think your nipples are the highest priority in this scenario. So stopping the biting is of primary importance.

Everyone's got some guaranteed way to stop the biting, until they have a second biter, at which point they've got two guaranteed ways to stop the biting... My first was an easy case. He bit me twice, at the same time each day for two days in a row. Each time I screamed in pain, pulled him off and dumped him unceremoniously off me, and buttoned up and walked away. It took two times and he stopped. My second child is much more bull-headed, and it took repetition after repetition for a week or so, until finally he stopped biting my nipples. And started biting my arm, shoulder, leg, ankle, etc. instead. Sigh. He seems to almost be coming out of his "lead with the teeth" phase, and he's 20 months now.

But enough about my wounds. I'm opening this up and asking everyone to share what worked for them to stop the biting. Someone's going to have the exact solution that will help you. It's my suspicion that the true key to stopping the biting isn't the way you react verbally, but that the feeding stops immediately.

Once you've got the biting under control, you can choose whether to deal with the bottles or not. If he's in the sleep regression or is still teething, my guess is that you're not even going to care about the bottles at this point and just want to get through this next month. If his sleep is fine and those teeth have popped, then you can go back to the bottles again.

There are plenty of kids who won't take a bottle or a sippy who will take a Nuby cup or straw cup (and be sure to read the comments). Try varying the temperature of the formula or milk to see if that makes any difference. In all likelihood, he was just on a strike because he was feeling bad. But even if he steadfastly refuses a bottle there are still plenty of options for you to try. You're probably still going to have better luck with your husband trying all this instead of you, because the breasts are just still too attractive to make any other container have any appeal while you're there.

Hang in there. The teeth will eventually come in.