Last week TikTok star Jasmine Chiswell, who has over 16.4 million followers, shared that her nipple “fell off” after her baby bit it during breastfeeding. Yikes. In her original video, she explained that her child has bitten before, but this time was different. The baby bit down with all eight teeth and pulled. While it was certainly uncomfortable, Chiswell says she didn’t think much of it since her pain tolerance had shot up since childbirth. The next morning her husband woke up with a fright after he saw that her shirt was stained with blood.
“I kid you not, the tip of my nipple was hanging off,” Chiswell says in her video. She notes that she had been warned that this could happen but essentially it would “stick itself back together.” She used ice packs and bandages and waited a few days to see how it healed.
In a follow-up video, Chiswell says the healing is going shockingly well. Additionally, what she had been told is seemingly accurate. “Basically I got told it will stick itself back together, so I kid you not, they were not lying. Is it bruising? Yes. Is it crusty? Yes. But it stuck together,” says Chiswell.
An OBGYN and Plastic Surgeon’s Thoughts
Monica Grover, OBGYN and chief medical officer at VSPOT says, “although it is very rare for a nipple to completely fall off during breastfeeding a baby, it can be a common occurrence for the nipple to possibly become wounded during breastfeeding.” She notes that this can happen for a few reasons, including “an impatient baby that is hungry and cannot wait for a letdown, or conversely if there is an overflow of milk production or too quick of a letdown.”
If a child is teething or experiencing an ear infection, that might also cause them to bite, says Grover. “Some not-so-obvious reasons can also be that the baby is trying to get the mother’s attention or is just bored,” she adds. During healing, Dr. Grover says breastfeeding can continue on the opposite breast, but the injured breast should continue to express milk so that the supply is not lost.
Houston plastic surgeon Olga Bachilo, MD isn’t so sure a baby can bite a whole nipple off. However, she’s confident they can do enough damage to cause discomfort. If the child is a toddler age two or older, a more damaging bite “certainly could possibly happen.”
Following a bite the nipple “can heal itself with tissue regeneration,” says Dr. Grover. She adds that ice packs, saline rinses, nipple creams, and even breast milk itself can aid in the healing process.
“Upon a nipple bite, it’s important to remain calm and break the seal with a pinky finger as showing any pain can make the baby scared and bite harder,” says Dr. Grover. Once a child does bite, it’s important to investigate why and address the issue, she adds.
If the bite is related to teething, the baby can be retrained. “Essentially, an adequate latch involves just a proper seal with the baby’s lips and tongue to help with the suckling motion. The seal should surround the entire areola and breast,” says Dr. Grover. “Teething can change the latching process for them, and it’s important to retrain the baby again.”
Dr. Bachilo says she doesn’t believe surgery would ever be necessary following a bite. The “only potential surgery I can think off is if one nipple did get shortened/reduced in size due to injury, the other side nipple could be reduced in size to match the injured side,” she says.