Breastfeeding with a Teething Baby
If you plan to breastfeed past the first couple of months, you may come across well-meaning relatives or friends who feel that breastfeeding a teething baby or baby with teeth is just like putting your nipple in a vampire’s mouth. Thankfully, that is NOT the case and you can rest easy that you’ll be able to breastfeed your teething baby for years (yes, even years!) without the fear of losing a nipple! Breastfeeding with a teething baby can be hard at times but is manageable with some preparation! In this post, we’ll discuss some of the symptoms of teething, how it might affect breastfeeding and how to meet your breastfeeding goals throughout teething phases. We’ll even talk about how to deal with biting.
Teething symptoms in baby
If you experienced sore nipples soon after birth that have since resolved, you may be nervous that when your baby begins teething you will have pain again. It’s true that it can seem like one thing after another with parenting (just as you finally get the hang of the stage your child is in, they change!), but the good news is that teething itself doesn’t mean you’re doomed to nipple pain for the next few months. When you know what to expect, breastfeeding with a teething baby is much easier!
Common teething symptoms in baby are:
- Drooling: Drooling can start happening months before baby’s first tooth makes its appearance. Bibs can help babies who become little faucets, drenching their clothes! A few moms with very sensitive skin may find all the extra drool and saliva causes extra sore nipples.
- Mouthing and chewing on everything: Baby putting things in his mouth is a developmental stage and doesn’t necessarily mean baby is teething. As teeth become closer to arrival, though, you may notice baby biting (and not letting go!) on toys, your fingers, and potentially even your nipples.
- Fussiness, trouble sleeping, refusal to feed: Every baby reacts to teething a little differently, but some babies become very upset! Teething can be painful, so if your baby is crying more than usual, not sleeping soundly like he used to, or even rejecting the breast or solid foods at certain times, impending teeth could be to blame.
- Swollen gums or white just below the gums: When teeth are right around the corner, some babies will get swollen gums (some even can look bruised!) and sometimes you can even see that troublesome tooth right under baby’s gum before it breaks through.
Sometimes fevers, diarrhea, runny noses, grabbing at ears, or rashes are blamed on teething. While they can be signs of teething in some babies, if your baby has symptoms that could also be related to illness, you should contact your baby’s doctor to rule out anything else.
What to do when baby is teething
Now that you know what things baby does to show teeth are coming, let’s talk about what you should do regarding those symptoms. Here are some common things to keep in mind when breastfeeding with a teething baby:
- Nurse often! Many babies want to nurse very often when teething as their gums rubbing while sucking can be comforting, or they just find being close to mom and warm milk to make everything better!
- Try new positions: If you are experiencing some nipple soreness or baby is reluctant to nurse, trying a new position can be very helpful. While some babies prefer to nurse more, some babies find nursing to exacerbate teething pain.
- Pain relief: If baby is in pain, you can talk to your doctor about pain relief medicine. Also, many moms find freezing a washcloth or a special teething toy to help baby as they chew on it.
- Babywearing: If baby needs some extra comfort, babywearing is always a good choice! It can be hard to deal with a fussy baby when life is so busy, so keep baby close and comforted as you check off that to-do list.
What to do about biting
The period after baby’s first pearly whites make their appearance can be a terrifying time if you don’t know an important fact: baby can’t bite when latched well! Most biting happens at the end of feedings. If you notice baby’s rhythm of sucking and swallowing has slowed down and they are prone to biting, you can unlatch them to prevent any nipple trauma. You can still offer the other side, as bringing in a faster milk flow with a new letdown can prevent biting.
If baby does bite, it’s okay to say no (try not to freak out and scare baby!) and to sit baby up and even stop nursing for a few minutes. If baby doesn’t let go when he clamps down, bring him close towards you. While that seems counterintuitive, it will cause baby to open his mouth to breathe and thus let go of your nipple.
If baby is causing you pain and you’re not finding relief, don’t hesitate to reach out for help! Many moms of older babies seek out help from an IBCLC because nursing an older baby comes with new and different hurdles than newborns. Definitely check out our Hurdles & How To’s video class which goes over common breastfeeding issues throughout the whole course of breastfeeding. You got this mama; teeth aren’t the end!
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Thanks for stopping by,
Kristin Gourley, BS, IBCLC