Breastfeeding Basics: Nursing While Teething
Breastfeeding can be a wonderful, enriching experience for both mommy and baby – until those dreaded teeth start popping up! Do you have a baby shark on your hands? Is teething causing you tons of trouble? Just because your baby gets teeth, doesn’t necessarily mean your breastfeeding journey has to end. There are many ways you can help your baby (and your body!) survive the terrors of teething.
The average age for baby’s first tooth is about 6 months old, although many babies get teeth early, and others won’t get their first tooth until early toddlerhood. Some signs of teething can include:
- Lots of drool
- Runny nose
- Tugging on ears
- Low-grade fever
- Difficulty sleeping
- Rash around the mouth (use KeaBabies Bandana Bibs to stay dry!)
- Biting/chewing on everything
- Changes in appetite
- Rosy cheeks
Biting and gnawing on objects can be soothing for a baby’s sore gums – but that may also lead to biting during nursing, which is incredibly painful! Don’t worry – just because your baby begins to bite during nursing, doesn’t mean you need to wean your baby at that point. There are gentle ways to teach your baby not to bite while breastfeeding!
Thankfully, biting tends to be a very temporary phase, usually lasting a few days to a few weeks at a time. With persistence and a plan in mind, you can help your baby stop biting. The most effective way of discouraging the baby from biting is to immediately stop the nursing session. Gently unlatch baby, say “no” firmly, and set him on the floor for a short period of time before allowing him to return to the breast. Be sure to give your baby verbal cues about why you are stopping the nursing session, even if you think your baby is too young to understand what you are saying. Yelling at a baby isn’t an effective method of discipline, and it may actually encourage your baby to bite even more!
If your baby bites you, try not to scream or cry out in pain. Many babies find it extremely funny and entertaining when their mommy winces in agony! Other babies can become fearful of your strong reaction and refuse to nurse out of anxiety. Try to stay calm and limit a loud negative reaction.
If your baby clamps down and doesn’t let go right away, do not attempt to pull baby off of you. This can cause more damage to the nipple! Instead, try pressing the baby’s face toward your breast, making it harder for her to breathe – she will become uncomfortable and unlatch.
Sometimes, a baby might be distracted or bored during feeding, making him more susceptible to attention-seeking behaviors such as biting. This is especially common in older babies and toddlers. If your little one seems to be easily distracted during feeding, try nursing in a dark, quiet room. Avoid television, bright lights, or toys that light up and play songs. Try to create a least-stimulating environment for your baby, so he can nurse calmly and focus on eating only. Unlatch baby as soon as he seems to be losing interest.
Again, biting can be a way of soothing teething pain. You may want to try giving your baby other things to bite on instead of your nipple. Many parents report their babies enjoying a cold wet washcloth, refrigerated gel teething toys, frozen waffles, or teething crackers.
If your baby causes damage to the nipple during a strong bite, you can apply ice between feedings, and use lanolin cream or breast milk to soothe the pain.
Remember, teething is only temporary! Most babies that bite during teething do so only a handful of times until the pain goes away. Although it can be extremely painful, try to remain calm and composed while correcting your little one. Following these tips can help you continue on your breastfeeding journey, despite a teething baby!