Breastfeeding a baby with teeth does not mean you have to wean them. Moms can learn how to continue to breastfeed a teething baby without pain or biting.
Really. We all have been there. You’re sailing happily through your breastfeeding experience, and then the unthinkable happens. Your baby starts gnawing on everything, drool dripping from her chin, gums swelling and causing her to scream out in pain. Your baby is teething, and that means two things for you as a breastfeeding mother:
- Your baby will have the natural urge to chew on anything and everything. This may include your nipples, so the potential for painful breastfeeding starts before the first tooth emerges from the gum.
- The teeth are on the way, and you may or may not need to adjust your breastfeeding habits to avoid a painful experience.
If your baby is teething or you can see the tip of a tooth emerging from your baby’s gum, don’t assume that you have to stop breastfeeding. Some mothers do decide that they want to wean and move to a bottle at this point, but that isn’t your only or best option. Professionals recommend that you breastfeed for at least one year and that means that we can learn to get past this without pain!
Identify the Problem
When you first notice that your baby has a tooth, you can continue breastfeeding as normal. Women everywhere are breastfeeding a baby with teeth without pain (we promise!) In many cases, the baby never bites and the teeth never cause any pain for the mother. If you’re in that group of lucky women, then you may make it well beyond the first year of breastfeeding before the teeth become an issue. YAY!!!
If you do experience pain, try to determine the cause:
- The teeth are pushing against your nipple while the baby nurses. The baby is not doing anything intentional to cause pain. The teeth just happen to dig into the skin while the baby suckles.
- The baby is biting the nipple. Perhaps your little one has the urge to soothe his irritated gums by teething on your nipple.
The first thing that you need to do is check your baby’s latch. When a baby is properly latched to the nipple, their bottom teeth are completely covered by their tongue and there should be no pain at all. Those teeth cannot naturally dig into your skin unless the baby isn’t properly latching onto the breast. The top teeth naturally fall higher up on the areola with a property latch, so top teeth may make indentations or cause irritation in that area.
If your baby is actually biting your nipple, then either the latch is not right or they are doing it as they release the nipple. Start by ensuring that your baby is latching around the areola rather than around the nipple, and then keep reading for more strategies to stop the pain before it happens.
Pay Attention & Act Fast when Breastfeeding a Baby with Teeth
A teething baby may latch properly but then decide to move their tongue to bite down on the nipple. Many mothers are able to feel the change in the suction, and they know what’s coming after it happens the first time. If you act fast, you can get your finger in there so that the bite doesn’t come down on your nipple. Note that this can happen during the teething process before you actually see a tooth in your baby’s mouth.
Can You Train a Biting Baby?
It is sometimes suggested that you can train a baby not to bite while breastfeeding. The big assumption here is that your baby is biting intentionally. If the teeth are simply grazing or digging into your skin due to positioning or latch, then there is no way to train the baby because it’s not a behavioral problem.
If you think that your baby is intentionally clamping down on your nipple before your nipple is pulled out of their mouth, some people suggest firmly saying “no” and removing the breast. You can give your baby a teething toy immediately after. When done frequently, it is believed that the baby will connect the behavior of biting to the removal of their food source and will stop the biting.
Note that the “no” should be firm but not loud or angry. You don’t want to scare your baby and introduce fear into the breastfeeding experience. Just let them know that that is not ok.
Some little ones actually think it is funny to do this….just to get a reaction. If you feel this is the case, try hard NOT to react and just simply stop nursing. If they get no reaction, they will stop trying.
Give Your Baby Things to Chew That is Not You!
It may sound silly, but teething babies really want to chew things. So give them things to chew that are NOT your nipples so when you are feeding, that is all he or she wants to do…not chew or bite. There are great teething toys out there that will help curb baby’s need to chew.
This is No Reason to Wean!
Just because you are breastfeeding a baby with teeth does not mean you need to be their chew toy, but it also is not a reason to wean. Even if your baby does try to bite a few times, that is not something that continues. Usually the novelty of it goes away for the child and the urge to chew or bite is gone and you can go back to more peaceful nursing sessions with your little one.
- How to Stop a Baby from Biting
- Does Breastfeeding Cause Tooth Decay in Babies?
- Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions