Breastfeeding a Teething Baby

Worried about teeth? Here’s what you need to know about breastfeeding a teething baby.

Baby biting nipple while breastfeeding?

It doesn’t always happen, but if and when it does, brand new baby teeth clamping down on your nipple is painful! Especially if your nipples are soft after finishing a nursing session. Here’s what you need to know about breastfeeding a teething baby who may decide to bite!

No, you don’t need to wean when baby gets teeth

Lots of people think that when baby starts getting teeth, that it’s time to wean. Actually, this is not true at all! Many mamas fear biting while nursing, but it will actually be very difficult for your baby to bite while he or she is nursing because baby’s tongue should cover the bottom teeth while latched on. The majority of babies will get their first teeth at around 6 months of age, but breastmilk will continue to be beneficial for your baby through age 2 and beyond. If and when biting occurs, it will usually be when baby is done nursing. It’s normal for a baby to try biting, especially while teething, but the problem usually goes away after a couple days of encouragement. Here are some things you can do to prevent biting.

breastfeeding a teething baby

How to stop biting while breastfeeding a teething baby

There are a few methods you can try to discourage biting while breastfeeding depending on when your baby bites and his or her age. If baby bites at the beginning of a breastfeeding session, check your baby’s latch. Make sure his or her mouth is open wide, with tongue sticking out over the bottom teeth. Since this latch may be different from what baby is used to, it may take some practice and assistance for baby to get the hang of it. You can try gently guiding his or her chin down further if the mouth isn’t wide enough.

If baby bites at the end of a breastfeeding session, that means your baby might be bored or done nursing. Pay close attention to your baby when suckling slows. Is your baby falling asleep (some babies bite as they fall asleep) or showing signs of boredom or distraction? Then now would be a good time to use your finger to break the latch.

Some babies and toddlers bite for attention. This is especially true if biting causes an interesting reaction out of mom. As much as possible (and it’s not always possible) avoid screaming or yelling when baby bites. Try paying more attention to your baby or toddler while nursing, either by making eye contact or communicating with them. Some toddlers will enjoy a game of pointing while nursing: Try pointing to baby’s nose and saying “nose,” then pointing at your nose and saying “nose.” Point at and name other parts of yours and baby’s face. Your baby might start participating by pointing at your face. A simple game like this can keep your baby’s attention long enough to get through the breastfeeding session without boredom. A bored baby who knows that biting will get your attention will probably bite!

Some babies bite when they’re experiencing teething pain. This is a normal reaction because the act of biting will relieve some of that pressure – AND so does the act of sucking! If baby is biting seemingly randomly, or pauses while nursing to bite, this is a good sign that he or she is experiencing a surge of teething pain. This is a good time to end the nursing session and give baby something soothing to chew on like a teething toy or cold wet rag. You might find baby will try to bite other parts of your body, like your shoulder or arm (or bite their own hands), if he or she is in a lot of pain. Therefore it’s good to keep some items ready and nearby for your teething baby. Consider wearing a silicone teething necklace made just for baby while you’re nursing.

If you have teething toddler or older baby, you can unlatch and say “No thank you!” every time it happens. If they’re at the age when they’re starting to talk they’ll be able to better understand the language correlation to the action.

What if baby bites and doesn’t let go?

It’s not very common for babies to bite down for longer than a couple of seconds, but if your baby is biting down and not letting go you’ll want to unlatch him or her in the safest way possible. Here are some great tips from KellyMom about what you can try if baby bites but doesn’t let go:

First, quickly place your finger between baby’s gums so you can pull away without (more) injury. If that doesn’t work, pull baby TOWARD you, very close to your breast. This will make it a little hard to breathe, so baby will automatically let go to open her mouth more and uncover her nose to breathe. A variation of this that some moms use is to gently pinch baby’s nose closed for just a second to get her to open her mouth and release the nipple.

When will baby get teeth?

We’re hoping all this talk of breastfeeding a teething baby isn’t making you nervous in anticipation!

Teeth can come in at any time. There’s a wide range of what’s considered normal. The majority of babies begin teething at around 6 or 7 months of age, and these are usually the bottom or top front teeth. That said, babies can start teething at 3 months or earlier, or not until well after their first birthday. Every baby is different, but most will have gotten all of their teeth in by their third birthday. One of the Pumpables team member’s babies didn’t get teeth until 17 months old – but then caught up by getting a new tooth almost every week for the next 3 months!

If you’ve seen no signs of teething (see below) by about 18 months, it’s worth a call to your child’s pediatrician just to make sure everything’s going on track.

Signs baby is teething

There’s a pretty good chance you’ll know your baby’s teeth are coming well in advanced of any opportunity to bite while breastfeeding. Here are a few common signs of teething you can be on the lookout for.

  • Baby is gumming on everything. Your baby’s hand, your hand, your hair, your phone, pens and pencils – you name it, and it’s in your baby’s mouth getting nibbled on. You might even feel your baby gumming down on your breasts while breastfeeding, which is a great opportunity to stop the habit of biting before it even starts.
  • Fountains of drool. Teething is often accompanied with LOTS of liquid, much of which has to do with baby constantly having his or her mouth open and chewing.
  • Waking often at night. Teeth move more when baby is sleeping, at night. If you’re finding baby is waking abruptly and more often than normal (usually accompanied by screaming) there may be teeth in there.
  • Gums are no longer soft. A newborn baby will have soft gums. When the teeth move closer to the surface of the gums, they will feel harder to the touch. Some babies can take bites out of crackers with just their gums, which is a good sign that teeth are not far off.
  • You can see outlines of teeth. Especially with the top, front teeth, you can see the outlines of the teeth under the gums. Sometimes you can see these a couple months before they surface!
  • Dark spots and white spots on the gums. When the areas on the gums where teeth would be begin to darken, this is a good sign that teeth are moving in. When you see a white spot, this is actually the tooth right under the surface!

When did your little ones get teeth? Did you have to adjust your breastfeeding routine? Tell us in the comments below 🙂

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