Few things send a shiver down a new breastfeeding mother’s spine like the idea of tiny teeth. Some mothers assume the first tooth signals the end of nursing. In reality, breastfeeding when your baby gets teeth may be much easier than you imagine.
Ease Teething Discomfort Before Nursing
Teething can be an uncomfortable process, as many new parents discover. Babies who associate breastfeeding with comfort, like mine, may want to nurse constantly in search of relief from aching gums. That doesn’t mean you need to become your baby’s teething toy if you don’t want to.
Before breastfeeding, offer your baby some teething soothers:
- Cold washcloth to bite
- Frozen bagel or other cold food, if your baby is eating solids
- Frozen teething toy
- Teething gel, if suggested by your pediatrician. Use this with caution, since the numbing effect can affect suckling technique.
The more comfortable your baby is, the more likely that nursing will be business as usual.
Why Latch Technique Matters
As you develop breastfeeding skills, you learn the difference between a “good” and “bad” latch. With a correct latch, the baby’s mouth is open wide for nipple and areola. The lips flange outward (picture a cartoon fish), and the tongue covers the lower gum to keep the suction seal. The actual nipple is pretty far back in the baby’s mouth, well past the gums. With a shallow latch, a baby may clamp down on the nipple. It’s uncomfortable for Mom and inefficient for baby, so it’s important to practice correct latch, enlisting a lactation consultant’s support if needed.
Another benefit of good latching technique? Your nipple isn’t anywhere near baby’s new teeth. Bottom teeth are even covered up by the baby’s tongue. My baby has six teeth right now. How many do I feel while breastfeeding? Most of the time, zero.
Dealing with Biting
Let’s be honest: Breastfeeding when your baby gets teeth means you might get the occasional nip. Sometimes babies simply get curious about what these new white nubs in their mouth can do. It feels kind of like biting your tongue, painful but not excruciating, and it’s usually an isolated occurrence. To gently teach your baby not to nibble you:
- Try not to yelp. It’s a tall order when you get an unexpected chomp, but do your best to stay calm. Shouts can frighten your baby from nursing, or they can even seem like the start of a funny game.
- Break the seal safely. Yanking your breast out of the baby’s mouth is likely to hurt you more. Instead, poke your little finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth to break suction, and swipe your nipple free.
- Tell your baby to knock it off. Seriously! Babies understand more from our tone than we might expect. Say, “Don’t bite. That hurts Mommy,” in a no-nonsense voice. Little ones learn that biting leads to a break in nursing and a brief rebuke.
- Hug your baby. If you’re getting nibbled, train yourself to pull baby closer instead of pulling away. Remember, you’re pushing your nipple in too far to bite.
After nursing, you may want to give your nipple a quick rinse and apply some nipple cream. Babies produce more saliva while they’re teething, which can dry out your skin. A little extra care can help your breastfeeding relationship stay comfortable, even after your baby’s teeth come in.