There comes a moment in every person’s life when you experience extreme physical pain and you think “I’m never going to be the same after this”. No, I am not even talking about giving birth. I am talking about a baby biting down so hard on your nip that you bleed. Unfortunately, breastfeeding and teething are going to happen at the same time, if you have chosen to breastfeed. So, let’s take a look at exactly what this means.
If you have decided to go down the lovely, amazing, yet super emotional and difficult journey of breastfeeding you have likely heard the word latch a BILLION times. “How is baby latching?”, “That’s a great latch”, “Does it hurt when s/he latches?”. Well mother nature really worked hard on the latch! Your baby was designed to nurse and your nipple was designed to work with their mouth. Basically, if your baby has a proper latch going then their teeth SHOULD NOT affect them nursing. The position their mouth is in while latching protects the breast from being injured from teeth. In addition, the flexibility of the nipple (forming the drawn out shape during feeding) allows for teeth to occupy space in baby’s mouth and a perfect latch to still happen. This is all very good news! But, baby’s do some awful things when their mouths hurt…
This can come in the form of clamping down, a lazy latch, grinding, scraping, honestly, any horrific thing that teeth could do to your nipple could happen. My son was a clamp down kind of kid. When his gums started hurting he was going to bite hard on whatever was in his mouth, which often meant my nipple. Before teeth cut through this is a discomfort, after teeth come, this is bleeding nipples. There are a few tactics to help prevent your little one from clamping down or a lazy latch (where they don’t open their mouths wide enough and the teeth dig in a bit).
- Try pushing more of your breast into their mouths. Forcing a wider mouth will prevent the teeth from getting involved in their nursing and great that perfect latch again.
- End the nursing session. By the time most babies start teething they are learning the basics of cause and effect. If you end the nursing session when baby bites they will learn that milk=no biting time.
- Unlatch and relatch. I usually pinch their cheeks inward (like you are making a kissy face for them) and pull out my nipple. This reinforces that a good latch, not involving teeth, is how to get milk. You can also stick a finger in the corner of their mouth and kind of fishhook your nipple out as well. Refrain from pulling your nipple out because if they have a strong latch and jaw they will rip your nipple right off!
- A little pain. My son was SUPER stubborn so it took a couple flicks to the cheek to get him to realize what he was doing was hurting me. No I am not saying to beat your kid for biting you, but a little reminder that you are not just a milk machine might be the only thing that works!
You can try similar methods for grinding and scratching but they have not seemed to work with my second. If you have a different method I should try drop a comment below, my nips will thank you!
Above I listed a few ways to hopefully stop the biting in the moment but there are a few ways to try to deter it from happening to begin with. Obviously helping them alleviate the symptoms of teething the best you can will help. Without a sore mouth baby should not have a reason to bite! I love using natural remedies for this as much as possible (check out my top natural solutions here), essential oils are great especially for night nursing because you can have a diffuser going in the room (some great recommendations can be found here), and of course load up on the teething toys (Nuby products are some of my favs!). In addition, check with your pediatrician about over the counter medicines. Both Tylenol and Advil can be given to babies to help with pain management if your little one is really struggling.
Another great way to deter the biting is distraction! I LOVE teething jewelry for this reason. It is not only something they can chew on, but it gives them something to focus on while nursing. The Boppy Teething Scarf is amazing for this because it can also double as a nursing cover if you are out and about while breastfeeding your teething baby.
Other Things to Consider
Clearly the biting is my biggest concern, but there are a few other things to keep in mind when baby is breastfeeding and teething. Remember that teething can cause lack of appetite. The pain from sore gums can make sucking not enjoyable. I find that something cold helps this a lot, just don’t go straight from a cold toy in the mouth to your boob in their mouth, your nipple will not appreciate that level of cold!
Lastly, breast milk has wonderful restorative properties, relaxing effects, mild analgesic effect and emotional benefits for baby. So when they are in the height of teething nurse them as often as they want (and you can manage), it will only help everything they are dealing with!
I would love to hear from you! Share your breastfeeding or teething story, comment, question or concern below!