Congratulations! You’ve successfully fed your baby for almost 4 months, and now you’ve noticed that s/he is starting to cut a tooth or two. As exciting as this can be (another milestone!), when babies start to cut teeth, it can create a multitude of fears and issues for breastfeeding mamas. New moms are nervous that with the new teeth, babies are more likely to chomp down on their breasts, making the process painful.
So, how do you handle a teething baby while continuing to nurse?
If you have a great bond with your child when it comes to breastfeeding, there is no reason to stop due to teething. There is probably less to fear than you realize. If your baby has already been nursing, they will look to that as comfort. They are much less likely to bite for any reason because they will want to be breastfed as a way to soothe and ease their pain.
Remember, babies take in a lot more than just your nipple when they are nursing, so you have even less to worry about in regards to them biting directly on the sensitive area. Additionally, it’s almost impossible for a baby to bite while actively nursing.
However, this does not mean that your baby won’t try to nip after they’re done sucking. Since getting the onset of teeth, babies will experiment at this stage. Because babies chomp on teethers (and anything else they can get in their mouths) constantly to help ease the pain of the teeth pushing on their swollen gums, there is a chance that s/he will bite down after a feeding.
If this starts to happen, the best course of action for you to take is to break the bond between breast and baby’s mouth and not offer the breast again for a few minutes, even if your baby still wants to feed. You have to try to make your point to the baby not to bite - while maintaining a calm and gentle manner. Not offering the breast again right away will help to demonstrate that biting is not okay.
An important thing from this point on for you to do is to pay close attention at all feedings and try to recognize when your baby is done feeding so that s/he doesn’t resort to nipping again. If it helps, keep cool, clean teethers nearby so that after feeding, you can quickly transition baby to working on teething. Not only will this help their sore gums, it will also encourage the baby not to bite on you.
Many of my clients are worried that they may have to wean their babies when those first teeth start popping through. Just remember that a teething baby does not indicate that it is time to wean, as you can easily continue to nurse through when your baby gets his/her teeth - without the fear of pain from biting.
My best advice is to keep calm, gently remove your baby from the breast and/or place them down, and matter-of-factly state, “Ouch, biting hurts mama.”
Is your baby currently teething? What questions or concerns do you have? Make sure you come on over to the Official Milky Mama Lactation Support Group on Facebook so that we can help you work through it!
If you are looking for one-on-one help, make sure you check out our Services page! We offer in-office, video, or text/email consultations with an IBCLC or Certified Lactation Counselor. We would love to help you in every step of your breastfeeding journey.