Breastfeeding and Teething

It’s a common myth that you should wean your baby when he begins to cut his first teeth.  Many mothers fear that breastfeeding a baby with teeth will be painful.  However, there is no reason to wean during teething.  In fact, breastfeeding may comfort your baby during this challenging time.  Breastfeeding and teething can co-exist peacefully if you support your baby properly.

Most babies cut their first teeth at around six months of age.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for six months and continuing to breastfeed for a year or more even after introducing solid foods.  Therefore, medical professionals clearly advocate for breastfeeding through much of the teething phase in your baby’s life.

While teething, your baby may exhibit some unusual behavior and may show signs of discomfort on his gums.  Babies usually seek relief by gumming and biting down on objects.  And many moms fear that that need will come during breastfeeding, which could really hurt your nipples.  However, the truth is that if your baby is latched properly, his gums are far back on the areola and his tongue is covering his teeth.  While sucking, your baby cannot possible bite you.  It’s when your baby is not latched properly that biting can occur.

teething and breastfeeding__1453482979_108.89.137.58To ensure a proper latch, especially during teething, remind your baby to open his mouth wide before clamping onto the breast.  You can use a finger to help the process if necessary.  Also, ensure your baby is in a comfortable nursing position.  Sometimes teething causes nasal congestion and ear infections so different nursing positions may be necessary to help your baby breath while suckling.

Some babies love to nurse while teething because they find it comforting.  Others are fussy nursers during times of teething because they are in so much pain.  Try to ease your baby’s pain by offering cold items for your baby to chew on such as teething rings, frozen washcloths or frozen foods (if your baby is eating solids).  Try to numb your baby’s teeth with these items before nursing to help relieve the pain long enough for a good feeding.

Often a teething baby will gum your nipples for specific reasons during a feeding.  These may include general painfulness from emerging teeth, he’s full, he’s congested, milk isn’t flowing abundantly, he’s distracted, he wants your attention, or he is uninterested in eating.  Watch your baby closely to identify why your baby is gumming your breasts.  He may need a break for a cold teething toy and then is happy to return to nourishment.

If your baby does bite while breastfeeding, pull him towards you and make him unlatch.  Stop the feeding immediately and tell him that he cannot bite, biting hurts.  Repeat this process every time your baby bites to reinforce that this behavior is unacceptable.  Most babies learn quickly to stop biting.

Whether your baby gums or bites occasionally or not, your nipples may be sore when your baby is teething.  Excess saliva can lead to this nipple irritation.  If you are uncomfortable, rinse nipples with cool water or use lanolin cream to soothe them.

Teething usually happens in spurts.  Although your baby’s teething pattern may cause a little havoc, remember it is only temporary and things will get back to normal soon.  And your baby’s adorable smile will be even cuter with the addition of a few new teeth.