Breastfeeding and Teething- Helpful Tips for Survival
You’ve mastered breastfeeding, and then your sweet little angel gets teeth.
All of a sudden, they may not be quite the little angel they once were when they discover those teeth and bite you. OUCH!
Breastfeeding and a teething baby can work.
Your baby getting teeth doesn’t have to mean the end of your nursing relationship. I know for some mommas, it just doesn’t work out for them, and that’s OK. But, if you want some help working through baby biting while breastfeeding, you’re in a great place!
Let’s first start with the basics of teething, so that you’re fully aware of what signs you should be watching for. In my opinion, prevention is one of the greatest things you can do when your baby is teething, and breastfeeding pain doesn’t sound like a fun adventure.
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Common Signs of Teething
Oh, the drool! Most teething babies drool… A LOT!
If you don’t have any baby bibs, now is the time to stock up. Trust me, you’ll likely be needing them.
Teething babies can go through lots of bibs in one day. If your baby has never drooled much and then all of the sudden starts, you may be headed into a season of teething.
Cutting teeth HURTS!
Obviously, you probably aren’t going to remember that teething feels like, so you may find it hard to empathize. But if you’ve ever had any dental work, then you should have a pretty good feel for what they’re going through.
It hurts, and not only does it hurt, but they’re still little and don’t communicate well. The only way they may know to communicate is by crying. If you’ve noticed increased fussiness in your baby, you may be seeing some teeth soon.
Refusing to Eat
The pressure from biting down on food can be painful at times. And sometimes, that pain alone is enough to not want to eat.
Whether your baby is breastfeeding, taking a bottle, or eating solid foods, a reduction in their food consumption could possibly be an indicator of teething.
White Below the Gums
When you’ve looked at your baby’s gums in the past, you’ve seen that they’re red with a white line that goes across the edge.
Babies who are getting teeth will start to have little white spots pop up on their gums along that edge. Sometimes you can even run your clean finger along their gums and feel the teeth.
Just like your body uses temperature as a way to let you know something is off, it’s possible that your baby will do the same.
It can be common for a baby who is teething to run a low-grade fever. If you aren’t sure what’s going on, and you’re concerned, I always say to make an appointment with your pediatrician and have them checked out for peace of mind.
A Desire to Chew Constantly
Does your baby all of the sudden want to chew on anything and everything? Fingers, toys, keys, etc.
You name it, and they’re likely to put it in their mouth.
If you haven’t done any babyproofing in your home, now is when you should get started. If you’re a new parent, I want to share some helpful tips of some of the most missed baby proofing hacks.
Getting Through a Nursing Strike
Sometimes, breastfeeding babies will experience a nursing strike because nursing while teething can become painful.
Here are some things you can do to get through a nursing strike.
Pump When Your Baby was Nursing
If you find yourself dealing with a baby who is on a nursing strike, pump when you would normally be nursing. This will allow you to give your baby breast milk in a bottle.
You’ll want to continue to offer your breast to your baby in hopes of the nursing strike ending quickly.
If you’ve never used a breast pump, I have a favorite. I love it so much for maintaining a breastfeeding and pumping relationship that I spelled out all the reasons why the Spectra S1 is the best breast pump.
Take a Break from the Pacifier
Baby’s like to suck on things. A pacifier is something that satisfies your baby’s urge to suck.
Take it away. It may be hard, but it should help!
This will force your baby back to the breast to meet the need to suck on something.
Remove Toys that Encourage Sucking
Same as I mentioned about taking away the pacifier. Take any toys away that encourage sucking.
Don’t Turn Nursing into a Battleground
You don’t want to turn your breastfeeding relationship into a war. It isn’t worth the fight, and in the end, you’re both going to lose.
Do everything you can to force your baby back to the breast and then leave the rest up to them.
Offer the Breast While Baby is Sleeping
This is my favorite piece of advice. If you have no desire to pump, but still want to continue breastfeeding your baby, you can offer your breast to them while they’re sleeping.
Doing this will allow you to feed your baby without biting. With any luck, they’ll wake up and not bite.
Pump for a Couple Minutes Before Nursing
Sometimes babies will bite out of reaction to the letdown, especially if it’s delayed. By having the milk, “pumped and primed” so to speak, your baby is less likely to bite you out of frustration.
By doing these things, your baby is soon going to be forced to fulfill their urge to suck by getting back to the breast. Even if painful, they’ll work their way through this phase.
Why Do Babies Bite While Nursing?
A teething baby is experiencing pain. And much like you and I, they’re going to do what they can to end the pain.
Unfortunately for you and me, that sometimes comes in the form of biting. The pressure on whatever they bite on relieves the pain in their gums.
Lack of Breast Milk
If your breast is not giving them enough milk as quickly as they would like, they’re going to get upset quickly.
You can pump right before nursing to already have the milk in transition for nursing.
Exploration of New Teeth
As with anything new, babies are incredibly curious to figure things out.
Getting teeth is no different.
There is a new sensation of using their teeth to bite down on things, and they’re going to try it. Chances are, they have no idea what they’re doing. You just happen to be the unlucky one.
If your nursing baby isn’t getting any breast milk, and you aren’t paying attention to them, they’re going to get bored.
This alone can cause a baby to bite.
You can avoid this by watching for your babies nursing cues, and when it’s apparent they’re finished nursing, remove them from the breast BEFORE they bite.
How to Avoid Biting While Nursing
Pay Close Attention to Baby’s Nursing Pattern
At this point in your nursing journey, you likely have a pretty good idea of what your baby’s nursing pattern looks like.
If you have a baby who likes to bite, chances are, they’re giving you clues before they actually bite, but if you aren’t paying super close attention, you may be missing them. This is when breastfeeding and your teething baby collide.
Oftentimes, babies will nurse until they’re full, and they want to play. With your nipple in their mouth and their gums sore, you have just become the closest teething toy.
The simplest way to avoid getting bit is to pick up on the signs that they’re finished nursing and remove them before they bite.
Tell Your Baby No
Experts will tell you not to yell when your baby bites, bet if you’ve ever had your teething baby bite your nipple, then you know yelling likely happens because it HURTS!
In my experiences, after that first incident, my kids haven’t bit again, at least not for several weeks. My reaction was enough to startle them, and then I, of course, followed up with an incredibly firm, “NO”. This was upsetting to them.
By telling your baby “no”, you’re indicating to them that this behavior is not OK.
Stop Nursing for a Few Minutes
If you’re at the end of a feeding when they bite you, then it’s easy to end the nursing session. But if you’re in the beginning or middle, then you’ll need to finish the feeding.
Give yourself a few minutes to pull yourself back together, assess the situation for any bleeding on your behalf, and if your baby was upset by your reaction to the biting, they may also need a minute to pull themselves together.
A word of caution here. You want to make sure that you don’t encourage a nursing strike with your reaction to them biting.
Obviously, you want them to know that it isn’t OK to bite, but if you’re their only source of food, you don’t want them to be afraid to nurse again.
Be Sure You’re Encouraging a Deep Latch
One thing I struggled with in general was a good, deep latch.
Teaching your baby to latch well from the beginning, in my opinion, is a big indicator of how your nursing relationship is going to go.
When your baby has a deeper latch, it’s much harder for them to bite down with their teeth. Whereas with a shallower latch, your kiddo is much more likely to use their teeth to bite you.
Don’t Be Distracted While Nursing- Biting Will Cause More of a Startling Reaction
One of the greatest things you can do for your nursing relationship is to make sure you’re engaged in the nursing session.
I totally understand that it can feel monotonous at times. Been there. Done that.
But once that first bite happens, you’re much more likely to be watching closely.
Keep an eye on their feeding cues and try to be preventive of biting when you can.
Breastfeeding and Teething- You Can Do This!
Figuring out how to breastfeed a teething baby can be challenging.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you how important it is to continue breastfeeding your teething baby.
My best advice is to give it some time and see if your little one stops.
If they continue to bite, then it may be time to re-evaluate your breastfeeding relationship.
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