When my eldest got her first tooth, we were overjoyed. We’d waited so long for hers to pop through. It didn’t take long for other teeth to join the first one.
And then one day, as I was nursing her…CHOMP!
Yes, it hurt! And it will likely happen to you at least once, but I’ll explain how you can get through teething and breastfeeding pain without fear of being bitten again.
Other times, a nursing strike from teething comes about. When a teething baby won’t nurse, it’s very stressful. I had my breastfeeding coach help me through it. I hope you have one too, but whether you do or not, this post is for when you’re breastfeeding a baby during teething with biting going on. Ouch.
Teething and Nursing
According to La Leche League, there are some specific reasons why you might have breastfeeding pain even when your baby didn’t chomp down on your nipples.
That’s due to the latch. When your baby gets new teeth, especially in the front, it is hard for her to get that good latch. How can you help? Try a new position and see if it makes her getting a good latch easier. Look out for this issue because her sore gums may make it tough for her, hurting you in the long run. You don’t want over-loaded boobs, do you?
Try teething or one of my nighttime teething remedies before your next nursing session. It can bring her relief and allow her to latch onto your nipples comfortably. Avoid anything frozen right before the feeding since she might be too numbed to get the latch right.
Teething and Biting
When your breastfeeding baby is teething and biting, it’s not personal. Your baby doesn’t hate you. Just like all new skills babies acquire, she’s just testing out her chompers.
Babies can’t bite when they are properly latched since the tongue will cover the lower teeth, and if she bites you, then she’ll bite her tongue. Sometimes, you could get scratched by a tooth even when the baby isn’t actively testing those new teeth.
Again, it might help you switch positions to avoid irritating that area. Many nipple creams are safe to breastfeed with that can help things heal up. Keep an eye out so it doesn’t get infected.
Does Breastfeeding Soothe Teething?
For both of my daughters, it was a big “yes.” They were completely comforted by the sucking and the milk that came forth for them. Once was all it took for the biting.
Incidentally, if that happens to you, don’t get angry. Say “no biting” and turn away briefly. Your baby will get it very quickly that she’s not to bite Mommy.
My daughters both nursed more frequently during teething. Since I was only bitten once by my eldest, I knew how to handle it by the time my youngest was born. She never did bite me, though, lucky for me!
So, it worked for me and lots of moms I know. For others, they had nursing strikes. I had endured those, too, but not during teething.
Can Teething Cause a Nursing Strike?
Yes, it absolutely can. In my experience, we weren’t having a teething problem. But it is scary and worrisome when your baby, who usually has a hearty appetite, won’t eat.
I remember calling up my breastfeeding coach with my concerns about nursing strikes. If your baby doesn’t want to nurse and seems exceptionally unhappy but this, it’s a nursing strike. And the good news is that it’s temporary.
The bad news?
You may very well drive yourself nuts trying to determine the cause. You might never find out what caused it, but if your baby has been getting teeth or you can feel them budding just under the gums, it’s likely a culprit.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can try to end a nursing strike during teething:
- Nurse at night – babies, when they are sleepy, tend to latch on instinctively naturally
- Try skin-to-skin contact
- Sing and rock the baby with your breast readily available. Dim the lights and get rid of distractions to help
- Try new positions or new places to nurse
- Freeze-expressed breastmilk for a soothing teething treat
- A baby-safe pain reliever can also help
How Do You Breastfeed a Teething Baby?
If your baby isn’t on a nursing strike, you may want to know how best to nurse that baby without getting bitten.
Soothe before the feeding
Let your baby chomp on a few baby-safe things before it’s time to do a feeding. This will likely relieve their pain and keep you safe from a bite. For babies older than 6 months, a little bit of cold banana or applesauce can also help.
Give a pain reliever
Pain relievers for babies are a great option when your child seems to be in a lot of pain from teething and can’t be soothed. Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen about 30 minutes before you plan to nurse. And before you do that, ask your pediatrician for the correct dosage to have zero worries.
But never give topical anesthetics
This stuff is dangerous for those under the age of 2. Benzocaine and lidocaine gels are not meant for children.
Watch the latch
When your baby is properly latched, she can’t bite you. However, if she gets sleepy and starts sliding off your breast, she may bite as a reflex.
See if the baby seems full
Babies will be more prone to biting if they are full. Keep an eye out if she stops sucking or falls asleep and get her off there.
And whatever you do…
NEVER cry out and pull back when bitten. Keep it firm and controlled with a “no biting” warning and simply turn slightly away. If you scream, you’ll scare her. Try pulling her face into your breast for a couple of seconds, which will make her release from you instead. She’ll get the message.
While it’s definitely painful to suffer a bite, it’s also concerning when the baby goes on a boob strike. So, please do what you can to bring her relief with teething and make her feel comfortable while nursing. If you feel concerned about nursing strikes or getting an infection on your breast from the bite, make sure you talk to your doctor to get things back on track.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.