Breastfeeding and Teething
The newborn period is over and hopefully you and your baby’s breastfeeding relationship is working well for both of you. The first year seems to be whizzing by…suddenly your baby starts drooling and nights seem more of a challenge again. Could this be teething? Possibly. Doesn’t this mean I have to stop breastfeeding now that teeth are in the pipeline? The answer is a resounding NO.
Teething is a very common cause of unsettled behaviour in your baby between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. The sensation of teething can cause increased saliva production (hence all the drool), an aching jaw and unpleasant pressure as teeth start pushing up through the gums. To counteract and cope with those sensations your little one may have an increased need to gum and chew things.
Signs of teething
- increased drooling
- need to gum and chew
- redness on gums
Can teething cause sore nipples?
Many women fear for their nipples during this period, but don’t worry!
An actively suckling baby can physically not bite as the tongue is covering the bottom teeth during a good latch. Some babies never attempt to try out their teeth on your nipples, but if gumming the nipple and biting become an issue, one thing you can do is to observe your child closely to see when active feeding has finished. Once you see signs of slowing down at the breast, unlatch your little one by gently breaking the seal by inserting a clean finger at the corner of their mouth. At that point, offering an alternative to chew may work well as a preventative measure. If your nursling tends to gum and bite at the beginning of a feed, offer the same measures before getting started. Things that may work well as an alternative to gum and chew are specially designed chilled teething toys or chilled/frozen washcloths to soothe teething troubles.
Occasionally babies attempt to try out their new teeth and the new sensation within their mouths and jaw by nipping without much warning. Inserting your finger between his/her gums behind the front teeth helps extract the nipple generally, though if this does not work, pulling your baby firmly into your breast is also effective as baby has to open her mouth to breathe and, therefore, unlatches herself.
Ending the nursing session and telling your baby that biting hurts usually gets the message across that biting and nursing definitely do not go together. It may take some repetition but baby will eventually understand that biting will mean a temporary stop in nursing.
Teething can also cause breastfeeding refusal from your baby due to the oral discomfort experienced. Offering feeds proactively when your baby is settled rather than awaiting unsettled periods may be helpful in that case. If after cuddles, patience and alternative methods to soothe the discomfort have not been successful, offering pain relief may be appropriate to coax your baby back to the breast first consulting your baby’s health care provider for further advice.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your nipples may feel somewhat tender again, either due to the issues mentioned above or indeed due to the structural changes happening in the baby’s mouth. Being extra mindful of maintaining good latch and positioning will be especially helpful in this period of change.
Once the initial phase of trying out new teeth has passed (and indeed also during this phase), breastfeeding will be an amazing tool to easily your little one’s discomfort, night and day.