Between the ages of four and seven months, your little one will get his or her very first tooth. While you will be busy taking pictures to post on social media and trying to get your sweet baby to smile as much as possible in order to see that new tooth, you may also be worried about the effect that the new tooth will have on breastfeeding. With a few helpful tips and tricks, you can continue to nurse your little one through teething and beyond.
Teething and Nursing
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies nurse for at least the first year of their life. Because most babies have one (or more) teeth by the time they are a year old, this means that experts don’t recommend that you stop nursing when your little one gets teeth.
Teething does mean, however, that your baby may need the extra comfort of nursing to soothe his or her sore mouth, may refuse to nurse because of tender gums or may try to bite (ouch!) on your tender nipple while trying to soothe himself or herself. Don’t be tempted to wean him or her just because of these issues; there are ways to get through the teething phase.
Signs that Your Baby is Teething
Being aware of when your baby begins teething can help you prepare for this new stage in your little one’s life. Signs of teething include:
- Swollen or bulging gums
- Low-grade fever
- Visible tooth below the gumline
- Biting, chewing and sucking on more objects than usual
- Rejecting nursing or bottles
- Grabbing his or her ears
- Rubbing his or her face
- Difficulty sleeping
Tips for Breastfeeding with a Teething Baby
Once you and your little one have established a nursing routine, you may anticipate the time of when you will nurse him or her again. If this is the case, taking a few steps before nursing can make the experience better for both of you.
- Give your baby a frozen teething toy, a cold, wet washcloth or a frozen food item, such as a frozen bagel or frozen yogurt drops. This can help “numb” their gums and make them feel better before nursing.
- Clean your hands and then use your finger to massage your little one’s gums to reduce pain.
- Don’t apply numbing medications to your child’s gums. These can interfere with nursing by making it difficult for your little one to latch onto your breast.
- Ask your baby’s pediatrician about giving him or her the correct dosage of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help lessen pain.
When your little one begins nursing, try these tips to make it a good experience for both of you:
- Make sure that your little one latches on properly. If your little one latches on to close to your nipple, he or she may clamp down on your nipple and cause pain.
- If your nipples are sore from a previous bite, try changing positions to relieve some of the pressure on your nipples. Use pillows to ensure that your little one’s body is well-supported.
If your little one didn’t feel like nursing because of teething pain, it’s important to keep up your milk supply. After your little one has finished nursing as much as possible, use a breast pump to pump for five to 10 minutes in order to remove as much milk as possible. This will signal your body to make more milk and will allow you to stockpile some milk in the freezer for later use.
How to Stop Biting
If your little one is latched on to your breast properly, his or her lips should be flanged around your breast and their gums should be far back on your areola. His or her tongue should be covering their bottom teeth, which means that biting isn’t possible if he or she is in the proper position and actively nursing.
If your little one does manage to bite you, however, being bitten once is enough for any mom. Prevent future biting by:
- Watching your baby carefully. He or she has to move their tongue out of the way before biting to prevent them from biting themselves. If you notice your little one moving their tongue, quickly put your finger in your little one’s mouth to prevent the bite.
- Using praise, encouragement and big smiles when your little one latches on properly to encourage good nursing.
- Quickly stopping nursing your little one if a bite occurs. Sit in silence for a few minutes or calmly say, “Uh-oh. Be gentle when you nurse.”
Those cute, new teeth in your little one’s mouth may cause you both a little bit of pain and anxiety. With the right preparation and care, you and your little one can continue enjoying nursing together as he or she grows.