There are a lot of breastfeeding myths swirling around out there. It’s hard to know what to believe. We are going to bust one of those myths. Have you ever heard a mom or grandmother say that you need to enjoy breastfeeding while you can because once those teeth come in it’ll be time for a bottle? We’re going to talk about this myth and why it’s not true.
When do babies start getting teeth?
There’s quite a bit of variability of when your baby will get their first tooth! Some babies may not even have teeth by their first birthday while on rare occasions some babies are born with a tooth. The majority of babies however, have their first tooth peek through around 6 months. This is usually one of the two front bottom teeth. You may notice at around 3 month old your baby will begin putting everything in their mouth including their hands. They may also begin drooling a lot. This can be mistaken as a sign for teething but is just part of their development.
Signs your baby is teething
There’s a wide variety of symptoms of teething but most babies will exhibit at least one. What can be tricky is many of these signs are also signs of the common colds so many parents don’t realize it’s teething until suddenly a tooth pops through. Signs of teething:
- Crying and Irritability
- Excessive Drooling
- Changes to Eating and Sleeping Routines
- Cheek Rubbing and Ear Pulling
How to continue breastfeeding through teething
Identify the problem
Sometimes, it’s not that your baby is biting you but their little teeth are rubbing in an unpleasant way. In order to latch properly and get milk, babies have to cover their bottom teeth with their tongue but their top teeth are usually making direct contact with your breast/nipple. This can cause many moms irritation and even cuts or blisters on the nipple from the teeth rubbing so often. If you are experiencing biting and clamping down, skip to the section below, otherwise, here are a few things that can help with contact irritation:
- Changing positions to reduce nipple pain and biting. This changes the place where your baby’s teeth are coming in contact with your nipple. If you feed in the same position each time, it can cause over irritation of that spot and can even lead to an open sore or blister on the nipple. Changing position allows the different areas of your nipple to rest and heal.
- Our Natural Connection Nipple Shields can be perfect to help with this issue. They are open-ended thin nipple shields that give you protection at the base of your nipple while leaving the tip exposed for direct access. They act almost like a band aid for your nipple to allow your nipple to heal. They can take a little for your baby to get used to so visit our other posts about introducing the Natural Connection Shield here.
Biting or clamping on the nipple can also happen if baby is getting overwhelmed by a strong let down or oversupply of milk. If your baby is suddenly biting down, pay attention to if it happens right after your feel a let down. If you think this is the case, you can remedy this with positioning. The laid back or “Australian” position can be great for this. This position is mother laying down or leaned far back and baby’s belly is on mom’s belly and baby’s head on top of the breast. (see image below) This position helps baby have for control over the flow as gravity is not pulling milk into their mouth as it does if they are laying back.
If baby is clamping down/chomping
Being bit while breastfeeding can be the stuff of nightmares. There are steps you can take to help prevent your baby from biting you while feeding. Babies bite to help relieve pain and pressure on their gums. Taking a few steps before nursing can help alleviate this pain for them and make it less likely they’ll bite you.
Before nursing you can:
- Massage your baby's gums with a clean finger.
- Give your baby a cold, wet washcloth, or cold teething toy to chew on to soothe sore gums.
There are some things you can do to try to ensure baby doesn’t bite you while feeding.
- Try not to react.
- Some babies find it entertaining when their mom reacts, just as babies can think that the sounds of sneezing is funny. They then want to see it again so they will bite again expecting the same kind of “funny” reaction. The more you react, the more it enforces this behavior.
- Some babies get unexpectedly started and scared from a sudden reaction from mom and they associate that with nursing since it happened while they were nursing. This can cause them to develop a nursing aversion or “nursing strike” because they don’t want to experience that fear again. Luckily nursing strikes are usually temporary.
- Obviously we know it’s not always possible or easy to no react but if you can calmly just say “Ouch” and unlatch your baby and turn them away from the breast and say “no biting”, they will learn quickly to associate biting with the feeding being stopped and will stop doing it. You can even offer them a teething toy and put them down and then try again in a bit.
- Change your positions. Choosing positions that ensure a deep latch are best. You can try laid back breastfeeding which is a great position to make sure baby is fully supported and uses gravity to help keep them latched deeply.
- Make sure your baby has a proper deep latch. Line baby's nose with your nipple and allow baby's mouth to open wide before bringing them to your breast.
- If you feel your babies suction motion change, it can be a sign they may bite. Your baby has to move their tongue to bite so they don’t bite their own tongue. If you feel this motion you can preemptively put your finger in their mouth to break the latch and to make them bite your finger instead of your nipple.
As always, if you are experiencing severe issues and our tips don’t help, we recommend reaching out to a Certified Lactation Professional for help and guidance.