Does breastfeeding a little one with incoming teeth have you singing Baby Shark in your head? Whether you’re nursing or bottle-feeding, teething isn’t something most parents look forward to. Drool, discomfort, and those chompers, well, chomping can be a scary thought.
Parents sometimes think that when teething begins, it’s time to start weaning. That’s not true at all, though! Teething isn’t a fun process, but there’s no need for it to cut your breastfeeding journey short. Just take a few steps to address discomfort for your baby. (And for you!)
Signs of Teething
Babies can get their first tooth as early as 3 months and as late as past their first birthday, though most start getting them around 6 months of age. The teeth rarely just sneak in, though. Most babies show some signs of teething. In fact, symptoms of teething can start well in advance of a tooth actually making an appearance. These can include:
- Fussiness and irritability
- Dribbling and drooling
- Redness and rash on their cheeks and chin
- Biting, chewing, and putting things in their mouth
- Loose stools and diaper rash
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Slightly raised temperature (Less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.3 degrees Celsius)
- If you’re nursing your baby, you might find that their latch changes as well.
(And yes, you may deal with some biting.)
How Breastfeeding and Breast Milk Can Help Your Teething Baby or Toddler
As is the case with so many baby- and breastfeeding-related questions, you might wonder if there are any medical benefits that breast milk can offer teething babies. Studies conducted in 2007, 2009, and 2016 found that breastfeeding—specifically breast milk—acts as a pain reliever for babies undergoing uncomfortable or painful procedures.
Though these studies don’t directly address teething, it’s reasonable to assume that breast milk could provide pain relief beyond the comforting aspects of nursing.
Nursing and Teething
If you have a nursing relationship with your baby, you might find that it changes a bit when they get new teeth. Here are some common challenges—and solutions—to nursing during these times.
Latching with a mouth full of sore gums and new teeth can be challenging for your baby. And any mom who has dealt with a bad latch knows how uncomfortable this can be for you (and your nipples).
Tip: A change in feeding position can be enough to reduce discomfort. You can also offer them a frozen teething ring, breast milk popsicle, or Tylenol (if they’re old enough) before nursing—this can make forming a good latch less painful.
Never use topical anesthetics, though. These products can pose serious health risks to your baby.
(And if you do have questions about medications, make sure to consult with your doctor before giving your baby anything.)
A common problem, and probably the one that moms fear the most! However, when a baby is latching correctly, their tongue covers their lower teeth, making it impossible to bite you while actively feeding. The real risk comes at the end of a feed when they’re comfort nursing.
Tip: Avoid this problem by unlatching once they’re done eating to reduce the chance of biting. And if you feel their latch changing, pause your nursing session and relatch.
Yes, it may feel like your rapidly growing baby is already nursing 24/7. But during teething, they may want to nurse even more. If this works for your schedule and approach to breastfeeding, it can be a big help during this period.
Tip: Breastfeeding a teething baby nonstop can be uncomfortable—you have a whole range of other options for soothing them. Warm baths, walks, singing, baby-wearing, rocking, and teething toys are just a few options.
Alternately, they might be so uncomfortable that they don’t feel like nursing. Nursing strikes can be common during teething. Keep an eye on their diaper output, but babies rarely starve themselves.
Tip: Offer nursing at regular intervals. If they refuse, substitute a pumping session and offer them your milk in a bottle or cup—this may be a more comfortable way for them to feed.
Being in the middle of a teething episode can feel endless, but it’s not. Once a tooth erupts, your baby will quickly feel better, and you can get back to your normal routines. What techniques have helped your family deal with nursing and teething?