Breastfeeding a Child With Teeth

Breastfeeding and TeethingA lot of mothers worry about the day their little one will cut their first teeth. Will they be in pain? Will they suffer much? Will they chew the living daylights out of my nipple?! I know several women personally who chose to wean their babies before they cut their teeth, simply because they were so frightened at the prospect of being faced with a biting baby.

The truth is, not all babies bite. Some seem to have more of a tendency towards it than others. My son bit me a handful of times, none of which I remember at all and none of which were all that bad. To be honest, it was more uncomfortable being ‘gummed’ before his teeth came through! There really isn’t any need to wean before your child gets teeth, as it might not even be an issue when the time comes.

However, quite a few babies do decide that having a nibble on mummy is a fun thing to do, especially if they are teething. Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to discourage your little snapper without having to stop breastfeeding.

Figure Out Why They Are Biting
This is the first step in stopping them from doing so. Are they biting because of uncomfortable teething pain? If so, you could offer them a teether or a cold wet washcloth to hold during feeds, and encourage them to unlatch and have a chew on it if they feel sore. They could be biting just to see what happens when they do; this is natural and is just your toddler finding another way of making sense of the world around them. You can gently encourage them not to bite without making a big deal about it.

Tell Them Not To!
This sounds quite simple, but a lot of mums think that their 8 month old won’t understand if they tell them not to bite. They may not understand the words, but they will certainly understand the tone of voice. However, it’s very important to try your best not to shout (easier said than done when a small person is seemingly attempting to remove your nipple). Shouting will do one of two things: it will scare them (and possibly cause a nursing strike), or they will find it highly amusing and keep doing it in order to see your reaction. You can show them you mean business by taking them off of the breast, saying “Please don’t bite mummy, it’s very sore when you bite” and then put them down and make them wait to nurse again for a little while. They will soon learn that it’s in their best interest to resist the temptation! Depending on the age of your child, you can sit them down and explain to them why it’s important to try not to bite, although this is rarely useful in children under the age of 18 months. Don’t punish or reprimand your child for biting; they really don’t mean to hurt you. They just don’t understand yet.

Removing Them From the Breast
Simply pulling them away when they bite will cause more pain and damage. The best way to remove the biting babe from the breast is by gently pushing their nose into the breast until they let go. They will let go very quickly in order to be able to breathe again! It’s so hard to get into the habit of doing this, as the natural reaction is to get whatever is causing the pain away from the body, but it’s important to prevent damaging your nipple.
Hang In There!

Biting is rarely a stage that lasts for long, and despite what others may say, you don’t have to wean your baby if you don’t want to. With love, guidance and patience, they will come out of this stage and you can continue to enjoy a wonderful, fulfilling breastfeeding relationship with your little person.

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