My sweet little (GIANT) six month old has traded in his precious little gummy grin for two, sharp, bottom teeth, with more to come. This milestone is marked with both excitement and a bit of apprehension... Breastfeeding with teeth can be a little scary. You have this little hungry shark who doesn't understand his own ability to inflict pain on Mommy fussy and teething and wanting to nurse and pacify and find comfort at the breast.
This, of course, is one of the beauties of breastfeeding. Being able to calm your fussy baby easily is pretty nice. But what if they want to chew and decide to bite you with their new sharp teeth? I think we have all been there. We've all gotten a sharp prick at least... some have been gashed. It seems scary, but it IS possible to nurse a baby with teeth WITHOUT becoming a human teether and wondering if your nipples will need reconstructive surgery after your little piranha is done.
The cool thing about breastfeeding is the how the tongue functions. In order to have a proper latch, the tongue comes out enough to cover the teeth (or gum ridge) and undulates in a peristaltic motion. This means that while a baby is actively breastfeeding, he will not be able to bite in a way to cause damage. If your baby is able to bite in a way that causes damage, that means he has stopped actively nursing and is "playing". If your baby reaches the point they're tempted to bite, it is important to start noticing when they have stopped nursing, and unlatch before they have the opportunity to bite.
So besides biting, there's another concern that comes with teeth: hygiene. We know putting babies to bed with a bottle is dangerous for their teeth, as it can cause dental caries. But does breastfeeding to sleep come with the same risk? It is important that once teeth erupt, we begin to include oral hygiene (if you aren't already) into our babies' routines. Even if you just use a damp cloth to wipe their teeth clean a couple times a day, some kind of tooth cleaning is important, especially if solids have been introduced.
The cool thing about breastfeeding, though, is it does not come with the same risk of caries as bottle-feeding.
For one, the mechanism of milk extraction places milk to the back of the throat, meaning it is less likely to pool in the mouth the way milk out of a bottle would. Second, there is a protein called "lactoferrin" present in breastmilk, which helps to protect the teeth from dental caries. Now, this is not to suggest that breastmilk makes breastfed babies immune to cavities. There are many things at play in the world of oral health, and I'm not a dentist, but one thing has been proven over and over, is that breastmilk is not considered a "cariogenic" (or cavity causing) substance. So while it is always best to keep your baby's teeth clean, a baby who nurses to sleep, is not necessarily at inherent higher risk of cavities in the same way an infant who bottle feeds to sleep would be.
What was your trick to making sure your teething baby didn't bite? Tell us in the comments below! If you found this information helpful, please feel free to SHARE with your friends!
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