Updated: Oct 1, 2021
Breastfeeding a teething baby
Many new mothers finally figure out breastfeeding just to start wondering, how do I Breastfeed when my baby gets teeth. Many people wonder if you can or should even continue to breastfeed once your baby starts teething. Today we are going to explore my own experiences with breastfeeding teething babies and how you can continue to breastfeed your baby with new teeth without getting bit! We will also talk some about myths about breastfeeding teething babies.
Introduction to Breastfeeding a Baby with Teeth
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.
The benefits of breastfeeding a teething baby
This, of course, is one of the beauties of breastfeeding. Being able to calm your fussy baby easily is pretty nice. Suckling at the breast is known to relieve pain for infants. Teething can also cause your baby to feel clingy, so breastfeeding your baby while teething can help them to settle and feel like their comfort needs are being met.
But what if they want to chew and decide to bite you with their new sharp teeth? Will my teething baby bite me while breast-feeding?
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.
If your baby does manage to get a chomp in there before you can do anything about it, unlatch your baby right away, take the breast away, and yelp, wince, and use body language and words to communicate that biting hurts mommy. When my little one bites me while breastfeeding (which usually only happens a few times with the first tooth, then they figure it out) I yelp "owwieeee! No, baby you can't bite mommy! That hurts mommy!" as I take the breast away and move him to my shoulder to pat his back and bounce him. Sometimes he giggles like he thinks it's funny, other times he gets upset himself. However, I'm confident that the more he sees me react this way, the sooner he will understand the consequence of biting me while nursing. (Update: I'm on my fourth baby now, and we are in this new teething stage at 5 months old. He still giggles about half the time when I wince and unlatch him, but I know he will soon understand he cannot bite me. He's my earliest teether, so I do think it might take him a bit longer to make the connection as his brain isn't quite as developed as an older baby who is teething. But the occasional and quick nibbles are manageable).
Oral hygiene and breastfeeding
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. If your dentist or doctor suggests otherwise, I would highly recommend doing some deep dive research into breastfeeding and teeth, and possibly switching providers to one more supportive and educated on breastfeeding. 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.
Share your experiences and questions about breastfeeding teething babies
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! If you have any questions about breastfeeding your teething baby, feel free to ask them below as well!
Get virtual breastfeeding support today
If you're pregnant or breastfeeding and looking for virtual support and guidance, make sure to book a prenatal consult, breastfeeding class, or virtual breastfeeding consult today! Get your pregnancy and breastfeeding questions answered or get help breastfeeding your baby. I offer virtual lactation consults for new parents struggling with breastfeeding, parents returning to work, parents introducing solids to their babies, and parents preparing to wean their babies.
For more tips on pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, follow me on instagram! @littlebearbirthservices
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Jaimie Zaki is a homeschooling mother of four, nurse, birth and postpartum doula, and IBCLC (Lactation Consultant) dedicated to helping women find their confidence as mothers. Jaimie resides in Wichita Falls, Texas with her family and enjoys serving families both locally and virtually.