I know the feeling, your baby has started chewing their fists loads, their tiny cheeks are flushed and their gums are red. Fear fills your heart as you imagine what it must be like to nurse a tiny, hungry crocodile...You may wonder, does our breastfeeding journey have to end once my baby's first teeth come through?
Many people worry about nursing a babe with teeth, but some infants are born with them, so it must be entirely possible to do so. In fact, in my experience, breastfeeding is a powerful tool for relieving your little one's sore gums when their milk teeth break through, whether it is their first one or their last. This is because breast milk contains a powerful, all-natural analgesic to act as a painkiller whenever your little one is hurt. Consequently, you may find that your child wants to nurse more frequently than ever when they are teething. This need not be terrifying though, as there are many things that you can do to stop your babe from biting if they do so.
Strategies to Stop Biting
Mum's the Word!
Whatever you do, don’t scream or shout if your baby bites you, as this could make your babe think it is a game(!), or it could trigger a nursing strike. As challenging as this may be, I strongly recommend that you do everything within your power not to inadvertently make your little think that biting you is entertaining or scary, as this could cause a host of other issues, including inadvertently ending your nursing journey prematurely.
The Root Cause
The causes of your little one biting you whilst breastfeeding can vary. From teething, to distraction and boredom - knowing the root cause will help you to stop it from happening quicker. Whatever the reason behind the biting, remember that your babe is never intentionally trying to hurt you, even though it may not always feel that way!
If teething is the cause, your child will soon learn to stop catching you with their new teeth if you remove them from the breast each and every time they do so. It is not possible to bite and nurse at the same time and breastfeeding releases pain relieving hormones which soothe their painful gums.
If your nips are sore, spend some time topless or in loose, cotton clothing and apply some of your own breast milk to your nipples after each feed to help them to heal. Consider pumping (if your babe will accept a bottle) or if you are in lots of pain, using a nipple shield temporarily to give your broken skin a break. A word of caution - nipple shields can be notoriously difficult to wean off of, so only use one if you feel like you need to and be prepared for a little resistance when you stop using them.
A Better Latch
A good, deep latch prevents biting by its very nature. If you think that may be the issue, encourage your little one to open wide when they latch on by saying something like, “Big mouth,” and demonstrating by opening your own mouth wide as they latch on. Kiss their hands and forehead and tell them, “Gentle drinking, thank you,” when they nurse without biting.
If you think that distraction or attention-seeking are behind your nursling’s nips, wherever possible, only nurse them in a quiet place where you can both devote your time and attention to breastfeeding. Again, if they continue to bite, remain calm as you unlatch and tell them, “No biting.” Having clear breastfeeding boundaries is an act of love and it will help you both to enjoy your breastfeeding journey for as long as you so wish.
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