Breastfeeding and teething
It is highly likely that your baby will start to get his first tooth anywhere between four to seven months of age, but sometimes a baby will be born with a tooth, so there is some variation here!
It could be that your baby has already started to get teeth, and it hasn’t really impacted breastfeeding negatively at all.
If you’re reading this section, it’s because you are starting to experience some discomfort or have concerns.
You may find that your baby’s cheeks look a lot redder at the moment. He may be dribbling saliva and starting to get quite fretful – maybe even bringing his hands to his mouth a lot more frequently.
You may also find that your baby is starting to come to the breast a lot more frequently than usual. Babies do this because it feels comfortable.
He may have sore, red gums, and coming more to the breast may be making him feel better, even if he doesn’t specifically want milk.
Sometimes you may find that your baby may come less to the breast because there is a degree of pain related to the teething.
So generally, your baby starts to be a lot fussier, maybe coming on to the breast, suckling a little bit, pulling off, getting fretful, not wanting to go back on again, or pulling off the breast completely.
He may also avoid positions that will make him feel uncomfortable.
All this fussiness at the breast can undoubtedly take its toll on nipples, and you may be experiencing quite a bit of soreness.
I’ve seen many breastfeeding mothers struggling with this stage and thinking about giving up breastfeeding because of it.
So what can you do? First of all, you may find it useful to offer your baby a nice cold refrigerated teething ring, giving comfort for those hot, sore gums.
It will also help to anesthetize his mouth just enough to enable feeding to be a bit more comfortable.
Another thing that you can try is to use a face cloth that has been soaked in water (a nice clean one, of course), put it into your fridge and keep it there in a clean container, and allow your baby to chomp on that whenever you feel that he is showing signs that he wants to come to the breast.
Sometimes babies will be satisfied enough with that. However, if he starts to suckle on the face cloth, then bring your baby to the breast.
If your baby is six months or older, and has already started eating foods, and is in the middle of this teething phase, try offering a cold food like a breadstick, or a frozen bagel or even a carrot stick.
Make sure you stay with your baby when he is eating these things for safety. These measures may help to bring some comfort to sore gums.
Many breastfeeding mothers have found that simply massaging the baby’s gums a little while they’re going through this teething episode can make a difference, bringing much-needed comfort.
Also, consider giving your baby some infant paracetamol.
Speak with your healthcare provider, as there are specific dosages for a baby during the teething phase.
There are other products that can numb your baby’s gums and that can be bought over the counter.
Speak to your healthcare provider regarding the most suitable product for your baby.
Bear in mind that if your baby is teething, he may clamp down or even bite your nipple as that first tooth comes through.
You will never be quite sure when the tooth will come through, and sometimes the teething period can last even a few weeks.
When babies are going through the teething and biting phase, they tend to bite at the beginning and / or the end of the feed.
So it’s vital that you watch for that big wide mouth at the beginning, and get ready to unlatch him towards the end of the feed, whenever you think he’s about to try to clamp down.
If you do have sore nipples while your baby is teething, then look at the information relating to sore nipples because sometimes even the increased saliva from your baby due to teething, can irritate them as well.
It can be difficult for breastfeeding mothers while your babies are teething, but this is a temporary hurdle.
Although it can go on for a little while, with these strategies and patience, breastfeeding can continue.
Review dates, references & further resources
Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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