Today we're diving into a topic that nearly all of us breastfeeding mums will encounter - boobin our teething boobie monsters! You know the song, baby shark do do do (sing it with me). My older four kids all self-weaned around 3-5 years, so trust me when I tell you, you can successfully continue to breastfeed your own teething baby.
My youngest, Maxi, cut his bottom two teeth almost seconds after turning nine months this week. I felt them before I saw them. Sounds terrifying, right? But in reality, it wasn’t that bad. I have some tips up my sleeve, so let me put your mind at ease and go over the basics.
When do babies start teething?
At some point, I'm pretty positive that you've looked down at that sweet, toothless, gummy mouth wrapped around your nipple and thought, “Damn, what happens when my baby gets teeth?” Teething typically starts between 4 to 7 months of age, although it can vary massively from baby to baby. Some might start as early as 3 months or as late as a year old. Personally, all five of mine have been “late”. Teething is a completely natural process and an exciting milestone in your baby's development. It's disappointing that 'they' still say that you shouldn't breastfeed a baby with teeth, or that you should just put milk in a cup once they get teeth. This is totally ridiculous!
Yes you can breastfeed a baby with teeth!
How does a baby latch with teeth?
The good news is, if your baby is latched properly, their teeth shouldn't interfere with their ability to breastfeed. When breastfeeding, your baby's tongue covers the lower and your nipple goes deep into the baby's mouth. Pop your tongue up between your hard and soft palate - yep! that’s how far your nipple goes in your baby's mouth.
So, even when your baby has cut some teeth, they really shouldn't come into contact with your nipples during feeding - if we're just talking about the mechanics of breastfeeding. Basically your baby can’t breastfeed AND bite at the same time.
But let's be real, when babies are cutting teeth, they can sometimes bite the boob that feeds them when they aren’t physically suckling.
So is my baby intentionally trying to bite me?
Nope! But teething can sometimes lead to biting. Please remember that your baby doesn’t ‘mean’ to bite or hurt you. It’s totally not intentional, but rather an attempt by your baby to alleviate the discomfort and ouchies of teething and sometimes they are actually just being cheeky.
How can you prevent your baby from biting during feeds?
I don’t know about you, but after a nibble or two, you kinda get a feeling of when they might be about to clamp down.
My first tip! If your baby starts to clamp down (a.k.a bite), try pulling them closer to your breast. This is very likely to cause your baby to open their mouth wider and release your nipple.
My second tip! Pay as much attention to your baby's feeding cues as possible. Babies are way more likely to bite at the end of a feeding when they're no longer hungry and start to fidget, twiddle or pull away. When you sense they are done, take them off or offer your other breast.
My third tip AND probably the most successful, is to try and soothe your teething baby's gums before feeds!
One popular method is using breastmilk icy pops. Just express some of your breast milk, freeze it in an ice cube tray. I love the Haakaa fresh food feeder and voila! You have a soothing, nutritious treat for your teething baby. Another favourite trick of mine is to soak a washcloth in some water or even your breastmilk and freeze it. Your baby will love sucking and munching on them. You can also try traditional teething toys.
Remember, every baby is different, so what works for one might not work for another. The key is to try different methods and see what your baby likes best. Let us know in the comments what are your favourite teething baby hacks!
Breastfeeding a teething baby for the first time can be a completely new experience! Watching your baby's gummy smile transform into a cheeky little toothy grin is a fun milestone. Rest assured, it’s definitely not the beginning of the end of your breastfeeding journey.
Until our next LactaChat
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