I remember when my baby started teething. Those fussy evenings were so painful for both of us. My baby frequently bit me, and I have to be honest, I did consider weaning early...a few times. Babies usually teethe anywhere between 5 months and 2 years. For us, it started around the 5 month mark.
I knew from all the previous research I had done about teething that I needed to stick it out. Fortunately, I was persistent, and I managed to make it to the two-year mark. I'm so pleased I did because now I can see how much breastfeeding for that extended time benefited us. I hope that this article will somehow encourage other moms who are dealing with the same issue.
Things That Helped Us
- I found the best way to relieve my baby's teething pain and to prevent biting while breastfeeding was to somehow deaden my baby's gums. You can do this by either putting some ice into a clean baby sock and allowing your baby to suck on it or by making breast milk lollies. My little girl loved the lollies, and so did her older brother (he was 5 at the time). These lollies are easy to make, just express milk and freeze them onto the end of your baby's dummy or in ice-cream molds. You can deaden your baby's gums just before a breastfeeding session. Teething gels are not recommended before a session as these could make it difficult for your little one to nurse.
- From experience, I can also advise that you keep an eye on signs of boredom while breastfeeding. If your baby has had enough to eat and starts to comfort nurse, the chances of getting bitten increase. I also noticed that my baby would bite if I didn't give her attention by looking at her. You might want to try focusing your attention on your baby while breastfeeding. Also, dim lights and fewer distractions while breastfeeding can prevent biting.
- When my baby did bite, I would quickly remove her from my breast and give her a teething toy. This was to show her that biting was not allowed on the breast. Our babies are more intelligent than we think, and my baby quickly caught on.
- Whatever you do, don't raise your voice when your baby bites; try to stay calm and gently remove them from your breast. This way, you won't cause any feeding issues. Some babies may strike from nursing if their mothers scare them unintentionally.
- When my little girl turned 6 months and I introduced solids, I made a habit of giving her half of her solid food before breastfeeding. You need to keep in mind, though, that this can reduce your milk supply. So, keep the solids to a minimum so that your baby can drink enough breast milk. If your baby is still hungry after breastfeeding, you can then top up with solids. I did this to prevent my baby from biting out of hunger.
- You should try to avoid using pacifiers or bottles where possible when your baby is under 5 months, as these actually promote the habit of biting.
- A stuffy nose is one problem that can cause more biting than usual. A great way to clear your baby's nose is to spray a few drops of your own breast milk into their nostrils. You can remove excess mucus with a suction bulb.
What About Those Sore Nipples?
What worked for me, was to massage some breast milk into the nipples and then let them air dry. Breast milk contains healing properties and will keep your nipples moisturized. If you feel like the pain is too much, nipple shields are fantastic. I used them a few times during my breastfeeding journey, and they can absolutely help you until your nipples have healed. It is advised, though, to wean from them as soon as possible.
If you have tried all the above to no avail, you could have your baby tested to see if they may have a tongue thrust or tongue tie issue.
If your baby is still tiny (younger than 3 months), it could be that you need to have your latch checked. It would be good to see a lactation consultant who can help with positioning and bring to light any other hidden issues.
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Another helpful article from la leche league international on biting.