My five-month old is teething — her gums are sore, she’s drooling, and she is chewing on everything. Nursing is very important to both of us, and neither one of us is ready to stop. But I’m worried about continuing to breastfeeding her when she has teeth! Won’t that hurt?
Congratulations on developing such a strong nursing relationship with your daughter. I can understand your distress at the idea of weaning your daughter, but there’s no need to wean because her teeth are coming through.
Human babies are designed to breastfeed long with teeth. In the normal course of breastfeeding, the way your grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmothers breastfed, babies were breastfed for a long after they got teeth [historically, most babies weaned around age 2 – 4 years — read more here.] In Spanish, the word for baby teeth, “dientes de leche,” translates as “milk teeth” because those were the teeth babies during their nursing years.
Anything that people everywhere have been doing for that long, our bodies were designed to do. And that’s the case with nursing a baby with teeth: our bodies are designed to do it.
So how does it work? When your baby is nursing, your baby opens her mouth wide. It is impossible for a baby to bite you while her mouth is open wide, nursing. Mothers do occasionally get nipped by a nursing baby . This usually happens after the baby has finished nursing and remains at the breast. Usually, the baby is passing through a quick phase of experimenting, or is teething and needs something else do bite down on. La Leche League International’s great FAQ on nursing a baby with teeth has lots of practical advice about how to get through this. One hint: before baby can clamp down to bite, she has to move her tongue out of the way. You can watch for her tongue to move, and take that as a sign to gently latch your baby off
Have you breastfed a teething baby? Did you discover any tricks that helped you? Please share your experiences!