Love Bites: Breastfeeding and Teeth

teething and breastfeedingFunny that in the same week that I received the comment “Oh you are still breastfeeding? But, umm, she has TEETH?” that I also received an email from a university friend asking for my take on dealing with teeth and breastfeeding. So, I guess, it’s a important topic. I have been told, on numerous occasions, that once BiP got teeth, breastfeeding, must, I mean, MUST come to an end. Ask why and I guarantee there is no viable answer. One thing is for certain; it changes things.

When do babies get their first tooth?

This is a spectrum – the average age is 6 months but it can range anywhere from 4 months to as late as 18 months.

Won’t breastfeeding a baby with teeth hurt?

Yes, it can. It probably will hurt but no baby intends to bite you (well, not usually, BiP sometimes bites if I doing something outlandish like talk to someone whilst she is nursing)!

How do I deal with teeth, biting and breastfeeding?

The key thing to remember is that NO baby intends to hurt their mother and cut short their breastfeeding journey – I say journey because it really is one!  In reality not all babies bite, it’s just that many do!

So here are my tips to prevent biting:

  • Make sure your baby’s mouth is open wide enough – Once BiP got teeth I realised that she never opened her mouth wide enough in the first place so teeth got in the way.
  • Usually when babies are teething it’s around the same time that they are aware of their surroundings so it might be a good idea to nurse somewhere quiet. Distracted babies can bite.
  • If you baby is teething give a teething toy before a nursing session or let them chew a teething necklace.
  • Make sure you baby wants to feed before offering the breast to minimise biting (this might sound awful but I found that I usually got bitten when BiP wasn’t really in the mood to nurse).

Remember: A nursing baby CANNOT feed and bite at the same time!

What do I do if my baby bites me?

Most say to ignore it but if the bite is anything like I’ve experienced that is next to impossible.

  • I’ve found that taking BiP off the breast and explaining that biting means that we won’t be able to continue is usually very effective (BiP at 6m would cry her eyes out during this explanation and then nurse correctly).
  • Sometimes, you’ll need to move somewhere quieter to concentrate on your baby (BiP would bite if I was talking to someone or playing with my phone).
  • Abandoning that nursing session for a while is also a solution especially during transitions between dropping feeds.

 

At the end of the day it is important to remember that no baby, that I have ever heard of, has bitten a mother’s nipple off – although it may feel like it is possible! I know with BiP I have held my breath and looked down to be shocked that my nipple was still attached!!!  Yes, it can hurt. Yes, you can end up with cuts. Dig out that lanolin and air dry when you can. It is not uncommon, and usually painless, to have teeth marks on your breast post feed once you have the biting under control. I promise it’s a short lived stage and there is NO reason to wean your baby just because they have teeth.

For more information check out KellyMom (this site should be in your bookmarks already!)
What are you tips on dealing with breastfeeding a baby with teeth?

29 Responses to Love Bites: Breastfeeding and Teeth

  1. I needed to have read this LAST WEEK!! Thanks for this post. I got bit the first time when I was trying to feed her when she wasn’t hungry. Now I realized that I need to watch her mouth and I’ll know if she is even thinking of biting. I like the idea of taking off the boob and explaining. I did that…she was not happy the first time but she got it when I caught her BEFORE the bit the 2nd time.

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Paying special attention to the signs that they might bite is key actually. If you can anticipate it that can help a lot! Keep us posted on how you deal with the love bites!

  2. My first only bit a couple of times but my second bit quite a lot and I can really agree with the distraction reason. Since she was the second, it was extremely difficult to nurse in complete peace and quiet like she wanted. But after a while, she got the memo and I also made sure her mouth was wide open and she was actually hungry. Great article!

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Thanks! Which courier service are you using to send memo’s to your baby? I think I need their number!!! 🙂

  3. Perfect timing for me to read this! My little girl is 8m and I think she is very close to getting her first tooth and I have been worried as nearly everyone I know stopped breastfeeding after getting bitten badly. I can’t stop even if I wanted to because Iyla never took a bottle so its good to know that there is a way to deal with it. Still worried though!

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Glad you found this useful. Try not to worry about it too much – so many mama’s never get bitten and if you do, its usually just a phase that passes! Like you, I didn’t have another option as BiP NEVER took a bottle … Keep up the good work mama!

  4. Pooky @poorparenting says:

    Great post. I was very worried about this but it’s never been a problem.

    Lyra is 19m now and occasionally if I’m not paying attention to her when I’m feeding she warns that she might bite by giving a gentle Pre-bite! She’s been very protective of her mummy nursing time ever since we adopted Ellie.

  5. I wasn’t successful at breastfeeding my twins… but I gotta say I found this very informative! I do plan to try breastfeeding any future babies… so I really enjoyed reading your take on breastfeeding and biting!

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Thanks Susana, glad you found it interesting!

  6. Great tips! Luckily, I never experienced any painful biting in the 14 months of breastfeeding my daughter. I learned, however, from some uncomfortable nibbling, however, that it’s best to prevent biting by taking baby off the breast when he/she is finished feeding.

    • mummyinprovence says:

      Wow – you are lucky! I suffered from cuts and all sorts when BiP was in her biting phase. Yes, taking baby off is important too – BiP would often nip me at the end of a feed to say “Hey Mama, put me down!”

      • Jessica W says:

        I too have been bitten and I am very sore any suggestions because now feeding my Melonie is very painful.

  7. Great post! In addition to being distracted, I find Graham bites more when he’s really sleepy. Those sleepy bites are the worst! I can never tell if it’s going to be a testing the perch nibble, or a jaws clamped scraping my nipple out between his teeth attack. We have a 3 bites and you’re out rule. First two I take my nipple out of his mouth and say “No biting, that hurts Mommy.” On the third bite I take my nipple out of his mouth and put it away and say “All done, you can’t bite Mommy, it hurts.” It has been successful to a point. I’m getting bit less, but still getting bit…

    • mummyinprovence says:

      That’s so true – BiP would often bite when she was feeding in the middle of the night … you are a much nicer mummy than me with your 3 bite rule! I can assure you the biting does stop and then when you do get bitten on the odd occasion its a shock but manageable!

  8. I was worried about this since I had exclusively pumped with my first, but I’ve had NO issues with this! Even though she has 6 teeth! She has bitten me before, but it was after nursing when she was still attached but looking around and clearly just playing. She was very startled when I shouted out and pulled her off.

    Your point is excellent they can’t bite AND eat and they’d rather eat!

  9. I have found that Sebastian bit a little bit as he was getting used to teeth in his mouth, but was fine after that. Only offering the breast when you are sure Baby wants to nurse is probably the best advice.

  10. Great post, my little one has just got her first 3 teeth through and started biting yesterday, I don’t intend to give up but did wonder how it might affect feeding, your tips have been really useful.

    • Ameena Falchetto says:

      Glad you found it useful. Teeth are not an excuse to wean. Let me know how you get on! Thanks for the comment and RT mama 🙂

  11. Thank you for this post! I so needed some encouragement on my bf journey. My baby girl has just turned 7 months but she has 6 (yes, SIX, four on top) teeth already. She doesn’t really bite but she doesn’t seem to be able to open her mouth really really wide (and never she was able to so) so it gets extremely painful sometimes when the tops teeth rub into my areola too much, especially at night times.

    “Make sure your baby’s mouth is open wide enough – Once BiP got teeth I realised that she never opened her mouth wide enough in the first place so teeth got in the way.” This is my situation exactly. May I ask how you encouraged your baby to open her mouth wider? Mine is too small to repeat after me if I open my mouth or understand if I ask her to do so.. Thanks!

  12. My 7 month old has left bite marks when feeding, which I am finding painful when pumping. How can I get over the pain and bleeding so I can continue to pump? I have chosen not to breast feed her to help my nipples get better and to just give her the bottle. Didn’t realize that pumping would irritate it so much. Help…

  13. Thank you for sharing! My little boy has 6 teeth right now. He is almost 8 months. He bites me a lot but I don’t want to stop breastfeeding…

  14. i liked your input on how a nipple has never been bitten off by a baby haha 😉 i’m sure they can be hard biters but not that hard lol

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