Many moms dread the idea of breastfeeding and teething because most babies will eventually, and probably more than once, bite the breast. This can be exceptionally painful, and response to it can create problems for the baby. It is certainly possible to get through breastfeeding and teething and continue to nurse babies long after they develop teeth. It just takes some awareness and skill, and some management of the teething to reduce discomfort.
There are two different schools of thought on how to handle a direct bite from a baby. One school advocates removing the baby from the best and firmly saying no, but that statement may not be well understood if a baby teethes early. The other suggestion is to bring the baby closer into the breast, even slightly compressing the nose for just a few seconds at most because the baby will need to open the mouth, break the suction on the breast and breathe. It needs to be stressed this should only be done for a few seconds, but it does tend to be an effective way for babies to learn not to bite. The first method works for some babies too, but it may discourage nursing.
Perhaps the greatest concern is what happens with breastfeeding and teething the first time babies bite. Many books advise moms not to scream or cry out, as this could initiate such fear in the baby that he or she goes on a breastfeeding strike. This is great advice, but the unexpected bite can be extremely uncomfortable, and a lot of mothers let out a sudden cry of shock when it occurs. If this shock scares the baby, simply hold and comfort, and try to re-initiate breastfeeding soon. The majority of babies won’t stop nursing because they were scared once by the mother’s cry.
More of concern in breastfeeding and teething is that babies may feel too uncomfortable to nurse and there are a few ways to address this. Giving a frozen cloth or teething ring to numb the gums helps with discomfort. Over the counter pain reliever can be of some assistance too. If a baby is old enough, providing different things to chew on can also help.
Some babies will go on what is called a nursing strike because the gums hurt too much. Trying to numb the gums before nursing can sometimes help this. To keep the baby fed during these times, moms can try some alternatives like expressing milk and placing it in a bottle or a sippy cup if the baby can handle it. Even during a strike a hungry baby is likely to take the breast some of the time.
Usually a teething episode only lasts for a few days or weeks, so continuing to offer the breast on the baby’s regular schedule usually resolves the strike. It’s advised that moms try to nurse baby in quiet, semi-dark, relaxing areas, as these are less distracting. With consistency and with sound methods for dealing with biting and baby discomfort, moms and babies can move through the breastfeeding and teething period with greater ease.