Teething and Biting
Help for Breastfeeding Moms
By: kieransmom on: Tue 15 of May, 2007 [22:24 UTC] (1984 reads)
Many mothers experience some changes in their breastfeeding experience when their nurslings reach the stage of teething. Teething makes a baby's gums sore and swollen, and can cause a baby to chew or bite the mother's nipple to relieve his discomfort. OW! To make matters more complicated, some biting is not caused by teething! This article will give you some tips on how to cope with this problem and to salvage your pleasant breastfeeding experience.
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Rest assured, it is not necessary to wean because your baby is teething. I know from personal experience, from talking with other experienced mothers, and from researching the subject extensively, that biting is a temporary problem which will pass. However this is not to diminish what you are going through, because it HURTS and can cause some serious nipple soreness for you. Your reaction to the biting can also affect your baby, so it's important to react without scaring your baby.
Most mothers react to biting with a startle (obviously), say "no", gently remove the baby from the breast, and put the baby down onto the floor. Many babies are finished with biting from then on. Still there many other babies (mine was one of them) who persist with biting. It is important to remain calm with biting and to not yell at your baby! This can frighten your baby and cause a nursing strike (breast refusal due to some trauma prior to weaning), so please control your emotions.
Instead of abruptly pulling your baby off, which can cause damage to your nipple, try to pull him in close to your breast. You will be partially blocking his airway, causing him to release your nipple and come up for air. Slipping your finger between his lips/gums and your areola will also cause him to release his suckle. You may then immediately offer a cold, wet washcloth, or a cold teething toy. Just like a puppy, (ha!) your baby will learn what is appropriate for chewing. If your baby is eating solids, try offering a frozen bagel or some other cold and hard food. Then you can offer your breast again after your baby's gums feel better, and nursing will be more pleasant.
I don't recommend the method that I used on my poor little guy, but I have to admit, it worked wonders. Kieran would bite down on my nipple, then I immediately used the "flick method", taking my forefinger, flicking it from my thumb onto his cheek near his mouth. Not to the pain, mind you, I tried the flick on my own cheek first to make sure it didn't hurt at all! Gosh now all you readers think I'm a child abuser. Rest assured, my baby is still a gentle and loving little guy and is not scarred from my flicking!
Use awareness before using any of those pain-relieving ointments that numb a baby's gums, and consult your doctor too. Those products can also numb the tongue, causing difficulty in latching on and suckling for your baby. That numbness can last for a long time. And certainly, some biting is not due to teething at all, rather it can become a bad habit in older nurslings.
Here are some tips on preventing and anticipating the dreaded bite:
- Learn to recognize the end of a nursing session.
When the baby loses interest in nursing, biting can happen. While you are nursing, pay complete, alert attention to your baby. Notice the signs that your baby gives before she bites. There could be some tension in her jaw right before she clamps down, or she could start nibbling down the areola to the tip of the nipple. That moment is when you want to break the suction with your finger, and read a book or some other cuddly activity that doesn't put your nipple in peril.
- Maintain a plentiful milk supply.
Some babies bite out of frustration from a diminishing milk supply. Note if your baby starts to hit, yell, or exhibits other signs of fussiness along with the biting. You can ensure that your baby gets plenty of milk by avoiding supplements to his diet, other foods, water or juice before he is ready, because your milk is all that he needs until about six months of age. You can certainly continue to nurse your baby after he has teeth in his mouth, until he is ready to wean, to compliment his growing interest in solid foods. Trust your baby will lose the need to gnaw.
- Keep your nursings relaxed, quiet and pleasant.
Your own nervous tension can rub off on your baby and lead to a nervous nip! So it's best to make sure you are relaxed and calm; put your troubles aside, and just focus on breastfeeding your beautiful little one. Put on some nice music, lay down with your baby, darken the room, and light some fragrant candles. Sing a lullaby. Paying close attention to your baby while nursing involves cooing to him in a sweet voice, "good baby", to help relax your little nursling into a nice rhythm.
- Lavish praise on your sweet baby.
Positive reinforcement! Yes! Whenever your baby latches on, suckles , and releases your breast properly, tell her "Thank you, sweetie! That feels so good!" and lavish lots of hugs and kisses. Teach your baby gently how to nurse, and you will be rewarded with a gentle baby.