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Breastfeeding your teething baby the best way

Updated on December 20, 2010

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural ways to feed your baby (supposedly, although not for everyone), it helps to form a strong bond between mother and baby in those early months, that is until your baby’s first tooth arrives and he bites you (ouch). What do you do? Do you stop breastfeeding, and wean him onto a bottle, or do you persevere and hope he stops biting you? The answer to this, only you as the mother can answer, but I hope that the information I have gathered below will help you make that choice, and maybe enable you to carry on breastfeeding for a while longer.

Should I continue breastfeeding?

Many mums wean their baby’s as soon as they think that teeth are imminent, so as to avoid the biting problem altogether. Whilst at the same time there are many babies that never bite and carry on feeding just as well as before their teeth arrived. It is important to remember that your baby cannot bite you whilst he has just the first 2 bottom teeth. This is because whilst feeding he has to cover these teeth with his tongue to enable him to latch on. For him to bite you, he would have to pull his tongue back, and in doing so would not be able to feed as he would break the suction and come away from you (no hungry baby is going to do this in a hurry).

My baby bites, what can I do to stop it?

There are many things that you can do to help prevent your baby from biting you whilst feeding. The most natural thing that most mothers do when their baby first bites them is scream and shout, so if you have done this, you are not the only one. When you shouted it may have been enough to stop baby in the first instance, and you may well find that he will not bother biting you again, he could also refuse the breast completely after this, however, in the same instance, if your baby is inquisitive you may find that he will bite again to see if he gets the same reaction. If this is the case you should try some of the following;

1. Look down at baby and gain eye contact with him and say “NO” firmly, (whilst staying as calm and quiet as you can, double ouch)

2. Remove your baby immediately after he bites and place him on the floor for a short period of time, then retry feeding

3. For an older toddler make sure that you praise him lots and lots if he does not bite you

4. It may be that your child is after attention, if so give him as much attention as you can whilst feeding

5. Don’t feed unless your baby is really hungry

6. Some babies bite as they are finishing their feed, so learn to recognise when your baby is getting close to the end of his feed

7. If your baby is falling asleep at the end of a feed and biting you as he does so, take him off as soon as you notice him falling asleep

8. Give him a teething toy to munch on before and after his feed

As with all teething methods you can use the different gels on the market but avoid using these before you feed as they can numb your baby’s tongue, making it difficult for him to latch on. The gel can also be passed onto the areola (the dark skin around the nipple), numbing this slightly and making feeding difficult for the mother as well. Some gels can also be irritable to the sensitive nipple skin.

Remember, breastfeeding should be a pleasurable experience for both you and your baby. Think carefully before you wean your baby onto a bottle as soon as that first tooth arrives, most mothers carry on breastfeeding with very few problems. If you do still have problems, but wish to persevere don’t hesitate in calling your health visitor for advice. They should be able to put you in touch with a local breastfeeding help group so that it may become a pleasurable experience once again.

Books to help you out when breastfeeding your older child

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