4 tips on breastfeeding a teething baby!
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
My son (Zion) has turned one and it was a personal goal of mine to breastfeed him through the first year of life. WE MADE IT and I’m so very grateful. In the last two weeks prior to his first birthday, I have been slowly weaning him off of the boob. I was lowkey devastated but homie is eating real life adult food and downing rice and sauce pois (shout out to my Haitians. Lol) so it was inevitably time.
Let me preface this post with saying, I absolutely LOVED breastfeeding. I enjoyed every part of the journey. It was HARD WORK but I really loved the bond that was fostered between my son and I.
Now, let’s get to the nitty gritty.
The most challenging phase of breastfeeding Zion was when he began teething. No lie, he started teething at 4 months and his first two teeth officially popped at 6 months. Fast forward 6 months later and he has 7 teeth with 3 more on the way. HOW?! It’s been quite interesting learning to breastfeed him through him teething but by now we got it down pact! I think you’ll enjoy some of the tips that I’ve compiled in my experience.
#1 Go with the flow.
Part of avoiding getting nipped with your baby’s teeth includes learning your baby’s patterns of breastfeeding. Zion had a strong suck from the moment he was placed on the boob. As our breastfeeding relationship continued to develop throughout his first year of life, I learned that his suck was strong in the beginning of his feeding and the intensity of his suck diminished towards the end of his feeding. This makes complete sense because generally the outpour or flow of your milk is greater at the beginning of a feeding—usually in direct alignment with the “let-down” feeling. The flow of milk will increasingly lessen towards the end of the feeding.
With Zion, I noticed his suck would slow down with my milk flow to the point where he would stop sucking altogether but remain on my nipple for comfort. Then he would give me a smile, caress my face and ARGH—BITE DOWN! With time, I learned to learn him and pay attention to his cues that he was wrapping up his feeding and then SHOOT MY SHOT, all crazy! Lol In other words, learn your baby’s feeding patterns, pay attention to their cues and gently/promptly break their latch so they are not presented with an idle opportunity to bite you.
#2 Reactive versus proactive.
If you’ve ever had your nipple bitten by your baby, you know how much that ish hurts! While the pain is unbearable, it is still essential that you are careful of how you react. Developmentally, your baby is not yet capable of processing your reaction as fleeting. Thus, it is possible that they can misconstrue your reaction to the pain as rejection, anger, fear, denial or abandonment. You don’t want them to form a narrative that associates nursing with them being scolded or altogether create a negative impression of breastfeeding. You’re human so instinctually, you’ll react in pain—just be mindful of how you’re communicating that pain so your baby is not internalizing it as a pessimistic experience. You’ll find it more productive in proactively finding ways to address the biting (such as heeding to the tips in this post).
One of the aspects I loved about breastfeeding is how it reinforces the nurturing sap in me which in turn has strengthened my bond with Zion. Another way I have learned to toggle the biting phase of breastfeeding is caressing Zion and being affectionate with him during his feeding. Doing this, seemingly soothes him so he’s so enveloped in the intimacy of the moment that his biting reflex doesn’t really have time to be activated. And if it should be activated, then I’m already being proactive on tips one and two (above) to manage the ending of the feeding. Plus, it won’t be long before our babies are pushing us away, refusing our kisses and rushing cuddle time—TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE AND WEAVE IT INTO your breastfeeding experience for both of your sakes (pun intended)!
#4 It’s okay.
One of the layers of this conversation that I think does not frequently get addressed is when mothers absolutely have no interest in sustaining breastfeeding their baby—for any reason, teeth or no teeth. Another possibility is that they want to continue breastfeeding but are simply not connected to any support or knowledge around ways to sustain breastfeeding when they run into hiccups. No matter the reason, I’ve learned that until you have your own child, there are many things you will not understand firsthand. It’s public knowledge that “breast is best” but there are many reasons why it might not be possible to commit to. For instance, a mother might desperately want a breastfeeding relationship to continue but the baby no longer desires the boob. IT HAPPENS! Let’s be less judgmental and more supportive of one another.
If you’re a breastfeeding mother that tries these tips or has tried a few of your own and are still lacking enjoyment in breastfeeding, I’m here to remind you that IT’S OKAY! NO JUDGEMENT! Breastfeeding/pumping is a FULL TIME JOB IN AND OF ITSELF! You can never impart judgement on someone for their choice because they are deserving of said choice and it has nothing to do with anyone but themselves and their baby. Point. Blank. Period.
Please do what is best for YOU AND YOUR BABY. That’s really all that matters. Succumbing to the pressures of society will never make you happy no matter your decision and the truth is, you have the right. YOU are THEIR mother—not anyone else. IT’S OKAY!
Now go forth and live your BREAST life, or not (IT’S OKAY). 😉