Nursing mothers often worry whether breastfeeding can continue once babies begin to grow teeth. The answer is a resounding *yes!* In fact, most of the time, teeth have very little effect on nursing at all. The most common issue surrounding teeth is (as you might expect) the occasional bite. While this is jarring when it happens, this problem is usually temporary and can generally be dealt with fairly easily.
The presence of teeth in the mouth is not, in and of itself, the cause of biting. In fact, when a baby is properly latched and actively nursing, their teeth cannot physically bite the breast.
Here are some tips and ideas for teaching a breastfed baby not to bite while nursing:
• Understand some of the reasons why breastfed babies bite while nursing. Mitigating the cause might eliminate the problem.
• A mother's instinctive reaction to biting is often enough of a negative incentive. Every time I have yelled out after a bite, my daughters have gotten the message and usually cry. Additional "punishment" or scolding is not necessary aside from a gentle but firm communication that biting hurts and is not ok. Overzealous yelling or scolding may actually lead to a nursing strike (sudden refusal of the breast) and then you've got a whole different issue!
• It's hard to control our reaction when baby bites. However, if your baby really clamps down, pulling him or her off while biting or without breaking the suction can damage your breast further. If you can get it together in the moment to control your actions, pressing the baby gently *into* the breast will cause the baby to open the mouth and let go.
• Biting is usually a temporary problem. If you can identify the reason, and work through it, serious strategy isn't usually necessary. If biting persists or becomes frequent after trying some of the tips below, consider seeking the help of a lactation consultant or attend a La Leche League meeting in your area for ideas and support.
In most cases, biting is a minor breastfeeding problem, and is definitely not a reason to wean or reduce breastfeeding. Most often, biting is a secondary effect of another issue, such as teething, illness or food in the mouth, and can be eliminated by resolving or alleviating the primary problem. In the case of "breast manners," biting is best dealt with in an age-appropriate way consistent with how you would with any undesired baby or toddler behavior. While unpleasant when it occurs, do your best not to allow your dread of a bite to translate into dread of breastfeeding. Keep at it, and every bite may be the last!
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