For a new mother, witnessing her baby’s discomfort during teething can be quite distressing. Many wonder if breastfeeding, a source of comfort for most babies, could be a soothing balm during this challenging time.
Indeed, breastfeeding is more than just a feeding practice – it’s a bonding activity, a reassurance, and a familiar comfort for babies. So, how can it play a role in alleviating the woes of teething?
In this article, we delve into the intersection of these two pivotal phases in a baby’s life: breastfeeding and teething. Let’s explore the ways in which breastfeeding can help, the potential hurdles, and how to overcome them.
So, does breastfeeding help with teething?
During this time, your baby may experience discomfort, irritability, and even pain. Some common signs of teething include drooling, biting, fussiness, and difficulty sleeping.
Teething can be a challenging time for both parents and babies. However, it is important to remember that it is a normal part of development and will eventually pass.
There are many ways to help your baby cope with teething, including using teething toys (don’t freeze teething rings), applying a cold compress to the gums, and offering your baby something cold to chew on.
How Breastfeeding Helps with Teething
Breastfeeding can be a great way to soothe your baby during the teething process. The act of breastfeeding can provide comfort and distraction for your baby, helping to alleviate some of the pain and discomfort associated with teething.
Breast milk contains natural painkillers and anti-inflammatory agents that can help to reduce inflammation and discomfort in your baby’s gums. Breastfeeding can also help to keep your baby hydrated during the teething process.
Babies may be less inclined to drink water or other fluids when they are experiencing discomfort, but breast milk can provide the necessary hydration to keep your baby healthy and comfortable.
When to Breastfeed During Teething
The frequency of breastfeeding during teething may vary from baby to baby. Some babies may want to breastfeed more often than usual, while others may want to breastfeed less frequently. It’s important to follow your baby’s lead and breastfeed whenever they show signs of hunger or discomfort.
You may find that your baby is more likely to want to breastfeed during the night when teething discomfort can be more pronounced. If this is the case, it may be helpful to establish a nighttime breastfeeding routine to help your baby get the comfort and nourishment they need. It’s also important to remember that breastfeeding during teething may come with some challenges.
Your baby may bite down on your nipple or experience difficulty latching due to the discomfort in their mouth. If this happens, try to remain calm and patient, and consider using teething toys or other comfort measures to help your baby through this difficult time.
Alternatives to Breastfeeding
If breastfeeding becomes challenging during the teething phase, there are several alternative feeding options and soothing strategies you can consider:
Bottle Feeding: If your baby is already accustomed to bottle feeding, this might be a good alternative to provide relief, especially if they are biting during breastfeeding. Make sure to choose the right nipple flow to suit your baby’s age and feeding style.
Sippy Cups: If your baby is around 6 months or older, you might introduce a sippy cup as an alternative. Choose one with a soft spout that will be gentle on your baby’s tender gums.
Feeding Solids: If your baby is old enough for solids (usually around 6 months), you can give them some soft foods to help ease their discomfort. Cold or frozen fruits like bananas or melons can be soothing when given under supervision. Always be present and attentive while your baby is eating solid foods to prevent choking.
Cold Teething Toys or Rings: A chilled teething toy or ring can provide some relief for sore gums. Be sure not to freeze them, as this can make them too hard and potentially harm your baby’s gums.
Cold or Frozen Washcloths: Soak a clean, soft washcloth in water, wring it out, and then chill the wet washcloth in the refrigerator. Your baby can then chew on the cold washcloth, providing relief from teething discomfort.
Pain Relief: If your baby is especially uncomfortable, you may want to consider an over-the-counter pain reliever suitable for their age and weight. Always consult a healthcare professional before giving your baby any medication.
Massaging their gums with a clean finger or a cold spoon, especially good on the painful gums when the lower teeth are breaking through.
Offering them chilled foods, such as pureed fruits or yogurt. Teething is often starts when they begin solid food so many of the symptoms such as teething diarrhea, are in fact to do with the new foods.
Using over-the-counter teething gels or drops (again, check with your pediatrician before using any medication), or some people even use homeopathic teething tablets.
Teething rings – these come in many formats from plastic to gorgeous wooden teethers (which yes are actually the safest!). Many babies love to chump down on them with their swollen gums as their new teeth are poking through.
You can consider some teething gels or other topical anesthetics or pain relief – just make sure that you use an age appropriate dose when they begin teething. Many normal pain reliefs are not recommended for young babies due to the serious health risks so ensure you read the packages very carefully and seek appropriate advice.
Some people use teething necklaces such as an amber necklaces or hazelwood necklaces when babies start teething. The jury is out on these as its a very personal decision whether you use them.
Potential Risks of Breastfeeding During Teething
While breastfeeding during teething is generally safe and can provide comfort to both baby and mother, there are some potential risks to be aware of:
Increased biting: As babies begin to explore their world with their mouths, baby bites may start during breastfeeding. This can be painful for the mother and may lead to a decrease in milk supply if the baby is not nursing effectively.
Milk supply issues: Some mothers may experience a temporary decrease in milk supply during their baby’s teething phase due to the baby’s increased biting and decreased nursing frequency.
Infection risk: Teething babies may have more bacteria in their mouths, which can increase the risk of infection for both baby and mother (they may get diarrhea or even start vomiting). It is important to maintain good hygiene practices, such as washing hands before breastfeeding and cleaning the baby’s mouth regularly.
Does Teething Affect Breastfeeding?
Teething can potentially impact breastfeeding in several ways, but it’s important to remember that every baby is different and may not experience or exhibit all of these potential changes.
Increased Biting: Teething can cause discomfort in a baby’s mouth, leading them to chew or bite more to alleviate the discomfort. This might include biting the nursing parent (it’s happened to me on many an occasion!) If your baby starts biting during breastfeeding, it’s important to remain calm and gently teach them that biting is not acceptable, to ensure the nursing relationship is maintained. The world health organization states babies should be breastfed for at least a year. You can use expressed milk to help you get through this phase.
Nursing Strike: Some babies might temporarily refuse to breastfeed (a “nursing strike”) because the sucking motion may make their gums feel more sore. This refusal could be confused with self-weaning, but it’s typically temporary and will resolve once the discomfort from teething subsides.
Fussiness: The discomfort from teething may also cause increased fussiness during feedings. Your baby might start and stop nursing more frequently than usual or might seem generally unsettled. Also ensure they are latched properly and if they fall asleep when nursing take them off.
Changes in Feeding Patterns: Some babies might want to nurse more frequently when they’re teething. The comfort and closeness of breastfeeding can help soothe a teething baby. On the other hand, some babies might nurse less often or eat less at each feeding if their mouths are sore.
FAQS on Breastfeeding and Teething
Does breastfeeding relieve teething pain?
Breastfeeding can help relieve teething pain for some babies. The act of nursing provides comfort and soothing, while the sucking motion can help alleviate pressure and discomfort in the gums.
Do babies want to nurse more when teething?
Some babies may want to nurse more when teething due to the comforting and soothing effect of breastfeeding. Others may be less interested in nursing due to the discomfort or pain associated with teething. Each baby’s response to teething can vary.
How do you give breast milk for teething?
You can freeze breast milk in small amounts using ice cube trays or special breast milk storage bags. Once frozen, place the breast milk cube into a mesh teether or a clean cloth for your baby to gnaw on. This can help soothe their gums while providing the benefits of breast milk.
Does breastmilk help babies’ teeth?
Breast milk contains essential nutrients and antibodies that support a baby’s overall health, including their oral health. However, it is essential to practice good oral hygiene from an early age, such as wiping your baby’s gums with a soft cloth after feeding and introducing a toothbrush when their first teeth emerge.
Does breastfeeding affect teeth?
Breastfeeding itself does not cause dental issues in babies. However, prolonged exposure to any liquid containing natural sugars, including breast milk, can increase the risk of tooth decay. Practicing good oral hygiene and scheduling regular dental checkups can help prevent dental problems in breastfed babies.
Does breastfeeding too long affect teeth?
Breastfeeding for an extended period is not directly harmful to a child’s teeth. However, it is essential to practice good oral hygiene and encourage healthy eating habits as your child grows to prevent tooth decay and other dental issues.
Should a woman stop breastfeeding once her baby gets teeth?
There is no need to stop breastfeeding once a baby gets teeth. Many women continue to breastfeed after their baby’s teeth have erupted without issues. If your baby starts biting while nursing, you may need to adjust your breastfeeding technique or gently teach your baby not to bite during feeding.