Teething can be uncomfortable for babies and toddlers and also for us too! As with most things, the range from when teeth first begin to erupt varies greatly but by 6 months old, many babies are sporting their first pearly whites (1).
Babies can be born with teeth! Others may not have any until the start of the toddler years (3). Teething may affect the way that your child latches onto your breast or chest and it can be uncomfortable. Remember, not all teething children bite during a teething phase and if it does occur, it rarely causes damage (3).
Top tips for dealing with a teething child
Here are some tips you can try to ease any discomfort you may be experiencing:
- Treat your baby’s teething symptoms. Some parents swear by teething toys designed for this tricky phase. If you have a child who is eating solid food, cold foods can be soothing (1). You can seek support from your health professional such as a pharmacist, GP, health visitor or child’s dentist to discuss other pain relief options.
- Continue to nurse your child as you would during other illnesses. This can be incredibly comforting for them (1).
- Go back to basics. Focus on the way that your child is attaching to the breast or chest. This can still hold true into the toddler years. A deep latch is still important and avoids feeding on the end of a nipple which can cause pain (1).
- Embrace a variety of soothing methods including movement, fresh air and even baby wearing. Sometimes you may have to be creative (1).
- Experiment with different feeding positions to accommodate the change in your child’s latch. A change in position that allows them to tilt their head back more is important (3). Doing so can provide relief from a bite or scratch from a newly emerging tooth (1). Whilst nursing correctly, your child cannot ‘bite’. This or a clamping sensation occurs if the latch is very shallow and your child has not got enough breast tissue in their mouth (2).
- Knowledge is key. Knowing that restless nights can be a direct result of teething can make the frequency of feedings more bearable (3).
A change in position that allows them to tilt their head back more is important…
How to manage biting due to teething
- If you are conscious of when your child is going to clamp down or ‘bite’, you can prevent this by ending the feed. Use a clean finger to slip it between the gums and unlatch your child. Calmly telling your child that biting hurts whilst ending the feed can discourage the unwanted behaviour (2). You can set your child down on the floor temporarily so that the physical contact has also ended (3). Encouraging a milk release at the start of the feed yourself (using nipple twiddling) can help if biting down is happening at the beginning (2, 3).
- Parents may choose to wear a teething necklace or allow the child to fiddle with a toy whilst feeding to keep them occupied. Sometimes, a little bit of distraction is all that is needed (2).
Use a clean finger to slip it between the gums and unlatch your child. Calmly telling your child that biting hurts whilst ending the feed can discourage the unwanted behaviour.
- Taylor (2017) Breastfeeding and teething [Online] Available from: https://www.laleche.org.uk/breastfeeding-and-teething/ [Accessed 25 July 2021]
- Philippa Pearson- Glaze (2019) Baby biting while breastfeeding. [Online] Available from: https://breastfeeding.support/baby-biting-while-breastfeeding/ [Accessed 25 July 2021]
- La Leche League International (2010) The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. London: Printer and Martin Ltd
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