Sooner or later every breastfeeding parent wonders, “What happens when my baby gets teeth?” I’m always happy when clients ask me this question because it gives me an opportunity to let them know that breastfeeding and teeth can co-exist! If they don’t ask about this, people may wean unnecessarily because of a belief that breastfeeding a baby with teeth will lead to sore nipples. It’s completely logical to think that if there are teeth in your baby’s mouth, it could lead to biting. But, amazingly, comfortable breastfeeding and baby teeth can go hand in hand.
Biting involves the upper and lower gums or teeth acting together. It’s important to realize that your baby cannot bite you while she is actively nursing because her tongue has to extend beyond her bottom teeth in order to breastfeed. Her tongue acts as a nice cushion between her lower teeth (or gums) and the underside of your breast/nipple. As long as her tongue is between you and those sharp baby teeth, you will be perfectly comfortable.
What about the top teeth? It’s true that your darling’s upper gums/teeth rest directly on the areola—very close to your nipple. No worries! The most damage the top teeth can do all by themselves is create a little indentation where they rest. Immediately after breastfeeding you may see where the teeth were resting, but it should not be bothersome. Some breastfeeders may experience minor irritation from the top teeth. If you’re one of those, try modifying the way you hold your baby so that the friction isn’t in the same place every time.
The best piece of advice that I give to parents of teething babies is to be vigilant! Keep your index finger close by and watch your baby carefully—especially toward the end of a nursing session. When your baby smiles or begins to fall asleep, her tongue may relax and pull back into her mouth exposing the lower gums or teeth. That’s a great time to break the suction to avoid an inadvertent bite.
Breastfeeding beyond the newborn period is truly delightful! Enjoy your baby; teeth and all!