Teething while nursing

I remember the first time my baby, then just a few weeks old, chomped down hard on my still-tender nipple while breastfeeding. It startled me, and the pain was awful! I mentioned my misfortune to a few friends, who replied, not very consolingly, “Wait until he has teeth.” To that I now add, “Wait until he has opposing teeth.”

The trick, I found, is to pay careful attention to when your baby’s interest seems to shift and keep a finger near his or her mouth. You’ll probably have a second’s warning as he or she pulls back a bit to bite down—jam your finger in there to break the suction and allow some space between sharp tooth and tender nipple. Try not to yelp (I know, easier said than done), and definitely don’t yell at your baby, pinch or bite back. Instead, end the feeding and nurse your wound. (Broken skin can lead to infection, including the dreaded and debilitating mastitis.)

I noticed that the time I was most at risk of getting chomped on what when my son (OK, when I) nodded off to sleep. His jaw would naturally clench shut and boy, that woke me up real quick! (Many dentists and pediatricians recommend not nursing babies to sleep for a variety of reasons involving sleep-training and tooth decay—advice I carefully considered but chose not to take. My son’s teeth are fine, but the children of two of my friends suffered tooth decay by 18 months of age that their doctors attributed to extended night nursing.)

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