Most babies begin to teethe around three to six months of age, with their first two teeth erupting before the seventh month. It’s not unusual for some babies to get their first teeth later, at one year of age or older. For breastfeeding moms, teething can be a difficult time. The discomforts associated with nursing in the first few days of a baby’s life seem to reappear. Nipple pain associated with a teething baby may result of several factors. If pain continues or does not improve, contact a lactation consultant for an evaluation.
When a baby begins the process of teething, it is second nature to chew on things to soothe discomfort in her gums. Unfortunately, the nipple becomes an object of teething for many babies who may bite down on it at the beginning or end of a nursing session. To help remedy this situation, give your baby a cool teething ring or frozen washcloth to chew on instead. Although a teething baby is very young, telling her “no biting” during a nursing session, can help to get the point across.
When babies begin to teethe, the enzymes contained in the copious amounts of saliva produced can irritate the nipples. To help remedy this situation, rinse the nipple with warm, clean water after every feeding and allow to air-dry. Massaging a few drops of milk into the nipple can also serve as a protectant and to help heal irritated skin as well.
If your nipples are sore because your baby is teething, help speed up the healing process by applying warm, wet compresses several times a day. Applying pure lanolin ointment to the nipple can also aid in healing if the skin is broken or irritated and doesn’t need to be rinsed off before nursing your baby. It is also important to teach your baby not to bite or clamp down in a manner that causes you pain and irritation. If he begins to bite, end the nursing session and sit him down. This should be seen as more of a cause and effect action than one of punishment. Nipple shields are sometimes worn to decrease nipple pain while breast-feeding, however research on the long-term safety of these devices is lacking. Talk to your doctor before using a nipple shield.
If your nipple pain continues despite all attempts to remedy the situation with your teething baby, it might be time to seek help from a lactation consultant. Many hospitals and doctors’ offices have lactation consultants on staff. There are other reasons why nipple pain may occur, such as a milk blister or cracked nipple, that may require further intervention. Although breastfeeding a teething baby can be challenging, it is possible to maintain a nursing relationship through this challenging time.