Thursday, January 27, 2011

Teething and Biting

It is a fact much bemoaned by tired parents and cranky babies, but infants tend to eke out a set of teeth over the course of their first year of life. I've assumed by watching my sweet boy grow his first set of chompers that the process is Not. Fun. Buckets of drool. Nomming anything he can get his hands on. Sleepless nights. Refusing the breast. Passing up his beloved sweet potatoes. It has been a rough process so far.

Anyone who has watched a teething baby chomp a teether could surmise: biting down seems to ease teething pain. When a mother spends a good chunk of her day with her nipple in her teething baby's mouth, the concern is obvious.

Here are a few strategies to avoid getting nipped:

* A happy fact: baby would be unable to suck, drink and bite at the same time. While nursing, baby's tongue covers his lower teeth and the top teeth are angled upwards and out of the way. Your nipple is safe while baby is actively drinking and swallowing.

* Mom should be on guard against biting towards the end of a feeding, when baby's sucking and swallowing pace slows.

* Keep an eye on baby: It is often possible to catch the mischievous glint in baby's eye right before he bites.

* If you suspect a nip is coming, slip your index finger in the corner of baby's mouth, hook the finger around your nipple and pull back.

* Tell baby "No" firmly, but not by yelling. A holler from mom can startle baby, sometimes leading to a nursing strike.

* Remove baby from the breast. If baby hasn't finished feeding yet, offer the breast again after a minute or two, keeping your finger ready and poised to break baby's suction if you sense another bite coming.

* Babies sometimes clamp down inadvertently as they're drifting off to sleep. If this is a problem for you, try to remove your nipple from baby's mouth before he falls completely to sleep, using your finger as a guard if necessary.

* It can be helpful to offer a teether, frozen washcloth, firm rub of the gums, teething tablet, etc. prior to nursing.

* Take heart! I've never heard of a mother's nipple being completely bitten off.

Dabbles in biting.

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