Breastfeeding When Your Baby Is Teething

Mother holding her teething baby
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Any parent who has breastfed while their child was teething can tell you those pearly whites popping through a baby's gums may be tiny and cute, but they can hurt a tender nipple if they bite down while nursing.

What's more, an infant or toddler who's teething can be cranky and want to nurse more often than usual for comfort. Or their gums may be so swollen they don't want to nurse at all. Breastfeeding a baby whose teeth are starting to sprout can be a challenge, but it's certainly manageable. If you want to continue nursing, there is no need to wean when your baby's teeth begin to emerge.

Signs of Teething in Breastfed Babies

Some little ones begin to show symptoms of teething before there's any real sign of a tooth. This usually begins somewhere between 4 and 7 months. Some common signs a baby first teeth are coming in include:

  • Chewing on toys or hands
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Gum pain
  • Increase in spit or drooling
  • Irritability
  • Rash or chafed skin around the mouth and chin (from drool)

It's important to note that a fever is not a sign of teething and instead can indicate a possible infection. Call the pediatrician if your baby has a temperature of over 101oF.

Take a look inside your baby's mouth to see if their gums look red or swollen as these are sure signs that a tooth is right under the surface and nearly ready to emerge. There are also babies who aren't bothered a bit when their teeth start coming in. That's nothing to worry about—in fact, consider your baby lucky to be symptom-free.

How Teething Affects Breastfeeding

While breastfeeding can continue well after the baby's first teeth come in, the experience may change a bit. First, your baby may be more fussy or irritable. They may want to nurse more for comfort or to stimulate their gums. Other babies are less interested in feeding because their mouths are too sore.

And just as the baby produces more spit and drool that may irritate their mouth and chin, that excess drool can also irritate your nipples, especially if you have sensitive skin.

But when it comes to painful bites, a nursing parent shouldn't be too concerned. When a baby is properly latched, their mouth takes in more of the breast than just the nipple, and their tongue sticks out to cover the lower gums and teeth. So, while they are actively latched and feeding, they cannot bite.

It is not necessary to wean a baby just because they are teething—in fact, breastfeeding continues to be beneficial for babies well beyond the emergence of their first teeth. Their discomfort is temporary and even when a baby has several teeth, they can still breastfeed without biting or otherwise causing pain to the breastfeeding parent.

How to Help a Teething Baby

It can be heartbreaking to watch a teething baby in pain and not know exactly how to help. Fortunately, there here are several ways to ease their discomfort and continue nursing before and after those first few teeth make their debut.

  • Give them something to gnaw on before and after feedings. A baby teether or ring, or a cold, wet washcloth can help relieve your little one's sore gums.
  • Massage your baby's gums with a clean finger before they latch on.
  • Ask your child's doctor about an age-appropriate dose of Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) a half-hour before feedings. If they are comfortable, they will be less likely to bite down.
  • Change breastfeeding positions if your nipples become sore and check that your baby is latching on correctly.
  • Continue to offer your breast even if your baby refuses to nurse, but don't force them. In the meantime, you can express or pump your breast milk to keep up your milk supply. If your baby will take your expressed milk, you can give it to them from a bottle or cup.
  • Never use numbing remedies containing benzocaine on babies 2 and under, which increase the risk of a dangerous condition called methemoglobinemia.
  • Call a lactation consultant or breastfeeding group if you need more support or information.

What to Do If Baby Bites

Babies who have a good latch usually cannot bite while feeding. But they may bite after they have stopped actively nursing and are coming off the breast, often toward the end of a feeding. This can be quite uncomfortable for the breastfeeding parent.

If this happens, say "no" or "no biting" gently but firmly, while removing the baby from the breast. You can also offer a teether or something safe for the baby to nibble on as an alternative. If they actually manage the break the skin, clean the area with soap and water before resuming nursing. Nipple cream and other remedies for sore nipples may offer some relief as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does teething affect breastfeeding?

Teething may temporarily affect your baby's desire for nursing. They may want to breastfeed more or less frequently depending on if they find it soothing or if they are feeling extra fussy. The parent should look for signs of skin chafing and rashes and painful gums while teeth are coming in.

Does breastfeeding become difficult for a baby when they are teething?

Babies who are teething are able to latch and nurse just as they did before teething began. Yet, other teething-related symptoms can make nursing a little more challenging. Use safe remedies and techniques to reduce your baby's teething pain and soreness. Gently discourage the baby from nibbling as they come off the nipple to avoid uncomfortable bites.

Do you stop breastfeeding when your baby is teething?

It's not necessary to stop breastfeeding your baby once they start teething. As they latch, babies' tongues cover the bottom teeth and gums, preventing painful bites. The only time to stop nursing is if the baby resists. Instead, consider pumping your milk and using a bottle or cup to feed them.

What should you do when your baby bites while breastfeeding?

If your baby bites when coming off the nipple, calmly and firmly tell them "no" or "no biting." Gently redirect them to a teether or something else that is safe for them to chew on.

What should I do when my teething baby won't nurse?

If your teething baby won't nurse, check for signs of a fever or illness. If they don't have a fever, try changing positions to make them more comfortable and improve their latch. If your baby still refuses to breastfeed, try giving them your expressed milk in a cup or bottle until they are feeling better.

An age-appropriate dose of Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) a half-hour before feedings can make the experience more comfortable for baby and you. Always check with your baby's pediatrician before administering any type of children's medication.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Memarpour M, Soltanimehr E, Eskandarian T. Signs and symptoms associated with primary tooth eruption: A clinical trial of nonpharmacological remediesBMC Oral Health. 2015;15(1):88. doi:10.1186/s12903-015-0070-2

Additional Reading
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Your Baby's First Year Third Edition. Bantam Books. New York. 2010.