Breastfeeding with teeth: does it hurt?

sitting up and nursing

One of the most common questions I get, when people are surprised that I am still nursing a one year old (which isn’t that often as it isn’t surprising to that many people) is ‘does it hurt?’ and the answer for us has been: ‘no!’ Okay, there is an exception and that is when baby is teething. At those times her latch gets a little – shall we say? – funky and, especially at the end of a feed when she is not really getting any milk anymore but is comfort sucking and/or drifting off to sleep, then she lets go of the strong latch and – yikes – it hurts as her teeth feel sharp like needles on my nipple. Yowser. The worst has been if she has, at that time, actually pierced the skin, then each time I go to breastfeed, that same tooth that caused the problem naturally finds the groove it pierced last time and digs into the wound – not good.

I dealt with that by just feeding consistently in a position different from the one in which she caused the pain in the first place. Since it was when she was falling asleep that she bit me and hence we were lying down at the time, I basically just feed her with me sitting up (classic cradle position) for a few nights and have found that gives the breast enough time to heal, totally.

But as you can see, that is an exception that proves the rule – and the rule is that if she is breastfeeding it doesn’t hurt (it is only if she isn’t actually breastfeeding but falling asleep with my boob in her mouth while teething that there is danger). So, Anya has had teeth for months and months now and I can sincerely say it has been a great experience 99% of the time… thankfully. Afterall it is all about the position of the mouth. I can suck my thumb without biting it, can’t you? I guess babies evolved to not bite the boob that is feeding them.

NB Photo is not of me and is by HoboMama.


False Alarm

Aaah, so it turns out the two teeth Anya has coming through are not her canines but her outer incisors. I know this because her front incisor is now coming in and there is no gap left between it and the other tooth to its side. Yep, the front tooth is huge. So, good news on two fronts, one she won’t look odd or get teased for two long (as other front teeth are coming in already) and two she isn’t actually a vampire (or natural born meat eater, as her dad was arguing…) as they are incisors and not canines. Phew!…

Soothing teething pains, beautifully

I have got Anya a fabulous amber necklace to help soothe her teething discomfort. I chose a pretty one so that it serves a dual purpose and even if it doesn’t work, at least it looks adorable. Actually you can’t see here how lovely it is in that it is gradated with lighter amber at the back, so it it nice to see the colour progression on the skin.

Amber, baltic amber in particular, has been prized for its healing properties for centuries. Here is what the website had to say about it in relation to teething:

Baltic amber teething necklace is made for wearing (not chewing) when a baby is teething. The warmth from the skin releases the active ingredient in the Baltic amber, succinic acid. Recent scientific research has proved that succinic acid has a very positive influence on the human body. It improves immunity and the balance of acids when absorbed into the bloodstream, it stimulates the thyroid glands to help reduce drooling and soothes red inflamed cheeks. Amber’s anti-inflammatory and therapeutic properties are recognised by [mainstream]  medicine as a natural analgesic, which will help to relieve teething pain and calm a baby without resorting to drugs.” It is hard to know for sure without having another Anya also teething but not wearing the necklace but it does seem to be making a difference. I have several mommy friends who swear by these necklaces, too, so certainly no harm in trying and, as I say, it looks so sweet and grown up!



Things I have googled since having a baby

Baby Led Weaning

Image by moon_child via Flickr

Things I have had to look up on ‘the oracle’ (google) since having a child:

– what does green baby poo mean?

– what is a ‘lotus birth‘?

– how do attachment parented kids turn out?

– how do you do ‘elimination communication‘?

– what temperature fever should I worry about in my baby?

– what does ‘baby led weaning‘ entail?

– is baby hitting herself normal?

– what are the ‘symptoms’ of teething?

– is it normal for a baby to have an extremely sweaty head at night??

Kind of thought it was fun to share as it sheds light both on ‘normal’ (?!) motherly concern and some of the different phases my babe has been through. I have blogged about many of these themes before, of course, so you can find my reactions to them in previous posts :)

Bond with your baby, find yourself

I had an attachment parenting ‘aha moment’ today. Anya is teething again, second tooth. We woke up a lot last night, together, and she has been quite clingy or needy today… and yet I woke up feeling grateful for the opportunity to bond with her so deeply, to give her something (my time, energy, love and milk) when she needed it. I felt closer to her, proud of myself (for sticking with it rather than medicating her or putting her in a crib in another room for her to ‘cry it out’, which I understand may be necessary for some parents at some time, but I was able to do without yesterday). I also know that night-feeding has been linked to IQ (perhaps inconclusively but hey I am a momma-blogger not a PhD student writing her thesis). I think I read that it was correlated in ‘The Fussy Baby Book‘ by Doctor Sears. It kind of makes sense and tallies with two other known facts: 1) breastfeeding boosts IQ (this doesn’t mean everybody who breastfeeds is smart, it just means you’ll have a few more IQ points than your ‘starting score’ – whether it was higher or lower, according to your own genetic inheritance); 2) babies wake up more and need more attention and nurturing from you when they are going through developmental leaps (hmm… reference…I think I first saw that in the ‘Magical Child‘ by Joseph Chilton Price but many childcare experts mention this). And, boy, is she going through a developmental leap. Anya seems to be ‘growing’ on all fronts, learning how to move independently, understand communication, signal her needs (through sounds, gestures, etc.) and even developing a sense of humour! And, as I mentioned, she is teething, so there really is a lot going on for her right now. It seems only natural that she might need a little extra reassurance from mommy, no?

The shift that occurred in me, that I am trying to relate to you, is perhaps a subtle one. I already believed in attachment parenting but somehow it was all happening from the neck up for me, at least with regards to co-sleeping. Yesterday I felt it in my heart. It wasn’t just that this whole approach is a ‘good idea’ but that I really felt it in me. I felt myself surrendering to what is, no longer trying to escape to facebook, to blogging, to housework, to a job, to… in that moment, for that night, I was just a mommy with infinite time to be, with infinite energy for my little baby whom I love.

I didn’t focus on the negative or the lack – the tiredness, crankiness, lack of energy and creativity for other projects or time to travel or hang out with my friends. I just soaked in the bliss of being there for this little creature. I allowed our higher purposes to meld, if you like, or as K and I often say, we ‘shoaled’. You know, like fish who communicate wordlessly to find a shared pathway. We found the point at which my needs meet her needs, they touch. If there is only One (one Truth, one Consciousness, one Soul) there can be only one solution for both of us. I see that. What serves me, truly, must also serve those around me, the Planet, my daughter. Does that make sense? This is hard stuff to talk about, to put into words…

I think it also helps that my mom is here. I am less shattered than I usually am. I am more on top of things and less running to stay still. I have more energy to love… okay that is rubbish of course, the love is always there in the background but having that little bit of extra energy in the system (the household) allows me to really step out and see the big picture, gain perspective. For this I am truly grateful!

… And on this same note, here is an interesting article linking attachment parenting to the environment. I had not thought of it that way, particularly, but it is all connected. One Soul.