Q&A: Nursing a Teething Babyby Elizabeth Keefe
Q I have a 5 1/2 month old son, Cole. He has been breastfed since birth and we have had a wonderful breastfeeding relationship, until now. For the last 3 weeks, just about every time I try to nurse him, he arches his back and cries. He will not latch on. I need to mention that he is teething and when I give him a bottle of expressed milk he chews on it and it takes a long time to feed him. The only time he will let me nurse him is in the morning for his first feeding. Everything I have read says that teething can cause this reaction, but also says that it should last only a few weeks. I'm not sure what to do. Right now I am expressing my milk for every feeding. This isn't always convenient. Could he be ready to wean? I am not emotionally ready to give up, but I don't want to make him cry either. I'm trying to hang in there waiting for the day he'll let me nurse him exclusively, but I'm not sure what to do. Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated.
A As a baby is nursing, a vacuum is created inside his mouth that pulls on the teeth that are coming though, which makes it more painful to nurse, along with the fact that breastmilk is warm. By the end of the day, nursing is just too painful. Which is why he does not have a problem nursing in the morning. His gums have had all night to rest.
Here are some suggestions for the pain:
Before each nursing, massage Cole's gums. This can be very soothing to him and allow him to nurse for at least a couple minutes.
Give your baby Popsicles made from expressed milk. Cassi loved these! This will numb his gums for a while so he can nurse, and provide extra nutrition.
Over the counter teething gels are effective in numbing the pain. Ask your pediatrician for the correct dosage of an over the counter pain reliever. This along with teething gel works great.
I know that expressing your milk is not always easy, but you are giving your baby the best nutrition available. If using a bottle is the only way Cole will eat, give him a bottle. Cassi enjoyed having a cold bottle of expressed milk in between nursings. It gave her throbbing gums a break.
I would not recommend completely weaning Cole. Some mothers begin the weaning process around 4-6 months old. So you could start introducing cereal. But it is recommended that mothers breastfeed their babies for at least one year.
Do not be concerned about your baby not getting enough to eat. If he is hungry, he will eat. When my daughter is teething or sick, I'm always on the phone with the doctor asking if she's getting enough to eat. They always tell me that, "Babies only starve when there is no food available. If there is food available to your baby, then your baby will be fine." It may take Cole a while but he is getting all the nutrition he needs from nursing, even if it is for only a couple minutes each time. Good luck! And if you have any more questions don't hesitate to ask.
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