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Some new moms think that once their newborns sprout teeth, breastfeeding will suddenly become very painful, and they may consider weaning at that point.
There’s no need. Teething shouldn’t have much effect on your nursing relationship. In fact, your baby might need comfort when their gums are hurting, and your breast has been their greatest source of comfort until now.
Breast milk, as you have undoubtedly heard, is nature’s perfect food. And not just for newborns.
It provides ideal nutrition and immunity benefits throughout infancy, into toddlerhood, and beyond, if you choose to keep breastfeeding your older child. Your child will nurse less as they begin eating solid food.
Once you’ve established a good nursing relationship that you both enjoy, there’s no reason to stop at the onset of teething.
When to wean is a very personal decision. Maybe you’re ready to have your body back to yourself, or you want your child to learn other soothing strategies — hopefully some that don’t require your participation.
And there’s no mistaking a child that’s self-weaning — you can’t convince them to keep nursing. Either way, teething should have nothing to do with it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least a year, in conjunction with solid foods after six months.
If you do wean your baby before they turn 1, you’ll have to start giving them formula.
Teeth actually don’t enter into breastfeeding at all. When latched properly, your baby’s tongue is between their bottom teeth and your nipple. So if they’re actually nursing, they can’t be biting.
Does that mean they’ll never bite you? If only it were so simple.
Your baby may experiment with biting once their teeth come in, and that can create some awkward — and painful — moments.
Now is the time to invest in some good teething toys. Some are filled with liquid and meant to be put in the freezer so the cold can soothe the gums. However, it is safer to just refrigerate these and to make sure the liquid in them is nontoxic. Or even safer, just stick to solid rubber teething rings.
There are a lot of options when it comes to teething toys. Here are a few options to get you started. Some popular toys include:
Whatever toy you get, offer it to your baby if they start to bite you.
Solid rubber, a chilled small metal spoon, or even a cloth wet with cold water are all safe choices to give to your teething baby. Hard teething biscuits are okay too, if they don’t easily break or crumble before getting soft.
Avoid any kind of toys made from materials that can break (or break off), such as beaded necklaces, or any object not designed for teething, such as painted toys or jewelry, as they could contain harmful substances.
There may be multiple reasons why your baby is biting. Here are some possibilities:
How to react if your baby bites
Those sharp little teeth hurt and the bite comes by surprise. It can be hard not to yell, but try to suppress it. Some babies find your exclamation amusing and may keep biting to get another reaction.
If you can, it’s best to calmly say, “No biting,” and take them off the breast. You might even want to put them down on the floor for a few moments to drive home the point that biting and nursing are not compatible.
You don’t need to leave them on the floor for long, and you can even keep nursing after a short break. But break it off again if they bite. If you stop nursing after they bite, you let them know that biting was an effective way to communicate that they didn’t want any more.
Tips to prevent biting
Noticing when your baby bites can help you prevent the biting from happening in the first place. If your baby is biting at the end of a feeding, you’ll want to watch them carefully to figure out when they’re getting restless so you can take them off the breast before they communicate their displeasure so artlessly.
If they bite when they fall asleep with the nipple in their mouth (some babies do this if they feel the nipple slipping out), make sure to take them off before, or as soon as, they fall asleep.
If they bite at the beginning of a feeding, you may have just misunderstood their need to teethe as a need to feed. If you’re not sure you’re getting it right, you can offer your baby a finger before you offer your breast. If they suck, they’re ready to nurse. If they bite, give them a toy to teethe on.
If they sometimes take a bottle and you notice them biting the bottle, you might want to follow the same protocol to reinforce the fact that biting while drinking milk is not okay.
Biting can quickly turn breastfeeding from a tender bonding ritual to a tense and painful event. Babies quickly learn that biting and breastfeeding don’t mix. It’ll probably only take your baby a couple of days to shelve that habit.
And what if your child is a late bloomer in the dental department? You might not be worried about biting, but you might be wondering whether they can start solids at the same time as their toothy peers.
They sure can! Teeth are little more than window dressing when it comes to baby’s first ventures with food. You’ll be giving them soft foods and purees anyway, and they’ll do a great job gumming them, just like kids with teeth do.