Teething can be a tough experience for baby and mom alike, especially the first few, often starting between four to seven months of age. Little Faye Armstrong of Liverpool, England, decided she'd make it easy on her mom and was born with teeth almost ready to come through. Her mother says she saw little slits at birth, but the next morning at one day old, two teeth had fully pushed through, which she noticed from a little pinch while breastfeeding.
A lot of women have said they decided to wean when a baby had teeth, which in this case, would have made for a very short nursing relationship.
Also, if you understand biology even a tiny bit, it makes absolutely no sense.
One in 2000 babies is born with teeth, so while it's not common, it's certainly not unheard of. Their teeth are already fully formed in their jaw in utero, and the common age to start teething is four months, so these babies are just a little anxious to start biting. That also means the American Dental Association wants to see them at 6-months-old for their first cleaning.
But when it comes to the purpose of these teeth, it's worth noting that they are called "milk teeth" and for a good reason -- they are designed to be the teeth that mammals have during the period of nursing, or drinking milk. Most children have a full set of milk teeth by 3 years of age, and begin to lose them around age 5, about the same time the sucking reflex generally disappears as well, making it pretty obvious that biologically-speaking, we're designed to breastfeed until children are approximately 5-years-old.
In fact, to compare us to some of our most biologically-similar fellow mammals, that's about right -- in a group of 21 species of non-human primates (monkeys and apes) studied by Holly Smith, she found that the offspring were weaned at the same time they were getting their first permanent molars. In humans, that would be at about 5-1/2 to 6 years old.
In this country, it's rare a child even makes it past 2 years, much less to 5 or 6, but the fact still stands that we're not designed to stop as soon as we do. If you've decided to stop nursing when baby has teeth because you're afraid of biting, know there are many ways to help prevent being bit that don't sacrifice your nursing relationship and stop you and your baby's lifelong benefits:
- Biting at the end of a nursing session: Biting often takes place at the end of a nursing session when baby is getting bored and is no longer hungry. If you start to have a biting problem, watch for signs of boredom, and take baby from the breast before the biting starts. Also, watch for tension in baby's jaw before he starts to bite down. He may also pull his tongue back from it's normal position over the lower gum/teeth.
- When baby is teething: Biting can also be brought on by teething. If baby seems to be teething rather than wanting to nurse, offer her a teething toy or something cold to bite (instead of you). Offer baby a teething toy after a bite or "near miss." When you do this, tell her, "This is for biting. Be gentle when you nurse." See also these comfort measures for teething.
- Biting at the beginning of a nursing session: If baby is biting at the beginning of a nursing session, make sure baby opens wide when latching on. If your teething baby is biting at the beginning of a nursing session, try giving her a teething toy or something cold to chew on before nursing. Praise baby when she latches on correctly, without biting.
- Distracted baby: When baby is distracted, don't force a nursing. If he's wriggling, rolling, or pushing against you with his arms, he may not be hungry or interested in nursing. Try lying down with him in a quiet room, walking or rocking.
- Biting for attention: Focus your attention on your baby while nursing, if you're having a problem with biting. Some older babies will bite for attention. Paying attention will also help you to be aware of when baby is about to bite.
The above tips are from Kellymom's article "When Baby Bites" and there's many more good tips there as well, and I'm sure many breastfeeding moms would be more than willing to help share their experiences as well. Considering it's already rare for women to nurse until the WHO's recommended 2 years, think of biting as a temporary thing to overcome, not the end of your nursing relationship -- even if the baby with teeth is a newborn.
What would you think if your baby was born with teeth? How do you handle biting while nursing?
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