When I set out with the intention of breastfeeding my twins, I didn’t take their teeth into account. It didn’t even cross my mind, really, even though I knew that my own mother had given up breastfeeding my younger sister after several months of teething and biting.
I’d read Mayim Bialik’s Beyond the Sling, in which she describes exclusively breastfeeding her sons—as in, nothing but breastmilk for one year—and they’d already sprouted several teeth by the time they had their first ‘real food,’ bypassing purées entirely. And as a fledgling attachment parent, I learned that nursing itself was the panacea for any sort of discomfort, physical or otherwise.
What this didn’t address, however, was discomfort for the mother, specifically biting issues.
A friend of mine with a baby similar in age began to have biting issues related to teething when her daughter was only a few months old. She went ‘septic’ and was put on antibiotics. Scary, but amazingly, she went on to breastfeed for over a year.
I had my own share of breastfeeding difficulties, and in the early days, I used a nipple shield to alleviate some of the pain from constant nursing. But thankfully, teething itself was not really a problem for us. My twins didn’t get their first teeth until they were about a year old.
But after their first birthday, we experienced several other challenges. First, I got mastitis. Then, we went on a short vacation and I got food poisoning–not pleasant to be in a tiny hotel room with three other people, two of whom are literally wanting to suck the waning life force out of you. Lastly, my daughter did start biting me.
The good part about nursing toddlers with teeth who bite you is that I believe it is easier to remedy than just teething pain. There is usually an underlying reason for the bites. I had to cut nursing sessions shorter, and by this time I also reduced the number of feeds a day, which helped with biting out of boredom. Up to that point, I had used breastfeeding as the cure-all I’d come to know—now we were following more of a mother-led schedule. I also had to focus my attention more on my nursling to anticipate the bites.
I breastfed my twins until they were just over two years old, with plenty of teeth between them. I know everyone’s journey will be different but I’m glad ours turned out the way it did.