Q&A: teething baby biting while nursing

Jenn writes:

"Our baby girl is turning 6 months next week. She started teething about 2.5 weeks ago and has done well, until today. She bit me so many times I've lost count. How do I get her to stop!!! I tried to hold her close/tightly, it didn't work. I've been prying my finger between her gums to remove my nipple when she bites -- and she wails as if I'm the one hurting her! I should also mention she is fighting a cold / stuffy / runny nose, and has had fever a few nights in the wee hours.

Our son teethed a lot later, and I weaned before he started teething, so this is all very new to me. I don't wish to wean yet, and I don't want to pump. Please advice.

This other thing will probably be a non-issue soon and likely have to do with her not feeling too comfortable right now. But I'm making way more than she's eating these past few days. What do I do! My boobs are ready to explode!"

Ouch! I'm kind of in the same boat with you. My second son has been teething on and off since he was 6 weeks (yes, weeks) old. Most of the time he's fine (except on an airplane), but when he goes through rough patches of teething, he's a biter.

With my first son I stopped the biting pretty easily without any thought. He bit me, I screamed in pain, he pulled off, we both started crying, and the feeding was over. The same thing happened at the same time the next day, but then that was it. A couple of times he'd kind of scrape/bite as he was falling asleep and losing control of his mouth muscles, but basically he never bit again.

My second son is harder to work with, though. Every time he bites I scream and he cries, but it doesn't prevent him from doing it again in 4 hours. I'm beginning to think the solution is to have a good teething toy on hand when he nurses during bad teething spells. If he bites I'll scream and then shove the teething toy in there so he has something to bite down on that's not me. You could try it with your daughter, too, to give her something to chew on when the urge is too strong.

The good news is that this is a time-delineated problem, but the bad news is that it's a time-delineated problem. She'll stop biting once the tooth comes in, but she won't lose the urge to bite until the tooth comes in. (Anyone who could come up with a potion that would make a kid's teeth come out faster would certainly deserve the MacArthur Award.) I hope you can teach her to bite the teething toy instead of chomping on you.

You could also consider medicating with Baby Tylenol (or my super-favorite, the tylenol suppository) when she's really worked to see if that helps stop her need to bite while nursing.

My suspicion is that she doesn't have a cold, but that her runny nose and fever are symptoms of the teething, too. I hope they go away when the tooth or teeth finally pop out.

I only have two ideas to help relieve the engorgement. The first is to pump a little off a few times a day just to relieve your pain, or even just go into the bathroom and squirt a little off into the sink. The second is to try to catch her as she's waking up from a nap or even wake her slightly during the night to nurse. Sometimes babies will nurse a lot when they're half-asleep if they're not nursing much when they're awake.

Thank you for writing in with this question, incidentally. It forced me to try to think of a solution for my own son's teething-related biting problem, and now I'm going to try switching in the teething toy immediately if he bites me. Let me know if it works.