Breastfeeding Battle Wounds
February 3, 2017 2:46 PM   Subscribe

How do I continue to nurse my daughter when it hurts so much?

I am currently nursing my 13-month-old daughter. Over the last couple of weeks, three teeth have broken through her upper gums and are causing me all sorts of trouble. I had thought she was biting me, but I think that the teeth are actually scraping my nipples while she nurses (the teeth are only a little ways out of the gum). This has resulted in wounds resembling small craters on my nipples. While I'm at work, these wounds heal a bit, but as soon as I nurse her again, they open up. It is very very painful, both at her initial latch and suck and during the whole nursing session.

Can these wounds heal while I continue to nurse her? Last week I tried nursing her only on one side and hand expressing the other (pumping also re-opens the wounds). The wound was mostly healed in a week, but it only took two nursing sessions to appear again. Is moist-wound healing (with lanolin) my best bet here? Is it a matter of toughing it out until my nipples harden and/or her teeth dull down? Could this have anything to do with my supply? (I've been back at work for a month and my supply has definitely dropped) The internet has suggested repositioning her during nursing, nipple shields, and fixing her latch all of which have not or will not work. I'd like to continue nursing her, but with the current situation, I won't last much longer. Advice?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Is her chin tipped too closely to her neck? My kiddo's top teeth would dig in unless I tipped his chin up just a bit.
If I had a sore spot, I would try a different nursing position so that his teeth were in a different spot, and this often helped. Like, we usually would side-lay nurse, but I'd have him in my lap instead as I sat upright, so he'd hit a different spot. And yes, lanolin on there as a lubricant might help, too.
Is there a La Leche League near you? The mamas in there can help eye up the situation, too, and perhaps see something you don't see. The Milk Meg also does over-the-internet consults if you can't get to anyone in person.

Good luck!
posted by jillithd at 3:02 PM on February 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Try a different position for a few days. Football, side lying, laid-back, they might allow for a different angle so her teeth arent reopening the wound every time. I would also check her latch. I agree that her chin might be too low.
posted by checkitnice at 3:23 PM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

My kids would sometimes get a lazy/shallow latch, especially as they get older and when they were teething. I would ask her to open her mouth REALLY wide before latching on, even showing with your own mouth, and see if that helps make a difference. If the latch still hurts, see if unlatching and asking her to try again would help. 13 months is pretty young, but they are starting to understand more and more.
posted by rozee at 3:46 PM on February 3, 2017

What happens if you just pop her off and try again? My little one just has lower teeth, but he did seem to test out biting. (I think he would chew if I let him.) Consistently saying "careful with your teeth" and popping him off seemed to put an end to it pretty quickly.
posted by slidell at 4:14 PM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm sure you know this, but if no repositioning is helping (which you've said is the case, and so I'm not sure why everyone is repeating the suggestion), and no other advice is helping, you shouldn't feel guilty for not continuing to accept open sores and severe pain. I really feel for you, and the repeated suggestions to try something you've already tried, without encouraging the option of stopping the physical torture, doesn't seem especially respectful to you as a human being just as worthy of mental and physical health as your child.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 4:16 PM on February 3, 2017 [57 favorites]

My girls are just about 19 and 16, and I still cringe when I think about the pain when my 16 yo got teeth. She would scrap them down the nipple. Eventually things did get better- I think it was a combination of less nursing/my nipples toughening up/her learning not to do that. I nursed her until she was 18 months old. My older daughter, I had all sorts of issues with nursing, and did not nurse her past three months. Do what works best for you- one year is a very common time to stop nursing, and if the pain is too much, then there is no shame in weaning.
posted by momochan at 5:06 PM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm having this issue too with my nine-month-old. My nipples do seem to be toughening up with exposure and I'm careful to keep her head close to my breast so she doesn't scrape with her teeth. I hope that happens for you.
posted by chaiminda at 5:10 PM on February 3, 2017

Bag Balm

I know you are not a cow but this worked faster than anything for my son's mom and it's good to have around for other stuff.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:18 PM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you looked for in-person, qualified help? I emphasize the "qualified" part because too many mothers I know had their nursing scuttled by bad advice from nurses playing at being "breastfeeding counsellors," WIC workers playing at "breastfeeding advisors," (or vice-versa; you get the idea), etc, etc. Amazing amount of crap advice out there, even from people pretending to know better.

Certified IBCLC or, if n/a or not within your budget, a LLL leader -- those two have been far more reliable in my little mummies' group than any other sort of help.

Here is a completely amateur off-the-top-of-my-head idea for temporary relief while you look for better ideas: othodontic wax. It's what you put over a broken bit of braces or whatever until you can get in to see your orthodontist. Easy to put a layer on over whatever part of the mouth and have it stay there, and it tastes like nothing. Cover up the pointy bits pre-nurse? It would take quite a lot of work for a 13mo tongue to work up the dexterity to remove it even while not right near you and otherwise occupied -- I can't even imagine how she would; the stuff really gloms on and stays put -- while nursing, but, obviously, pay close attention if you try this slightly crazy idea. (Though I think the quantity needed would be less than a choking hazard. Far from grape-sized...)

And, do pay attention in general -- when my kid got teeth I found out I could easily tell when something painful was about to happen, as chewing/nipping and nursing are totally incompatible movements. Even if she isn't biting, I'd wonder if there isn't a little tell you can see by paying close attention to her jaw &c (Mother should not be reading!)

Good luck; the hassle of teeth was short-lived here, for which I was very grateful. But I would definitely try to get qualified local help.
posted by kmennie at 5:30 PM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I was nursing my son through some painful times, I found these hydrogels very helpful. I kept them on between nursing sessions, and they gave the sore areas of my breasts a chance to heal. I used them off and on for a couple weeks while I worked on resolving latch issues.
posted by terooot at 7:46 PM on February 3, 2017

An untreated lip tie can cause breastfeeding pain or injury when teeth come in. Does your daughter's mouth look like this?

Otherwise, the teeth do dull down (you'll actually be able to hear her grinding them when they get a little bigger) and it's mostly a matter of grin and bearing it, in my experience. I'm sorry! I know it sucks.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:03 PM on February 3, 2017

I had this problem - lanolin plus repositioning helped eventually. I also found it was somewhat correlated to menstrual cycle - my nipples seemed to be more prone to injury just before my period, and tended to heal up just after.
posted by gnimmel at 11:57 PM on February 3, 2017

Oh I totally had this exact thing. It was the only point where I seriously considered earlyish weaning, it was so bad (he was 6 or 7 months). I found that there were some angles that were better than others while he got used to the new hardware and I just needed to be kind of brutal about keeping good posture myself and not accepting a certain latch angle from him even when we were sleepy and comfortable. And I nursed a lot less on that side while it healed, supply be damned. I actually called a lactation consultant, talked to her a bit, and set up an appointment, but we had it sorted by the time she planned to come. We had a milder case with new sets of teeth after that but by then I sorta knew the drill.

Good luck!
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:10 AM on February 4, 2017

My advice is to phone your nearest La Leche League leader or find a recommended and certified IBCLC for qualified advice.

Breastfeeding advice on the Internet (including on here sometimes, I'm sorry to say) it is total bunkum. Breastfeeding is weirdly political for something that is a normal way to feed your infant. Just as there is no shame in weaning your infant if you want to, there is also no shame is looking for "a breastfeeding solution to breastfeeding problem", i.e. finding a solution to this while continuing to nurse your infant, which is your very clear stated aim.

I am sorry you are in pain. Well done for making it to 13 months! High five! I hope you find good advice and a solution from experienced peer support or a professional who is respectful of your wish to continue to nurse.
posted by bimbam at 4:21 AM on February 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have you tried nipple shields? This is pretty much what they're for.
posted by ananci at 9:48 AM on February 4, 2017

I had brutal, brutal, bloody nipples nursing my first two children, I finally splurged (cause feeding your baby and avoid oozing nipple fissures are luxuries of course) on a lactation consultant who corrected the baby's latch in 3.2 seconds. I nursed the third without any problems. Memail me if you'd like me to explain how I latched my babies.

Sending you giant hugs. It's very hard for a lot of people, and you are doing an amazing job. The exquisite pain of the initial latch with cracked nipples is impossible to understand until you've experienced it.
posted by defreckled at 1:24 PM on February 4, 2017

Especially as your child is well established at nursing, you could try a nipple shield intermittently while you heal up. (This was the only thing that got me through weeks two and three of nursing my second child.) Of course, your kid may have Opinions about this and reject it, but it's worth a try. I also had the best luck with Motherlove olive oil based ointment - less thick and gooey and gross than lanolin, and it really seemed to make a difference. It's expensive but I only needed one jar.

Other than that, even if your kid isn't intentionally biting, you need to retrain her away from it a bit - watch her, and keep a finger at the ready to poke in the corner of her mouth to break her latch as soon as she starts to bite/scrape/whatever, and squawk out an "ow! that hurts!" Hopefully the two of you can learn what it is she's doing that's causing the damage.
posted by telepanda at 3:27 PM on February 4, 2017

If none of the useful advice above works, please know that babies are generally absolutely fine with formula. Breast is best, but supplementing it with a bit of formula might give your poor abused boobs a break.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:05 AM on February 5, 2017

In case you haven't settled things yet, here's something of a round-up: Nipple Pain in Breastfeeding from a supportive, "feed the baby"-centric resource. Best of luck!

For myself, pain was where I drew the line and was done with nursing. I have not regretted that decision.
posted by Leona at 7:44 AM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older Coworker editing my timecard: Normal?   |   Bleach + Polypropylene = Horrible white gunk? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.