Saturday, February 5, 2011

Breastfeeding a toddler

This is what I love about breastfeeding Mummies and well breastfeeding in general. No matter how much training you have..... a situation will come up where you need some help...... and you are not afraid to ask for it!!!

I got an email from Courtney, our Lactation Educator here at Mummies Nummies. Here is her situation:
Hey! Ok, so the educator needs a teacher:) I have a nursing question. "Squish" (oldest son) never nursed, he just took bottles that I pumped so I never had to address the "problem" of nursing a child with teeth. "Bear" (current Nummie Lover) is still going strong, which I couldn't be happier about, except that it's starting to hurt. He isn't biting me, but it hurts while he's nursing and I have teeth marks when he's done. It could be the way he's latched, but in my line of work I deal with newborns so I haven't addressed a lot of toddler latch issues. Have you had this problem, and if so is there a way to fix it? Or do we just grin and bear is, as mothers do with so many other things:)


First off... I want to mention that I LOVE her first comment..... "Ok, so the educator needs a teacher:)"
What a wonderful comment!  Just goes to show that we all need some help once in a while!

So here is what I think...
My first thought was that his latch is not correct. I have not had this problem myself, but I have had to deal with biters when they first got their teeth. The best way that I found was to un latch them and firmly say "no." Luckily for us, that worked. But to me.... a latch problem could be treated the same way.

I also found this forum, at La Leche League International. It seems to be addressing the same issue as Courtney.

Here is this Mummie's situation:
I love breastfeeding my toddler, but lately, it hurts! It seems to be something about her suck. She doesn't nurse often, but when she does, she is really insistent about it. I had the same problem with my older son, but then I thought it was because I was pregnant. I know I'm not pregnant now, but breastfeeding sets my teeth on edge, almost like fingernails on a chalkboard. I will have her latch on several times in an effort to make it more comfortable. We've enjoyed a wonderful breastfeeding experience, but I'm starting to dread it when she gets that look in her eye. Does anyone have any ideas about what could be causing my discomfort or about how to cope?

I came across this response and thought it was wonderful:
Nursing a toddler can be really different from nursing an infant. I have nursed four children into toddler hood, and at times, I have had that antsy, I-just-want-to-get-away feeling during nursing sessions. Sometimes toddlers change the way they suck, maybe because their mouth is getting bigger (and your breast probably isn't!). If your toddler's latch is painful, check for teeth marks or blanching of the tissue. If there appears to be damage, then her latch does need to be adjusted. Changing positions might help, especially if she tends to move around. Changing the places where you nurse might also be necessary. Even in your favorite chair, your toddler might not fit in your lap the way she did when she was smaller.
If there doesn't appear to be any physical damage, try distraction. I have had good luck with this-for myself, not the toddler. Making sure I have a book to read or something else to do while nursing helps to keep me from focusing on the sensations that are annoying. Reminding myself of the reasons that I am choosing to continue breastfeeding this still very little person helps me to adjust my attitude and stay positive.
As babies move into toddler hood, we also set more limits for them. Often, a quick nursing, say the length of a familiar song, is enough for them to feel connected and is easier for mother to cope with. I have been known to tell an older toddler that I just can't breastfeed any longer right now, but I'd be happy to try again in a little while. I think nurslings understand mothers' feelings in an intuitive way, and they are more cooperative when mothers are honest, but clear and firm.
Remember, just as you think you're stuck in this stage forever, and you can't stand it any longer, your child gets a little bit older, and everything changes. Good luck finding a solution that works for you and your toddler!

We all know that breastfeeding a baby and even a toddler can be stressful...... but it helps when we are able to face an issue with a plan and have support while doing it!

Do you have any tips for Courtney and other Mummies in her situation?


  1. If your child has a sharp tooth, it can cause a lot of pain. Sometimes you can have deja vu with flashbacks to the early days of nursing. Little teeth can come out with bumpy jagged edges that HURT! Treat it like the newborh phase. Focus on latch, vary positions and try to find one that hurts less, or at least vary positions so that the tooth doesn’t rub on the same spot all the time. Coat your nipple and areola with some lansinoh or another nursing cream. A tooth typically only causes pain for about 1-3 weeks and then once the tooth has fully emerged the razor-surface has worn down a bit and become more dull, and your child has adjusted his latch so that it doesn’t rub quite as much. I found that with my son the first tooth on the top was the worst. The bottom teeth didn’t hurt as much because my son’s tongue cushioned them. (Although he did have a short period of bad latch becuase his teeth irritated his tongue!), once he had two teeth on the top and two on the bottom, the rest of the teeth barely hurt at all. I was expecting the canines to hurt like crazy! Not even a little bit.

  2. If your child is sucking so hard that it really feels like he’s sucking the marrow from your bones.. First check to make sure that he hasn’t over-latched. Make sure that his lips stay within your areola. If your toddler is taking in TOO MUCH breast tissue it can hurt even worse than if your toddler is taking in too little breast tissue or “nipple nursing”. I had to teach my son to latch shallowly on my left side because his mouth outgrew my areola in certain positions. This can result in the feeling that your breast tissue is being torn, and it actually can result in tears and bleeding! Ouch!

    If it’s just a hard strong suck, this is somewhat normal. Toddlers become very efficient little suckers and sometimes it can be painful when they’re very hungry. Once your child is over a year old you can offer some solids before nursing. This usually slows the sucking down. If it doesn’t, demonstrate “gentle” and “hard” sucks on your child’s thumb. Say “GENTLE” and “OUCH!” and say “If you hurt mommy we can’t nurse now. Can you nurse gently?” Again, three strikes and the toddler is out and they can nurse again later.

  3. I'm sorry to hear nursing has become so uncomfortable for you. It's an awful feeling when you begin to dread putting your baby to your breast because it is so painful. Hoping these suggestion will help!
    Some toddler's new little teeth are jagged and very sharp. This could be the cause of the pain you are experiencing. The sharp edges of your little one's teeth may be rubbing against your breast. If you check her teeth and suspect that this may be the case, I would recommend setting up an appointment with your dentist. He may be able to file down any rough or jagged edges, so you can once again nurse comfortably.
    In the meantime, check your positioning. I know this is not typical advice given to mothers of toddlers, but improper positioning and attachment (even with an older child) can be the cause of nipple soreness. In your letter you said that your daughter's teeth rub your nipple. She probably does not have a good mouthful of your breast in her mouth. If she did, your nipple would be far back into her mouth and well protected from her teeth. Remember, she should be taking in about one inch of your areola. Maybe she is starting out well-attached, but as nursing progresses, and she gets squirmy, she moves down to where she is basically holding onto your nipple. Toddlers often are moving all over the place with your nipple in their mouth. Explain to your daughter that she will need to lie still to nurse because it hurts you when she moves all around. Keep her hugged into your breast, as you did when positioning her as a newborn. You could also try nursing in different positions so the pressure does not hit in the same place at all times. Try lying down to nurse, maybe even rotating her body so her feet are at your head (if she is still cooperative at 10 months of age!)
    Though your description in the letter does sound like your nipple pain is being caused by your daughter's teeth, there are several other things you should consider if you have been nursing comfortably and are now bothered by sore nipples:
    When nipple pain arises suddenly you also need to rule out thrush.
    Food particles remaining in a toddler's mouth can be irritating and may even cause an allergic reaction with itching, dryness, flakiness of your nipples. Offer your daughter a few sips of water prior to nursing.
    Pregnancy can be a cause of late-onset nipple soreness.
    Hope this helps you return to pain-free nursing!

  4. We had thrush once that caused severe pain.


Thanks for commenting!