At eight months old, our twin breastfeeding journey had been relatively uncomplicated. I had dealt with awkward latch issues in the early weeks, and some minor nipple soreness during that time. I had survived a few plugged ducts using tips from Dr. Sears’s The Breastfeeding Book (http://www.amazon.com/Breastfeeding-Book-Everything-Nursing-Through/dp/0316779245/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1201970704&sr=8-1) and La Leche League’s Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (http://www.amazon.com/Womanly-Art-Breastfeeding-Seventh-International/dp/0452285801/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1201970704&sr=8-2). And I had survived the early days of teething with few problems.
Then one night, as my daughter (who has four teeth) was dozing off to sleep, she bit down HARD! I yelped in pain, pushed her face in close to me so she’d unlatch, and then tried to comfort my startled baby. That night, she’d bite me four more times in her sleep. By morning, my nipple was extremely sore! Each time I’d nurse either of the babies, I’d almost cry from the pain on the left side. I wasn’t sure what was going on– was it thrush? Soreness from the bite? Something else? I couldn’t imagine that a few tiny bites would leave me that incredibly sore, as my nipples would feel like they were on fire every time I’d nurse on that side. My mind had associated the extra pain with my daughter (who has two more teeth than her twin’s two teeth); I’d feel anxious nausea in the pit of my stomach every time I’d prepare to nurse her. After two days of walking around with my breasts hanging out of open nursing bra flaps, and crying every time a baby acted hungry, I awoke one morning to find a little bit of dried up blood on the tip of my left nipple. Something had to change.
As it would turn out, I didn’t have thrush at all. In the end, I think we were simply dealing with a change in latch. After doing more reading and research, I discovered that it is normal for a baby’s latch to change significantly after the first few teeth come in. (It’s also normal, for what it’s worth, for a baby dozing off to occasionally chomp down on mom, much in the same way that a grownup dozing off might occasionally startle and jump from a falling sensation.) Whereas someone might have never noticed soft little baby gums dragging back and forth across your nipples during nursing, you’ll CERTAINLY notice four sharp little teeth grating across your nipples!
I treated my nipples with lanolin or vitamin E oil several times a day to soften up the cracked and bleeding patches. I continued nursing on demand, although I tried to nurse my daughter on the less sore right side, to give the left side a little time to heal. I made sure to change up the babies’ nursing positions– clutch/football at one feeding, cradle at the next, sitting up at the next, side-lying at the next, etc.– to more evenly distribute any tension on the skin of my breasts or tooth friction on my nipples. I was careful to make sure the babies didn’t grab or play with my breasts while nursing (causing my tender skin to be pulled and stretched between their mouth/teeth on one end and their pinching fingers on the other). If I noticed someone with a bad latch, I would put my finger in between their gums to gently break the latch and safely remove my nipple before re-latching with a better position.
Although I had extreme pain while nursing for about 5 days (while I continued the above treatments to try to improve my condition), my pain then lessened to a moderate discomfort for a few days before gradually going away altogether. For those five days, there were definitely times when I thought about how easy it would be to quit nursing altogether, but I wanted to stick it out for my babies. Now, I’m thankful I did.
After educating myself on latch changes with teething, I’m now ready to head off any future rounds of nipple pain caused by teething in advance of the severe pain. My son is now popping out his fourth tooth, and I’m starting to experience some mild soreness. This time, I’m ready! I’ve already started changing positions with each feeding and correcting poor latch as soon as I notice it. I’m stopping the breast-pinching that stretches my skin and tugs on my nipples, and getting plenty of air during down times. So far, so good. Let’s hope we can keep it that way!
If you have any tips for preventing, treating, or surviving nipple soreness caused by teething, feel free to comment and share your experiences!
EDITED WHEN MY TWINS WERE OLDER TO ADD:
I did end up later getting a HORRIBLE case of thrush that cracked my nipples and almost ended my breastfeeding relationship with my twin toddlers. I went on oral medications, used oral swab medications for my twins, but my life saver was having a doctor call a prescription in for me to a compounding pharmacy for some all purpose nipple ointment. Google it! It is a lifesaver with thrush!