Babies who Bite – What to do when baby is teething?

I have noticed over the last several years that breastfeeding problems seem to come in waves. I might have one month when most of the issues are sore nipples and latch problems. Other months I might see more babies with slow weight gain. More recently, I have had several mothers complain about teething and biting babies.

During pregnancy, when a woman is asked about breastfeeding often the answer I hear is “I will breastfeed until the baby gets teeth”. Well, babies do still have to eat even when teeth start coming in. Once you are aware of what to look for with your teething baby, the whole idea doesn’t seem quite as dangerous.

One of the difficult ideas behind teething is that you don’t really know when it will start, and it is different for every baby. Have 5 babies? Experience teething in 5 different ways. It’s hard to get around that. Babies can also show signs of teething for months before you actually see that little tooth come through. As uncomfortable as this may be for you and breastfeeding, it is probably worse for your little one. In addition, nursing may bring your baby comfort if teething is uncomfortable, or help him back to sleep if he wakes during the night with teething pain.

Not every baby will bite when breastfeeding. Some may bite once, and the shriek of pain that comes from their mom may be enough to put a stop to it. The one thing to remember is that if baby is biting, she is not feeding. Let me repeat that – if baby is biting, she is not feeding. For a baby to feed effectively, her tongue must be over the gum line (and the teeth) and that is not possible when nursing.   I have found that by the time a baby gets to the stage where they are teething, most mothers are comfortable enough that they are not watching their baby as closely as they did when they were newborns. You may need to limit all the other distractions and go back to looking at only your baby. Once the nursing slows down, take baby off before he can start biting.

Check out this article for more ideas for babies who might be challenged with feeding and teething. It gives more great suggestions for getting through this developmental period comfortably…not only for your baby but for mothers as well.

Babies and Schedules? What’s the deal?

I saw this great family today. Baby is 4 days old; he is baby number 2 for this mama. The baby was feeding well, milk was coming in, and mom felt good. While we talked, her older son (3 and a half) was bouncing around and chatting away with mom and dad. He didn’t pay too much attention to his little brother, and mom seemed pretty comfortable so far navigating the new waters of having 2 little boys. After I observed the baby feeding and we discussed a few other breastfeeding concerns she had, mom pointed to her first son and announced “I won’t make the mistake of trying to get this baby on a schedule like I did with him”. Dad nodded his head in agreement. I was surprised to hear her say this – I usually hear new mothers proclaiming their dedication to obtaining some sort of schedule.   “This time” she said, “I will just go with the flow”.

Such wise words.

In the many years that I have been working with families, schedules are an important piece of the postpartum puzzle for many new parents. This is really difficult, and I try and coax mothers to keep an open mind about developing a schedule with a baby at a young age. Schedules flaunt structure and routine during a time when so many changes are happening. Parents are looking for something to set in place so they can feel like they are balancing everything. However, no one ever bothers to tell the baby that this so-called schedule is being implemented. Babies have their own ideas, and it is usually y not anything like what your schedule says. Babies are very unpredictable. They eat at different times each day, sleep can be erratic and spontaneous and it is nearly impossible to foretell their temperament. For some new mothers, this is a scary concept. Structure is a way of life for many people (not me, of course. I fly by the seat of my pants) and the thought of going through the day not knowing what will happen is downright scary. Because babies are their own little person, their needs are specific. Just like ours. We aren’t hungry at the same time each day, we don’t sleep the same each day – neither will your baby. The only difference is that we can discuss this with everyone around us, and your baby can’t. The more you push your baby to get into a routine that works for you, the harder things may seem.

Take this time to get to know your baby. After the first few months, babies may be easier to guide into a routine that is more predictable. I have discovered through my experiences that the more relaxed and “go with the flow” things are in the beginning, the easier everyone adapts. This time goes quickly, enjoy it.

Breastfeeding Supplies – What Is Necessary?

I am often asked what supplies are necessary for breastfeeding.  Usually this comes from my pregnant mothers who are trying to plan what they may need for the baby BEFORE the baby comes.  That may seem like an easy enough question, right?  Isn’t there some kind of list that I can just hand out?  Not so simple.  To be honest, not much is needed to breastfeed.   Having a baby is a huge money business and society is prepared to have you spend a ton of money on things you don’t necessarily need.  Have you been in any store recently that sells baby items?  So. Many. Choices.  Truth be told, you don’t need much of anything at all.

All mothers are different and have different needs and personalities.  I have met some mothers who are content with waiting for the baby to arrive before they decide on a pump or any other supplies.  I have also seen mothers show up at the hospital ready to have the baby, and they are toting a pump, creams, nipple shields and a breastfeeding pillow.  Neither way is the wrong way; just do what is right for you.  My point is I don’t want any new or expecting mother to think that they have to have these things.

In a world where you can order something online on a Monday and it will be at your door by Tuesday or Wednesday, I am a proponent of waiting until you need something before you invest time and money.   However, if you really want to have a stash of stuff, I found this great list to get you started.  One of the things I really like about this list is that it specifies when things are NOT NECESSARY.  Nipple cream or a breastfeeding pillow – nice to have but not necessary.  Good support system and the phone number of a local lactation consultant – absolutely necessary.   So check it out and see what you think.  Can you think of anything you would add to this list?  Is there one thing that you felt like you couldn’t live without during your breastfeeding journey?  Share it with us.—-what-do-i-really-need

Breastfeeding a Distracted Baby

I saw one of my favorite babies the other day (who am I kidding??  I adore all my mamas and babies).  Mom reached out to me because her little one was changing up her nursing routine, acting fussier, and mom was pumping less volume.  Baby is almost 5 months old.  The first thought for this mom was that her supply had dropped and baby was not getting enough milk, which is why she was fussier at the breast.

As soon as I saw the baby nursing, I knew what was happening.  She was so distracted.  Typical of a baby her age.  She was whining and wiggling and would only nurse for a minute or two before pulling away.  Mom did her best to keep her focused, switched her from side to side and talked to her.  After only a few minutes, it was obvious that baby was done.  Mom admitted to me that when she is feeding at home, after a couple minutes of this routine she would give in and just give her a bottle.   We weighed this little girl before and after the feeding.  Mom was shocked to see that baby was 2 ounces heavier after the feed than she was before.  This changed everything.  It gave mom the confidence she needed to feel positive about her milk supply and her baby’s ability to get that milk.  It helped her realize how much her baby is developing and how she is changing.

Well what about the pumping?  Mom had returned to work about 6 weeks ago.  Her pumping output has dwindled.  It is not unusual for that to happen, but it doesn’t mean baby is getting less when they feed at the breast.  We discussed her pumping schedule and switched things up to include a few shorter sessions.  All in all, a pretty successful day.

What’s the moral to this happy ending?  Trust your baby and trust your body to provide for your baby.  Babies become very distracted around 4 months and things become very exciting for them!  Developmentally so much is happening for them.  This doesn’t mean the baby doesn’t want to breastfeed anymore, but we may need to change how things are done.  Don’t just throw in the towel mamas…call in the professionals.

Here’s more on feeding a distracted baby and what to expect when your baby hits this magical age.

Trauma and Breastfeeding

I was recently asked to write a guest blog for Motherlove, on the topic of childhood sexual abuse and breastfeeding.  I was honored to be asked, and more than happy to comply.

When I was completing my bachelors degree, I chose the topic of Trauma and Breastfeeding as the focus of my capstone project.  In my project, various forms of trauma were discussed, including sexual abuse and how breastfeeding can be impacted by previous abuse.

Motherhood published my blog a couple of weeks ago, and I am sharing it here with all of you.

If you are interested in learning more, check out my book which was inspired by my capstone.




The Road Less Traveled



I was a mom with 3 young children and a piecemeal education when I began working with breastfeeding mothers.  My first son was born on the heels of my Army experience (born in an Army hospital, actually), so this should put into perspective what a different direction I had been in when I started my family.  Breastfeeding my children was such an inspiring experience that I decided to stick around and see if I could help others.


I decided to plan a future in lactation. When I had my babies I didn’t know anything about lactation.  I remember standing in my mother’s kitchen when I was pregnant with my first and saying “I think I’ll breastfeed”.  My mother responded with “well, it didn’t work for me, it probably won’t work for you”.  I decided at that moment that it would work, and now I was making it a career.  My oldest child had just started kindergarten, my twins would start pre school in another year, my marriage had just broken up, and I needed a direction.  Lactation just felt right.  I had a couple of wonderfully encouraging mentors who helped to guide me as I prepared for the exam.  I had GI Bill money to use and I enrolled in school to put together the fragments of an associate degree.  Because I did not have a college degree when I began to prepare for the exam I had to log an abundance of clinical hours to prove eligibility.  The clinical time gave me confidence and exposed me to learning experiences that I would have never known before.  I did not consider going to nursing school.  A couple colleagues made the suggestion, but at the time I did not conceive of why nursing should be the goal.  I have nothing against nurses; my sister is an amazing nurse with a great career, my stepdaughter is in her final semester of nursing school, I have several friends who are nurses.  That wasn’t for me.  I wanted to be a Lactation Consultant.  Not a nurse.


I successfully became a certified Lactation Consultant the same year I finished my Associate degree.  I became a trained doula.  I decided to go on to the next level.  Why not?  Feeling empowered and encouraged, and with the help of a wonderfully close friend I enrolled in a Bachelor level program.  Even more exciting was that the program was focused on lactation, so I was able to study what I was most interested in.  I loved it.  I thrived while I was in school.  I had the opportunity to read books about human lactation that I have always wanted to read but never took the time.  I wrote papers that were based on situations I saw at work and new mothers that I was working with.  I learned something new everyday.  I felt even more confident working with new mothers, educating pregnant women, analyzing breastfeeding problems.  I finished my BS in the spring of 2011.  I was working at a busy hospital, but the word in the field was that without an RN, I would be considered obsolete.


Fast forward to early 2012.  Master’s degree, here I come.  I was on a roll now.  The BS didn’t seem like enough anymore, and I needed more education to prove my worth.  I wanted to show the world that I didn’t need a nursing degree. I was setting an example for my children, building a life, building a legacy.  I heard more whispers about the lactation consultant who was not a nurse and I became even more determined to make a name for myself.  After all, wasn’t I the girl who decided her whole future based on something her mother said she couldn’t do? 

I finished my MA this past fall.  I still hear quips about how I will be turned away from jobs because I do not have a nursing degree.  Families that I have helped have never asked me if I am a nurse.  Nurses have asked for my input with difficult breastfeeding situations, and I feel very confident assisting them due to my extensive education in lactation and clinical background.  None of the nurses I have worked with have ever felt that I was not qualified enough.  I feel successful in my field, and I worked hard for that.


I have met many women over the last few years that have had some of the same experiences as I have.  They became so passionate about breastfeeding due to their own experience that they want to work with other mothers as well.  They are motivated and energetic about what the future could bring for them.  When they ask about being a lactation consultant but not having a nursing degree, I have to be honest with them and tell them that it is not the easiest road to take.  I felt that it was right for me, because nursing was not my calling.  There is definitely a place for lactation consultants who are not nurses, and we are needed. The post partum period for new mothers is a delicate and emotional time full of changes and uncertainty.  Yes, hospital based lactation consultants are a necessity in every hospital where maternity care is offered.  However, once those mothers are discharged, they need to have a support system at the ready.


It has been my experience that it shouldn’t be just one way.  Some of the best and most knowledgeable lactation consultants I have met and admired have not been nurses.  In working together, we can learn so much from each other, and teach so many others.