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You can breastfeed a baby born with teeth

A Missouri mom got a surprise when her baby girl was born with two front teeth, and has since said she definitely will not breastfeed her. But you can breastfeed a baby with teeth.

Jaklina Bailey’s baby was born shortly after Christmas, and when they got a glimpse inside her mouth, the whole delivery room was shocked to see that the girl already had two ready-made chompers along her bottom jaw.

Being born with teeth (called natal teeth) is a rare event — MedlinePlus says only one baby is born with teeth out of every 2,000 to 3,000 births. Natal teeth often lack good root structure, and babies can be at risk for choking if they become wobbly and loose. This means they’re often pulled early in a baby’s life. Even if natal teeth are well-formed, they can be sharp and can irritate the underside of a baby’s tongue.

However, an immediate decision to bottle-feed over breastfeed, as Bailey has announced she’s going to do, isn’t always a foregone conclusion (she says she’s pumping and bottle-feeding). Because babies do eventually get teeth, and moms continue to breastfeed them. In fact, moms breastfeed babies with a mouthful of teeth. It’s not rare, it’s not unusual — it’s just part of feeding a baby.

Willow's mouthful of teeth

Image: Monica Beyer

An infant who has one or two bottom teeth, no matter when they pop out, doesn’t spend a whole nursing session scraping your nipple with her teeth. The baby’s tongue is actually placed between your nipple and baby’s bottom jaw, meaning there is no contact with teeth while you’re actively nursing.

I get it. Nipples are sensitive. They are supposed to be, and the thought of a toothy child coming at your tender nipple, mouth agape, sounds like the stuff of nightmares. But you can breastfeed a baby with teeth, and you likely will if you plan to nurse her.

Don’t let moms like Bailey scare you when they say they won’t nurse a baby who is born with teeth. If your baby is one of the lucky few born with pearly whites, you can get input from your baby’s pediatrician (and a pediatric dentist), and you can also work closely with a lactation consultant to work through any concerns you may have.

And as far as nursing an older baby with teeth, it’s totally doable. I’ve done it with each of my four kids, and I did get bit a few times (which I admit was no fun at all), but for me, the benefits always have outweighed the occasional nip. No, I never wanted to have my nipples chewed on, but I also never wanted to get head-butted in the face and have my glasses broken by my kid when she was a baby (and I can go on here, with a never-ending list of child-caused maladies). The bottom line? You can breastfeed a baby who was born with teeth; it’s likely not that big of a deal, and if it is, you can work around it.

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