Baby not feeding while teething

Feeding and teething: how to help them with the pain | Baby & toddler articles & support

Your child might have just started weaning when teething creates a stumbling block. Here we see how teething can affect eating, and how to get through it.

One symptom connected with teething is a decreased appetite for solid foods (Macknin et al, 2000; Lyttle et al, 2015; Eisenstadt et al, 2017). And guess what? You’re likely to start weaning your little one around the six-month mark – the exact same time many babies cut their first teeth (eyes roll again) (Lyttle et al, 2015).

So why do they start fussing all of a sudden? It will come as no surprise that teething causes a lot of discomfort (Eisenstadt et al, 2017).

Where’s my baby’s appetite gone?

Just like us adults can go off our foods when we’re feeling under the weather, so can our little ones. The gums swell and are tender to touch just before a tooth breaks through (Ashley, 2001). So anything in your little one’s mouth could cause more pain.

That said, not all babies lose their appetite when teething. Like with everything else, they’re all different. In fact, the science shows only around one third of teething babies lose their appetite (Macknin et al, 2000).

When will my baby’s teething affect their appetite?

Interestingly, some studies show children lose their appetite with teething only when their canines come through, not when their incisors or molars emerge (Memarpour et al, 2015). Generally, these canines – the pointy ones either side of the front four – appear when your little one is 16 to 22 months old (NHS Choices, 2016a; NHS Devon, 2018).

We know from parents we speak to that many encounter food fussiness earlier than the 16 to 22 month mark. So our practical tips can apply whatever your baby’s age over six months, when weaning starts (NHS Choices, 2018). This guide shows you what to do if your baby is struggling to juggle tooth pain and munching.

Which foods are best when they are teething?

If your baby goes on a feeding strike as they start to cut some teeth, the following should help. It is a case of trial and error here, there’s no right answer. Experiment and see what they seem most comfortable with the following types of foods.

1. Soft foods

Much like us adults might eat nothing but soup after a painful procedure at the dentists, babies might just want to stick with soft foods and purees. Anything they can slurp from a spoon with minimal contact with their gums. A fruit or vegetable puree, or a soft risotto or macaroni cheese (blitzed or slightly overcooked for minimal chewing) could be just the comfort food they need right now.

2. Cool foods

Chilled foods can take the heat out of those burning gums (Ashley, 2001). Yogurt is an easy option here. A ready-made pouch popped in the fridge. Or try some fruit or veg straight from the fridge such as cucumber sticks, a whole strawberry or avocado mushed up.

Just remember foods containing meat, or prepared in advance will need reheating for food hygiene reasons so might not be suitable (NHS Choices, 2015). And make sure you stay with them while they’re eating to watch out for choking.

3. Hard foods

To chew and bite down on have been proven to provide relief in around half of teething babies. Why? Their firmness provides counterpressure to a rising tooth (Memarpour et al, 2015).

Try carrot sticks, whole green beans or sugar snap peas, sliced pepper, breadsticks or bread crusts for babies over six months (Ashley, 2001). As above, just ensure you are on watch to avoid them choking on the chunkier items.

Avoid rusks, because nearly all brands contain some sugar. And sugar can cause tooth decay, even if your child only has a few small teeth (NHS, 2016b). You can read more about how to ease their pain with hard foods and teether toys here.

Does it matter if they are not eating as much as usual?

Try not to worry if not much is going in at any one mealtime. If they are still drinking their usual milk, they’ll be getting nutrients from that. That said, if their hunger strike seems to last more than a few days and you’re worried, see your GP or health visitor.

Try to keep them hydrated. While some babies want to suck and therefore breast or bottle-feed more during a bout of teething (Macknin et al, 2000), others go off the idea. If they are refusing milk or drinking less than usual, try to get them to sip some water, or add milk to their purees. Some parents we speak to also make breast or formula milk lollipops to get milk into their little ones, and soothe their gums at the same time. Win, win.

If they are chewing down on everything, including their bottle teat, try a teether toy instead, which might be more sturdy. If your baby is chewing down on your nipple (hideous), then read our article on feeding and biting.

When will the fussing end?

Your baby will probably have a reduced appetite for solids for the five days ahead of a tooth peeping through, the day it surfaces and for three days afterwards (Macknin et al, 2000). So in general, your baby should be more into their food again in just over a week. That is, unless another tooth is on its way (. guessed it, another eye roll).

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

For guidance on how to look after those teeth once they appear (and what foods and drinks they should avoid) read our article on brushing baby’s teethand why teeth hygiene is important for babies.

NCT has partnered with the British Red Cross to offer courses in baby first aid.

Teething - La Leche League International

Can I Keep Breastfeeding once my Baby Begins Teething?

Of course!  Teething can present some new challenges but breastmilk continues to be the best food for your baby. Sometimes when the teeth are moving under the gums and as they pop through the gums, your baby may be uncomfortable and unhappy. Nursing can come to the rescue and help sooth in those fussy times. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages breastfeeding for at least a year and as long as mother and baby choose to continue. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding for at least two years. These organizations know that extended nursing provides many benefits for baby and mother and that, with the right approach and techniques, teething can be managed in a way that is mutually acceptable to both mother and baby.

It is important to remember that when the baby is breastfeeding, his tongue extends beyond the bottom gum to draw in the nipple. This helps cushion the nipple from the edges of the new baby teeth. The baby’s lips are flanged (folded out) over the areola and the baby’s gums are compressing on the areola (the dark skin around the nipple), far behind the nipple itself.

Often the greater discomfort for baby is when the teeth are moving under the gums preparing to erupt. The pressure on the gums can be very uncomfortable and clamping down on something firm can feel good.

Here are some tips that others have found effective:

Before nursing
  • Offer a frozen wet washcloth or a wet washcloth wrapped around an ice cube. These may help numb the gums, allowing baby to latch and settle into the feeding before the gums become painful again.
  • Massage the gums with your clean finger
  • Do some hand expression before latching to get the milk flowing. It may help baby settle into feeding more quickly.
During nursing
  • Try different positions (See Positioning FAQ). Changing pressure points can be more comfortable for your nipples. Remind your baby to open wide. Have baby’s head tilted back slightly. These ideas all help you be more aware of how your baby is latching, just like when your were first learning after birth.
  • Observe baby’s jaw. Mothers often comment that they can sense the jaw tightening or feel the tongue shifting, usually toward the end of the feeding, and if they can remove their baby quickly and offer the cold washcloth or a soft teether, the baby can work the discomfort out that way. After a few minutes, baby may be able to resume breastfeeding.
  • Watch to see if baby is getting more fidgety. This may be a signal that he may clamp down. Break the suction and play a little or offer the washcloth or teether, then resume nursing at the other breast if baby keeps rooting.
  • Some mothers find if they just say the baby’s name or hug him closer it distracts from the intent to clamp.
  • Others will use a cue word or phrase, like “no bite” or “we don’t bite” as they break the suction to help the baby understand the action and the consequence.
After nursing
  • If baby actually bites at the breast, break the suction immediately and hand him the cold washcloth or teether as mentioned above. If he starts rooting again, offer the breast again, but do not persist if he clamps down again. Find other ways to comfort him. See our Biting FAQ.
  • Avoid bottles and pacifiers, as they will not protest if bitten or chewed on. If your baby receives bottles while you are separated for work or school, let the caregiver know that this should be avoided. If baby is old enough and able to use a sippy cup or cup with a straw, this may help as long as baby is not allowed to bite on these, either.

You may be wondering if you should continue to breastfeed if, despite all the ideas above, the baby does clamp down firmly enough to break the skin. Yes, just keep the area clean by washing with soap and water and applying a bit of household antibiotic ointment after each feeding until it heals. You may find applying some 100% lanolin cream can also be soothing.

It may also help to remember that this is just a stage and like other phases a baby or child goes through, it doesn’t last long. It may repeat, however, as new teeth emerge. How comforting for you both to know that the soothing techniques you learn now will be helpful even as teeth further back begin to move. Although they are not likely to cause direct nipple pain, it is still uncomfortable. Your loving arms, the soothing reassurance of your milk, and comforting nursing will help your little one cope during these “teething times.”

If you are still experiencing difficulties after trying the above suggestions, contact a local La Leche League Leader who can offer more support and information during this milestone in your baby’s life.


The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.   8th edition, La Leche League

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk

World Health Organization Global Strategy on Exclusive Breastfeeding

what to do if the teeth are climbing and the baby has a poor appetite

Published: 05/06/2022

Reading time: 2 min.

Number of reads: 52713

Author of the article: Ponomareva Yulia Vladimirovna

Pediatrician, Candidate of Medical Sciences, allergist-immunologist

The appearance of milk teeth in a baby is a difficult stage in the life of both a child and all family members. This is one of the most common causes of restlessness, moody behavior and poor appetite in an infant in the first year of life. Let's discuss how parents need to behave in order to help the baby get through this difficult period.

Contents: Hide

  1. Timing of teeth
  2. Changes in health
  3. Refusal to eat
  4. General rules
  5. Baby porridge
  6. Practical tips

Terms of appearance of teeth

The formation of teeth occurs in utero, that is, the baby is born already with a full set of teeth, which are then waiting for their time to erupt. The timing and pace of teething is an individual process, which depends primarily on heredity, as well as on external factors, such as the quality of drinking water and the nature of nutrition. For the first 3-4 months, the baby is exclusively breastfed, and the baby does not need teeth yet. By the 4th month of life, the baby is already deficient in the nutrients of breast milk, the stage of the start of the introduction of complementary foods begins. At this age, many children begin to appear the first milk teeth. However, the timing of the onset of eruption can be shifted to the second half of life, this is also a variant of the norm. On average, by the 12th month of life, a child has 8 teeth and 20 by 2 years.

Health changes

The most common teething symptoms are increased salivation and itchy gums. During this period, the child pulls in his mouth and gnaws his own fingers and any objects that come across. In addition, the appearance of teeth is often accompanied by an increase in body temperature, changes in the stool and a decrease in appetite. The temperature can be above 38 ° C and disturb the child for several days. To make sure that changes in the baby's health are associated with the appearance of milk teeth, carefully examine the child's oral cavity. On examination, you will find redness and swelling of the gums at the site of the new tooth, and the child will respond even to a slight pressure on this area. Against the background of teething, the immune defense of the baby is often reduced, which leads to the appearance of symptoms of a viral or bacterial infection. Therefore, changes in the state of health of the crumbs can only be indirectly associated with teething. In every ambiguous situation, do not neglect the advice of a pediatrician.

Refusal to eat

Teething in babies is often accompanied by eating disorders - children become selective in choosing food, and often completely refuse food. Since the appearance of milk teeth is a long process, many parents of babies are concerned that during the period when teeth are being cut, the child does not eat almost anything. The contact of food with the gums increases pain, and the child does not perceive any food well. "How and what to feed the baby?" - this is the most pressing issue for parents of infants in the first year of life. Try to follow the general recommendations during this period, as well as some practical tips to help keep the child from being hungry.

General rules

Despite the difficult situation, do not force-feed. Forced eating can provoke disruption of the digestive tract and be the cause of improper eating behavior in the future. During this period, it is better to adhere to a free feeding regime according to the principle - often, but in small portions. If the mother is breastfeeding, then expect the frequency of feedings to change. The child has a need for frequent application, not only to satisfy hunger, but also for emotional calm. In the acute phase, refuse to introduce complementary foods and choose foods that minimally irritate the oral mucosa. During this period, salivation is increased in babies, therefore, to restore the water balance, periodically offer the baby drinking water for babies, allowed from birth. The baby has a desire to gnaw and bite everything, but during this period it is better to refuse solid food as much as possible, since sharp edges can additionally injure the mucous membrane and only worsen the situation. Among complementary foods, the most optimal choice during teething are cereal complementary foods.

Children's porridge

What are the advantages of choosing children's porridge as a priority in the baby's diet during the period of the appearance of milk teeth? Firstly, it is a highly nutritious product - the combination of milk and cereals meets the needs of the child for energy and nutrients, even with a relatively small amount of the finished product. Secondly, the appropriate consistency of commercially produced baby cereals facilitates the assimilation of complementary foods. Bebi Premium baby cereals for children over 4 months of age have a homogenized degree of grinding, which does not require additional gum grinding and reduces the load on the jaw apparatus. In addition, they are easily and without lumps diluted with water or breast milk at room temperature, which also reduces the severity of pain compared to warmer foods. Fruit and vegetable complementary foods, despite the appropriate puree-like structure, are rich in organic acids, which can be a source of irritation of the delicate mucous membrane of the baby's gums. During this period, another important advantage of the Bebi Premium line of children's cereals is the reduced sugar content. Sugar is a good breeding ground for microbes that live in the oral cavity, its excess intake can increase the inflammatory process in the gums.

Practical advice

The pharmaceutical market offers a variety of topical gum pain relievers approved for use in children. However, it is recommended to use them very carefully and in consultation with the pediatrician in cases where pain significantly affects the condition of the crumbs. Be careful when using them, as swallowing the gel with painkillers can lead to severe toxic reactions. Safe aids are special teethers. Among them, the most effective are devices with a cooling gel or water inside. Offer the baby teethers before the next meal, and then he will eat complementary foods more calmly. Another simple and useful procedure is to massage the gums in the direction from the center to the corners of the mouth, avoiding impact on the eruption zone. Massage improves blood flow, activates growth processes and reduces tension in the gum area. Remember, teething is a natural physiological process, and the task of parents is to help the baby to overcome this difficult life stage as comfortably as possible.

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Teething in children, what you need to know

All parents know that teething is a difficult period in the life of every child, because he does not sleep well, is naughty and tries to gnaw everything he can reach. But the most dangerous thing is that at this time the baby is vulnerable to many infections. We will talk about how teeth should be cut normally, why the baby’s body cannot cope with the infection, and what symptoms indicate that it is time to go to the doctor.

How teeth are cut

Teething is a complex process, because at this time tissues are formed, teeth roots grow, gums are rebuilt. Moreover, the teeth begin to form even during pregnancy, starting from the 6th week. Around the same time, calcium begins to be deposited in the tissues of future teeth.

Next comes the most interesting part - teething. It is considered normal if the teeth begin to cut from 4 to 7 months. But each body is unique, so everyone's teeth are cut differently. It depends on many things, for example:

- From genetics. Often the age at which a child's teeth began to cut depends on when his relatives - mom, dad, grandparents - started teething.

- Power supply. If the baby lacks vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C or calcium, teeth will start to erupt later.

- From the course of pregnancy. If there was fetal toxicosis during pregnancy, this will also slow down the appearance of teeth.

Also, teeth are normally cut in pairs, that is, first the lower central incisors appear, then the upper central incisors, the upper lateral incisors - the lower lateral incisors, the upper first molars - the lower first molars, etc. But even if the order is violated, this does not always mean any disease or serious violation.

When to sound the alarm

In places where teeth erupt, many biologically active substances are released, such as histamine, leukotrienes, prostaglandins, etc. They just cause the symptoms that every parent is familiar with:

- Fever. Normally, when teething, the temperature should be subfebrile, that is, no more than 38 degrees;

- Swelling, pain and redness of the gums.

There is a normal reaction of the child to teething. As a rule, the baby refuses to eat, but at the same time pulls toys into his mouth to gnaw on them. Due to the fact that the child is constantly chewing on something, the nerves of the gums are irritated and a lot of saliva is released, and since the child does not yet know how to control saliva, it flows out of the mouth. Also, the child becomes more excitable than usual - sleeps less, is constantly naughty, becomes irritable.

Life hack: to help your child and relieve toothache, buy a special teether toy. Such a toy can be filled with water and put in the refrigerator. When the baby chews on it, the toy will cool the inflamed gums and thereby partially relieve the pain.

But there are symptoms that parents often confuse with a normal reaction to the appearance of teeth:

- Indigestion - diarrhea, vomiting, loose stools;

- Temperature above 38-39degrees, which does not subside for several days;

- Cough, rash, swelling.

These symptoms indicate that there is an infection in the child's body that needs to be treated.

Why a child is so vulnerable to diseases

When a child chews on something, microtraumas and cracks appear on the gums. The mucous membrane, like other tissues of the gums, is not yet formed, so infections easily enter the body through these injuries. And since at the age of the appearance of the first teeth - from 4 to 7 months, the passive immunity received from the mother is gradually lost, and its own immunity is just beginning to be developed, the body cannot cope with the infection.

Learn more