Painful Toddler Nursing

Disclaimer: Many people do not experience a “bad” phase of nursing. So don’t expect that nursing a toddler will be painful for you.. But if you DO experience it, take heart. Others have, too. And there are solutions.

Painful toddler nursing seems to be a hot topic recently. I’ve seen four or five threads on this in the breastfeeding forums that I frequent, and I’ve had several friends mention it as either an annoying phase that they’re hoping will pass, or as the reason that they weaned or are planning on weaning.

If you are experiencing painful toddler nursing and WANT to wean, I don’t blame you. There were a few times when, after nursing for a couple of minutes, I wanted to hand my toddler to my husband and go away for three days until he forgot that breasts existed. It wasn’t just painful the way nursing a newborn was. It felt ABUSIVE. I knew that my son didn’t mean anything by it, but it was painful and it was rough. It hurt, and it felt violating.

It’s very hard to find good advice and support on breastfeeding a newborn, because many women have their attempts sabotaged by medical professionals. As our child gets older, it becomes even more difficult to get any advice other than “Maybe it’s time to quit”. Very few women make it to the one year mark, and most of those never make it to see two years. This means that there’s a tremendous lack of women that can answer questions, offer solutions and support and tell you that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m still nursing my 27 month old. He has a full mouth of teeth, and we got past the nipple twisting, the “I want to nurse but I want to watch this tennis game on TV while nursing”, the “I want to nurse but I want you to sit on THAT side of the couch and I want to sit on the OTHER side of the couch, and I expect your nipple to accommodate this request by becoming magically rubber-like. If it does not work this way, I will subject it to medieval torture techniques” thing. Oh and the “My child seems to be related to some family of creature that has razor-sharp teeth, and I’m afraid that I’m going to lose my nipple” thing. And the biting thing.. And.. Oh. I still have my nipples. In fact, my son nurses more comfortably for me now than he did for the first year of his life.

So what do you do?

A lot of the time it boils down to nursing manners. As with anything in your life, you need to set clear boundaries with your toddler. Hitting is not acceptable, biting while nursing is not allowed.. But also less aggressive behaviors such as nipple twiddling, pulling away while nursing, etc.

Some of these behaviors can be hard to break a child of, as the child learns that twiddling mom’s nipple is comforting and it brings her milk down quickly. Or the child might want to pull away from the nipple to see more of the world around him. Or some of the problems can even be purely physical. A tooth might feel like a razor-sharp protrusion that hurts even when your child is latched on perfectly.

If your child is biting: If your child is biting you can try several different things. I’m starting with the one that worked for me: Simply keep your pinky finger near your child’s mouth. When your child starts to bite down, jam your finger into the corner of his mouth between his back gums and break the bite and the latch. If your child bites three times, announce that nursing is “done for now” and “No biting mama, that hurts.” Try to stay as calm as possible. With my son anything that scared him would make him bite down harder. Anything that didn’t scare him would amuse him and he’d… you guessed it, bite down harder. Other techniques involve:

– Yelping loudly in pain. Be careful doing this if you have a sensitive child or one that is amused easily. A sensitive child might refuse to nurse again out of fear. A child that is amused by your yelp might bite you again to see the funny reaction.

– Pressing the baby’s face into your breast so that his nose is covered and air flow is temporarily cut off. Baby doesn’t like the sensation and generally stops biting and doesn’t do it again. Just don’t do it for too long because obviously you don’t want to smother your baby. With my son, doing this frightened him and he nearly took my nipple off, but other parents have had success with this method- my mom used it on me and I only ever bit her twice in the four and a half years of nursing.

– Flicking your baby’s nose hard enough to startle but not hard enough to hurt. My son was amused by this when I did it lightly, and scared by it when I did it more strongly. MAJOR fail. Lots of biting. I had to pry him off and he left toothmarks in my breast. But this method worked on my brother.

– Terminating the nursing session as soon as the baby bites down. Say “NO BITING MAMA! We will nurse when you’re ready to not bite.” Some versions of this involve putting the baby down, sort of like a mini time-out. This just resulted in my son wanting to nurse for comfort and blubbering into my breast, but it has worked for many and seems to be one of the more commonly recommended ways for dealing with the problem of biting.

If your child has a sharp tooth: 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. :)

– If your child is pulling back from the breast and stretching the breast painfully: Give them no where to pull to! Nurse them dangle-style so that your body is too close for them to push away. Nurse them up against the side of the couch so that they’re pushed into a corner and would have to push your entire body away in order to get the breast away. Nurse them football-hold with pillows supporting their back and head so that they can’t pull. Side-lay nurse and put pillows behind them so that they have no place to roll to. Lay on your back and have them nurse while sitting up, it makes it so that if they pull away too strongly it breaks the latch and they get frustrated. If they dig their little hands into your breast and lock their arms and push (Yeah, my son did that.) push their hands away, and tell them “No” the same as you would biting. It’s nursing manners. Three strikes, and we’ll nurse later.  Explain “That hurts mommy”. If they’re nursing that way because they’re trying to see something, try to sit at an angle so that they can see whatever it is while they’re nursing. Otherwise reinforce what they CAN do with their hands while nursing. I encouraged my son to play gently with my hair, my earings, stroke my chin/face, point at my facial features so I could tell him the name of what it was, and stroke my collar bone area. He could also hold a truck and drive it across my collarbone area, or hold a blanket if he wanted. But he could NOT push away from me. That hurts mommy!

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.

If your child is nipple-twiddling the solution is much the same as the “pushing away”. Try to make it so that it CAN’T happen by keeping that side of your bra latched and pushing away any little hands that try to get under it. Hold your child’s hands, or even “swaddle to nurse”. Play hand-games, encourage your child to do the things that DO NOT hurt mommy. Buy a nursing necklace, let him play with a doll or a truck or a stuffed animal or blanket. Patiently insist that the child not twiddle, and practice three strikes.

Got a problem not covered here? We’d love to hear about your solution, or even just hear what the problem is. We might have experienced it, solved it, and forgotten about it. Or we might know someone who can get the answer for you. :)

(Original article on my former blog- CustomMadeMilk: http://custommademilk.wordpress.com/2009/02/23/painful-toddler-nursing/ )

  56 comments for “Painful Toddler Nursing

  1. courtney
    May 5, 2012 at 5:12 am

    I’m nursing my 26 month old with no end in sight (which is a good thing) and I’m so glad to see this subject being addressed.. its so taboo ,even in groups or mother ,to be nursing a toddler! It’s sad really :(

  2. Christa
    May 6, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Thanks – great advice!

  3. Cait
    May 7, 2012 at 12:01 am

    Thank you so much for this post! Heading into our 14th month of breastfeeding and the nipple twiddling is about to drive me insane!

    • Keosha
      March 20, 2017 at 8:41 pm

      I can’t stand the fact that my 15 month old won’t nurse unless she twiddling with the other nipple

  4. May 7, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    My son got his first tooth this past Saturday. He has been a biter since birth so this is going to be fun. Thanks for the advice.

  5. Jen
    May 9, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I was so worried about him getting teeth, but luckliy that was really not an issue. It’s true, they don’t nurse with their teeth. At 15 months
    we have super sonic suck and nipple twiddling. The super suck seems to have come on just recently, maybe with the molars that are on their way. The twiddling is by far the one I detest the most. Pinching and twisting just does NOT feel good. Holding his hand helps, but it makes me laugh how many times I have to pull his hand out of my shirt because he can slide that thing in there faster than you could imagine. Very stealthy!

    • Kim
      September 16, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      Ahh, you made me laugh so hard. My son is quicker than a blink with his hands, oh my poor nipples. Just the words ‘nipple twisting’ gives me a knee jerk shudder reaction. When will he stop…thankfully no super sonic suck to go with it.

  6. Blanca
    July 25, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    The only times my 20 month old bites me is at night when he’s being nursed to sleep. Although it happens on occasion (usually when he’s really tired and only had one nap during the day), it is very painful and I try really hard not to yelp in pain. The point is for him to go to sleep! Since he bites when he’s totally sleeping and not aware I just say “shhhh!” sort of loudly. It helps with my pain, it startles him enough to unlatch and he still stays asleep.

    • sarah
      July 25, 2012 at 11:21 pm

      Good trick! The “I am falling asleep and will suddenly clamp down and make your nipple bleed” trick was one my middle child mastered well. I would watch him with great skepticism and try unlatching him before he got to that point. Startling with the “shh” sounds like it would have worked too.

    • August 7, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      My son does the same thing (he’s 21.5 months). I wait for it now, with my pinky finger at the ready!

      OK I need help with the acrobatics (sorry if you’ve covered this somewhere else). My son will literally kick me in the face, he’ll pinch the open part in the middle of my collarbone, and he’ll flail a lot. It’s usually when he’s got energy to burn and not quite ready to fall asleep. So I generally know WHY but it makes me feel like I’m going to SCREAM. Ya dig?

      • sarah
        August 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm

        I dig. :) I think all toddlers go through this phase with pretty much everything. My way of dealing is to just keep re-positioning the nursling until they get tired of being unlatched for the repositioning. (Don’t do this with your nipple in the toddler’s mouth. You might be bitten.)

        The pinching can usually be solved with a redirection. Gently spread his fingers out, show him how to pat your skin gently instead of pinching. Kiss his hands and talk to him about gentle things in a quiet voice.

        I tend to end nursing sessions if the nursling is being too mean.

        • August 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm

          Sorry, just saw your reply (thank you for it BTW). I forget sometimes where I’ve commented! BUT I saw this post title again and was like I have to read this! I like the idea of the constant repositioning. I will try it. He has both of his top canines now, and OY they have been the roughest so far. I have a little cut on one side but it’s feeling much better today. That was the first time I’d had that since he was a newborn. Poor little guy, he teeths really hard. Anyhoo, keep on writing, I’ll keep on reading. Thank you :)

      • March 23, 2013 at 10:10 pm

        My son does the acrobatics too, though it usually doesn’t hurt me. However, when we’re out in public I don’t want him doing the acrobatics because he will often unlatch without any notice, and while I don’t mind nursing in public, I also don’t want my nipple just hanging out for all to see. So I’ve told my son in those situations (and sometimes at home when I’m tired of the acrobatics) that he can only have nini if he nurses in this one position. I just keep pulling him back to where I want him, and it generally works. He doesn’t nurse for long extended periods at this age, so I don’t have to deal with it for long. The other thing I’ve done is let him nurse standing up. That stops all acrobatics!

  7. natalie parvis
    August 17, 2013 at 11:15 am

    I stumbled upon this post while looking for information about painful toddler nursing. For some reason, nursing my 26-month-old son has suddenly become painful. It’s good to read about other people actually nursing their toddlers. Every single person I know thinks that it’s totally weird that I still nurse my 2-year-old. They don’t say anything, but they don’t have to. I can see it written on their faces. The unbelievable amount of misinformation floating around out there about breastfeeding is so disturbing. I wish that people would just educate themselves before they open their mouths.

  8. Sunny
    September 21, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Thank you for this post! My LO just turned one, we just found out we are pregnant again, and we really want to continue nursing for as long as he wants to. BUT…being pregnant, my nipples are incredibly sore and he’s taken to pulling back while nursing. I’m definitely going to start trying some of the suggestions you posted and hopefully that’ll get us back on track :)

  9. Roz
    December 3, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Thanks for this article. My 13 month old has had teeth for a while, and it never bothered me until now. He doesn’t bite, but he must be “holding” the breast/nipple with his top teeth. I have some trauma just above my nipple from it, and needless to say, it HURTS. Other than changing positions so his teeth don’t sit in the same tender spot, do you have any advice for getting that area to heal without sacrificing breastfeeding on that side?

    Strangely, it has only happened with one breast…the other one is completely fine and pain free.

    Thanks!

    • sarah
      December 3, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      I’d apply a warm wet cloth to the injured nipple for 10 minutes before nursing on that side- it will soften any scabs so that they don’t rip when your baby first latches on. Apply some lanolin (a stiffer brand like lansinoh is better for this than a softer one) this will put a bit of a barrier over the hurting area. Usually the worst damage is done at the beginning or end of the session.

      Make sure your baby isn’t tucking his lip under while nursing.

      Adjusting the angle of his body can help relieve pressure too. If he normally nurses laying flat try sitting him up a bit. or if he nurses sitting try reclining him more.

  10. amy
    January 24, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Hello,

    I super need help! I’m still nursing my 16 month old son :) he has been a great breastfeeder thus far! I love breastfeeding (of course I have had some down days of missing my freedom lol) but for the most part it’s been great.
    My son has most of his teeth, we are currently working on the canines (which have been HELL btw! Lol). My problem is that just in the past week for some odd reason my nipples on both sides are all cut up and one side is so bad its pussing on the bottom of my nipple. It is excruciating pain to nurse my son now!! I feel like when he eats he is dragging his teeth on bottom and top. I know he is not doing this on purpose. I am at the point of thinking the best thing might just be to completely wean him. I did want to start weaning by 18 months..so it’s just a bit earlier than expected as my fiance and I are getting married in september and I wanted lots of time to work on weaning….
    So please, in desperate need of support, thoughts, tips, advice! I’m in PAIN! :(

    • sarah
      January 28, 2014 at 7:57 am

      I’d double check his latch. Often when a baby’s teeth come in their latch shifts or gets lazy and the teeth rub on the nipples. If baby has a deep latch it’s harder for them to drag their teeth (which shouldn’t come in contact with the nipples with a good deep latch)

      I’d try a position that uses gravity to push his head down towards the breast rather than a position that he could slip off of.

      Before nursing soak your nipples in warm water to loosen up any scabs so that they don’t suddenly rip free when baby latches on. Apply some lanolin to lubricate the nipple and reduce damage. If you notice him chewing more and nursing less pop him off and correct the latch.

      As for weaning, unfortunately that’s an area I don’t have much experience with. I’d look into Jay Gordons night weaning method if you feel it is mostly happening at night. There are a variety of gentle weaning methods that allow mom to stay present to comfort baby’s upset. I hope you find one that works for you. <3

  11. Julie
    January 27, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I could relate to this. Thanks for posting it. Mine is almost 2.5 and sucks so hard that’s it can be really painful or really nice, depending. She fell off a step stool and chipped a tooth way back when, so that sharp tooth hurts me even more now that she sucks harder. Anyway, it was comforting reading you post!

  12. Becky
    May 3, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Oh, thank you for this post! My son will be two in a couple weeks and nursing lately had become rather painful. My first soon weaned gradually by 18 mos. Mostly because I was pregnant, and for several months prior he only nursed once at bedtime anyway. So nursing an older toddler is a new thing for me.

    He has had all his teeth up to this point for several months now, but just lately they’ve really started to hurt. I’ve noticed when he unlatches there are teeth indentations on my nipple from his top teeth. His latch has become very shallow after almost two years of nursing without issue. We usually nurse side lying and even if i try to pull him closer he doesn’t seem to want to take in more of my breast. Any suggestions?

  13. Carrie
    May 10, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    I have tried everything for my 14 month-old. She bites down, then pulls off very painfully resulting in nipple damage and bleeding. I believe it started when she was getting two molars simultaneously a couple of weeks ago. I tried inserting a finger and saying we were done nursing, but this simply trained her to nurse this way every time–latch, clamp, mommy inserts finger. Then I tried to say ouch, jump, etc. This just agitated her. Pulling her into the breast made her bite harder. I began having sympathetic overdrive and breaking into a cold sweat as I started to nurse her. I finally just got very tearful (after a particularly bad bite) and she went into a nursing strike for two days (she would still nurse in her sleep). I only got her nursing again by having no response to the biting at all. Today, 3 days after the nursing strike has ended, I calmly told her no biting once, jumped the second time and she started crying terribly, probably still stressed from the events leading to the nursing strike. I am at my breaking point and questioning if I should wean because I cannot nurse with her biting and my nipples continually macerated. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Meghan
      May 12, 2014 at 10:18 am

      Carrie, I can sympathize with you completely. I am heartbroken as I’m trying to manage nursing with extremely sore, swollen, scabbed nipples and the response my son has to my trying to improve his latch (“Open wide, like this sweetie. Teeth hurt Mama.”) is to burst into tears and point to his bed or want me to leave, his feelings so hurt that I am criticizing his nursing. I really don’t want to wean him yet–he is 18 months–and on these stressful terms, but I have to do something to allow myself to heal and try to prevent further injury. I’ve been cutting down on nursing sessions and am considering icing my nipples just before he latches on since that is the worst pain. I don’t have answers on how to get the sensitive toddler to cooperate when their latch is causing damage… if I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

      • Carrie
        October 10, 2014 at 1:54 pm

        Hello! I thought I would give an update on my experience and hopefully help others. After writing my post, I came across a post on another website from a mother with a nearly identical experience to mine. From her experience, I learned my reactions to her biting (initially from teething) essentially confused and unintentionally reinforced and trained my daughter to continue to bite. I didn’t believe it was time to wean because in her sleep, my daughter would gasp and almost sob with relief when offered the breast, even when she was on strike while awake. So, I had to take a deep breath and release my tension, fear and frustration. She was still on a nursing strike, so I followed the advice of the other mother and offered my breast calmly to her every few hours. After about 24 hours (I pumped out of sight), she cautiously latched on, and bit me hard after a few seconds, watching for my reaction. I kept a slight smile and was very, very calm. She proceeded to nurse fully with a couple more bites. It hurt, but at least the strike was over! I would like to say she stopped biting/pulling off immediately, but it took several days. For the first 3-4 days, I wouldn’t show any reaction when she would bite, then once we were more established in nursing, I started to calmly say “No milk if you bite” or “No milk, no biting.” I would give her 1-2 chances, then set her down calmly and play to distract her. Eventually she stopped biting. The whole thing took 2-3 weeks, but we are nursing happily now at 19 months, without pain and generally without biting, which happens 1-2 month (pretty gentle, she’s seems to just be testing my reaction). I think my initial problem was that by reacting to her biting with tears, jumping, stress, etc., I created nursing with an element of fear and I had to retrain her to nurse without any risk of scary reactions, but with the knowledge that biting would end the session. Hope this helps, don’t give up!

  14. Jennie
    October 8, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    I’m glad I came across this thread. I’m glad I’m not alone but sorry other moms have been through it too. My 2.5 year old still nurses and all of the sudden he has this horrible latch. Now, I am a hypochondriac so of course I’m convinced I have something horrific… but that aside- I’m about to lose my mind with how much pain I’m in! He all of the sudden doesn’t latch properly. I have no idea what’s going on. I was not drinking enough water but other than that I can’t think of what it would be. It’s been almost a week of horrible latching and now my right nipple is bloodied up :( I can see the little crack and stuff where the blood came from…so I’m hoping it is nothing more sinister than that. The good news is that it seems that he and I are able to communicate about it a bit. We suspect (although not confirmed) that he may have sensory issues, so talking to him while nursing pisses him off. Or rather, asking him to reposition or unlatch and try again sends him in to a tizzy. It’s starting to work better though. Tonight’s latch didn’t hurt too much which is why I’m surprised there was blood. Any insight? Does it sound like a latch issue? He does pull on the breast and only my nipple ends up in his mouth…which hurts and is annoying! I’m also a size H and he has a gradeIV lip tie….maybe all of it combined is catching up with us? LOL

  15. Amber
    December 4, 2014 at 2:26 am

    This article made me literally LOL (the part about sucking out the bone marrow) and wake my 12 month old. She just recently started the pushing back with her hands to stretch my nipple thing, and it’s pure torture. Her temperament seems similar to how you describe your son. I appreciate the advice you offered here and it’s helpful to know im not alone.

    I’ve tried taking her hands off the breast but she gets so mad, she starts biting and I end up giving her one of those mini-timeouts. I just really want to solve this before it’s too late to fix her bad manners. She has no interest in nursing necklaces or blankets or toys. She wants to hold HER (or so she thinks) breast as she nurses and will have a complete meltdown if I don’t let her. I tried swaddling her too and that just angers her more.

  16. Rachel
    January 7, 2015 at 8:38 am

    I just fell in this when trying to google sore breasts while nursing teething toddler. I still nurse my 25 month old. She is my fourth and I nursed my others for a long time as well and never had any of the breastfeeding issues that I have had had throughout this time. When she got in her front teeth she would leave teeth marks around my nipple and of course that hurt but I would see the culprit marks. When she got back teeth my breast would be sore on the inside with no marks. Now she is getting a molar and onebof my breasts is incredibly sore and tender. It hurts even when I don’t touch it and there are of course no teeth marks. Have any of you ever experienced this?

    • sarah
      January 8, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      You might have a clogged duct. Is there a lump where it is tender? Or is it near the areola/nipple?

      • Marriya
        February 25, 2016 at 9:21 pm

        I have the same problem but the spot that is sore us right next to my arm pit not near my nipple any advice?? Please help it hurts so bad don’t know what to do!!!!

    • Nicole
      March 30, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      Yes! I’m going through the same thing, my little guy is 25m and I hadn’t considered that teething might be the problem… But on one side his latch is so painful I am trying to sob silently so as not to wake him up–I could have sworn it would come out black and blue but it was only slightly pink and no marks or lumps anywhere. It is so hard not to feel like he is intentionally torturing me… I’m afraid to go back to that side and even a loose cotton shirt grazing it is an extremely painful reminder of what I’m in for later :( it’s good to know someone feels my pain, and if teething is part of the problem, at least there’s an end in sight!!

      • Sonya
        April 9, 2016 at 1:33 pm

        Hi Nicole- this sounds like a yeast infection to me. I had a similar problem (painful to nurse him at all times but no visible damage or marks on my nipple) with my first son. I just thought that was what nursing felt like. But when I described the feeling to a lac. Consultant she told me it might be yeast. It was very hard to get rid of but I used a combo of grapefruit seed extract, probiotics, and low sugar diet. Occasionally it still comes back (nursing my second son, 15 m.o. now) and I have to cut out sugar again. Ibuprofen helps, too. Right now I am dealing with teething/cut nipple pain and it is a different kind of pain! Good luck.

  17. Ashley Jacoby
    January 20, 2015 at 1:43 am

    My toddler is 21 months and is a nursing champ. My problem is that she nurses to sleep and kills my nipple. I dont know what she does but I end up with a laceration or small tear below the nipple or onthe side of it. Its extrwmely painful afterwords to the point it even hurt inside my bra. Now the strange thing is this only happens on my left side, when we do right I never have this issue. Any suggestions? Shes also a turn to look at things while nursing toddler

  18. Eliza
    January 28, 2015 at 7:51 am

    Great article to come across & also enjoyed reading the comments. My nipples are right now in so much pain. My 16 month old has been putting me through torture the last 3 months of feeding but tonight has been the very worst. While before she has bitten me once in a while tonight she has bitten me repeatively. I’ve stopped nursing her as she hasn’t responded to me saying no or any other actions. She has always fed to sleep so no idea at all how I’ll get her to sleep tonight. While I don’t plan on weaning her I just hope I don’t get another night as bad as tonight. Good luck ladies :)

  19. Cecy
    April 28, 2015 at 8:32 am

    I’m still breastfeeding my 23 month girl and it seems she doesn’t get tired of it..her pediatrician says I should stop because my milk doesn’t have that nutrients it did at the beginning..she eats good but asks for breastfeeding at nap times and at night. Most people say breast-feeding for as long as you can is good but very confused to what her pediatrician says..what to do??!!!

    • sarah
      April 29, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      Cecy,

      Not all doctors are well versed in breastfeeding. They do not understand that breastfeeding is different as a toddler than it is with a newborn and they feel that breastfeeding is replacing solids when it is actually replacing cow’s milk in the child’s diet.

      Human milk is a more appropriate milk for humans than cows milk is, and it actually contains a higher concentration of many things in the toddler years. Kellymom has a lot on the topic of breastfeeding an older child: http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/ebf-benefits/

      If your 23 month old was refusing to eat and was exclusively nursing, that might be a problem as there are some children with extreme oral aversions. That does not seem to be the case with your child.

      My daughter still nurses at times. She just turned three. She’ll wean when she is ready. :) I was breastfed, myself, until four and a half. In many countries around the world children are breastfed until 2, 3, 4 and beyond and wean when they are ready to wean.

      Advice to the contrary most often comes from people that are not familiar with breastfeeding past infancy.

      -Sarah

  20. Ceri
    June 13, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Hi, I’m still bf my 19m old at night when he goes to bed. He asks for it before bed so I feed him but every time now he holds on to my nipple with his teeth while he feeds sometimes clamping down really hard. He has been doing this for a while I have tried stopping him and starting again saying no teeth to which it is a bit gentler but not much. I am also 4 months pregnant and wondered if this has affected his feeding? my boobs are very tender aswell which is not helping. I planned to feed him until he weaned himself (is this what he is doing?) but I am seriously thinking about stopping as it’s too painful. A lot of the time now I end up stopping the feed when he hurts and putting him into bed with no more. He then crys for a few minutes, settles down and sleeps. He also has a dairy intolerance so I can’t give him cows milk as an alternative and he’s not keen on soya. Any advice greatly appreciated.

  21. Elise
    July 6, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Thank you so much! I know this is old but it’s literally the first helpful thing I have read about painful toddler nursing. I feel encouraged and less like quitting. Thanks!

  22. Lisa
    July 28, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    I’m very happy to find this I thought I was alone in the nipple twisting lol and painful nursing

  23. Sara
    October 18, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    My 27-mo has started biting me. He seems to find it amusing. I tried saying ‘No biting’ and giving him another chance, but if he’s done it once he’ll keep doing it until I end the session. Sometimes trying to buy me other places too. I find this very confronting and have to remind myself that he is not deliberately trying to hurt me. I am 14 weeks pregnant now though and I wonder if my milk is drying up? Perhaps he is being because there isn’t anything there to suck, or not much? I’m not averse to him completely weaning as I don’t really relish the thought of feeding s newborn plus a wiggly, mole-picking piranha! Could this be his way of showing me he’s over it?

  24. Angela
    November 27, 2015 at 5:39 am

    Hi Sarah I have the problem that when I put my pinky in his mouth to detach he bites my finger right against the bone REALLY hard and I try to pull it out the finger hurts so much then he bites the nipple because I got him started with the biting. Any solutions? Thanks.

    • sarah
      December 1, 2015 at 4:11 pm

      Are you putting your finger right behind where the gums are? Feel the spot in your mouth that is behind your last tooth. That’s where you want to get your finger to break latch.

  25. Amy
    November 28, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    My baby is now 8 months old. After my baby cut his first teeth about 6 weeks ago, he slowly refused to suck, both nursing as well as bottle feeding. Even if he sucks he will do so very briefly and lightly. He eats from a spoon just fine. Just doesn’t feel like sucking/ there’s something that bothers him while sucking. We are currently spoon feeding him milk as well. It’s been over a month now and all this started when he cut his first teeth and it kept getting worse. We took him to pediatricians and an ENT specialist as well, but they don’t see anything wrong with him. They say oh may be its teething discomfort. He isn’t very cranky, but does drool lots and constantly wants to chew something. Can teething really impact a baby I this way that he doesn’t feel like sucking for months on end?

    • sarah
      December 1, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      It can happen, it’s unusual. It sounds a bit like a nursing strike. I’d read up on those and see if maybe you can find some ideas that can help you get him back on the breast. <3

  26. Rosebud
    December 6, 2015 at 12:57 am

    I am so glad to see this post! My son is 13 months now and I have the biting under control, however, we are still working on nursing maners. I was wondering if any one has ideas on how to address when your child is being mean during nursing, my son likes to hit my breasts, steam roll them, he will get up from nursing and step on them, it’s more than I can handle right now. He just won’t settle down and be nice to me and I’m feeling like maybe I should stop nursing.

  27. Krista
    February 6, 2016 at 12:28 am

    I just came across this article while looking for some information about sore nipples while nursing a toddler. My LO is 23 months old, and even though nursing him as a newborn was VERY painful, I’ve never had any issues since then. But all of a sudden my nipples are EXTREMELY painful! There are no bite marks, his latch is perfect, he’s not sucking too hard, etc. Nothing has changed–except my nipples. And it was so random. But it’s now been about a week with no relief. Wearing a bra hurts, not wearing a bra hurts because my shirt rubs up against them, everything hurts. My breast aren’t sore at all though–just my nipples. The left one is more painful, and that one is actually “hard” all the time. The right one hardens up a little before or after nursing, but softens up soon after. Whereas the left one never softens. And they’re both always painful. All day long. Has anyone else had anything remotely similar to this or know what might cause that to happen? I just don’t know what to do, and it’s really affecting my breastfeeding because it’s so painful–especially when he first starts. Please help!

    • Sonya
      April 9, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      Hi krista – I just wrote a response to Nicole above about a similar issue ( not realizing that she wrote her comment in 2015 not 2016 . . . ☺️) but I think you may have a yeast infection. I had the same painful nursing and nipple sensitivity with my first son. Lots of natural remedies online like low sugar diet, vinegar, probiotics, etc. I find they work better than the anti fugal cream I got from my doc. Good luck!

    • Emilie
      May 5, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      Hmm… could you be pregnant? Hormones do strange things…

  28. March 31, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Great article :-) Thanks for sharing. You covered an issue I am dealing with recently: my 23 month old son sucking too hard. THANKS!

  29. May 26, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Just found this and TY!!! My LO is 15mo and recently it has start HURTING when she nurses. She saw the dentist and my little climber chipped one of her top teeth one of the times she fell from climbing (insert eye roll) I think thats why its started hurting.

    • sarah
      May 29, 2016 at 6:20 am

      Oh no! Jagged little edges can definitely make nursing hurt. Once the chip wears down a bit it should hurt less. One of my older daughter’s teeth came in with a little razor sharp bump on the bottom edge and until it wore itself down I went back to the breast care tricks I used with a newborn. Lanolin, air dry, and change positions often to avoid too much rubbing on a single spot.

  30. July 10, 2016 at 2:35 am

    My son is 21 months now and nursing when he wakes up and goes to sleep. For months I had one cut which just wouldn’t heal. I tried different positions and holding him at different angles but that’s just resulted in me having 2 new cuts to deal with! Developmentally, especially linguistically, he’s a little bit behind, so I find it impossible to make him understand he has to open his mouth wider. I try to get him to mimic a ‘wide mouth’ but he just doesn’t understand what I’m getting at!! Anyway, it’s got to the point where I’m crying at every feeding, and it’s emotionally exhausting. I want him to self-wean, but don’t know how long I can carry on with this.

  31. Heather
    September 29, 2016 at 12:45 am

    I’ve been nursing my son for 33 months and the last few months have been plagued with plugged ducts. I’ve been able to clear them fairly quickly until this last round when I got mastitis. I’ve noticed as I’m trying to recover that every time he nurses he causes a plugged duct. I have been happily tandem nursing him with his sister for the last 11 months, but I think we will be weaning. I don’t know what exactly is wrong with his latch, but I haven’t been able to correct it. I’m sad that weaning is on my terms, not his, but I have to take care of myself.

  32. Heather Flowers
    October 20, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Thank you so much to everyone who posted on here. I’m nursing my 28-month-old daughter with no plans to stop. I have always gotten those little cuts on my nipples and not really sure exactly how they get there since I don’t feel her biting me. Usually it’s just one side and I can rest the injured side while relying on the other for a few days — maybe just once a day on the cut side to keep up milk flow and relieve engorgement. At some point, the pressure from the milk actually does outweigh the pain from the cut! Right now I’m injured on both sides and dreading nursing each time. For the very first time, I considered weaning. I don’t have anyone I can talk to — exactly as others wrote above, you can see it in their faces even if they’re too polite to say it — she’s two and a HALF, why don’t you just wean? But it’s SO valuable — for getting her to slow down and cuddle, for filling in nutritional gaps, for soothing, for getting her to sleep! Plus you should hear this girl WAIL when I cut her off or gently tell her no, “Mommy has ‘ow’ on that side.” My normal methods are not working this time — nipple balm, grapefruit seed extract spray in case of yeast, changing her position. I’ve added in a warm saline soak as recommended on Kelly Mom, and I’m wearing the “shells” to keep air flow over the nipple and keep the cuts from sealing against the fabric of my bra — SO painful to have to grit my teeth, rip out the fabric and start the healing process all over again — not to mention that the cuts open up every time she nurses (and she’s a day-and-night girl). It sounds gross, but it’s the first minute or so of nursing that make me want to scream — after the cuts are open again, it doesn’t hurt so much — but we aren’t getting anywhere with healing. It’s nice to know after reading everything above that I could rest the more-injured side for a few days, probably without having to let that side go completely dry — or I could potentially just be willing to let the more-injured side dry up and it won’t hurt our nursing relationship to proceed with just one side. I will try a warm compress before nursing too, as mentioned above, to soften the scabs. Thanks so much everyone, I feel less hopeless even though some of these posts are several years old. And to anyone reading the comments, if you want to pursue child-led weaning or just aren’t ready to wean yet, I hope you’ll feel confident in carrying on! Keep trying different solutions when you run into roadblocks, and know that there are other mamas out there who are also struggling with (and loving) nursing an older child.

  33. Hana
    December 30, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Hi there, thanks for the article. I’ve found it difficult lately to nurse my 18 month old baby, third child and I only nursed my other two for a year. My main issue is my right nipple is just so sore almost always, you know the feeling when your nipple is cold and hard for too long well that’s what happens to me almost always, some days more than others. I’m concerned that perhaps I’ve damaged a nerve or something. And I have no idea how to wean him I’m a single mom of 3 and don’t have anyone to put him to bed.

    • Heather Flowers
      January 23, 2017 at 11:28 pm

      Hana, I don’t have great answers for you but I just wanted to offer you some moral support! It sounds like what you’re feeling might be severe enough to seek the advice of a doctor. But I usually found that even when things felt awful, they usually cleared up on their own within a couple weeks. You might try resting the injured side a little longer between uses to see if you can get some improvement. I also found a warm saline soak to be really soothing (search on Kelly Mom for exactly how to do it!). If you aren’t ready to wean, hang in there and keep trying different things until you find some relief. All the best to you!

  34. Carly
    May 27, 2017 at 1:09 am

    My son is 24 months and is a Marathon nurser….. goes for 45mins I don’t even know if I have milk still but that guy will not part with that boob! And if I try to cut it short we’ll let’s just say he puts me in my place 😫….. I am trying boundaries but man it’s exhausting. Tips??

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