Oh, teething, how we dread it. The cranky achiness that accompanies this phase of development is possibly more painful for you, the caregiver, than it is for your little one. But never fear! In the grand scheme of things, the idea of teething lasts longer and feels worse than the real thing.
A few things to keep in mind:
Teething can occur over the course of a year or more:
Baby teeth start to appear at around 6 months, though some kids start much earlier or much later. Your baby might not show any symptoms (except retrospectively) with his smaller teeth. Those big, blunt molars (1st year molars show up at 10-15 months, 2nd year molars at 20-24 months) tend to be the most painful, and they take a long time to erupt. Toddlers usually have their full set of 20 baby teeth by the time they’re three, at which point you’ll have to find something new to blame for the fussiness.
Baby needs dental care:
Give baby plenty of foods with high levels of calcium and vitamin D. These will help ensure a mouthful of strong teeth, eventually. And make sure you brush those teeth, however few, twice a day to keep them healthy! Use a very soft, rounded baby toothbrush, and water or fluoride-free “training toothpaste.” Take your baby to a dentist before age 2 to make sure everything’s doing what it should.
Baby will drool a lot more:
Babies do tend to drool more when they teethe. Give your little one a teething bib or change her shirt when it’s soaked, and make sure you wipe her cheeks and chin often, or she could get chafed skin.
You can still nurse:
Just because your baby has teeth doesn’t mean you need to stop nursing!
Teething is not an illness:
Despite what the Old Wives would have you believe, teething does not make your child sick! He might very well be irritable and sleep fitfully, but earaches, fever, and diarrhea are common signs of viral infection, not teething. If your child is showing these symptoms, don’t be embarrassed to call your doctor, you’ll be glad you followed your instincts.
Meanwhile, try some of these approaches to combat your baby’s
Just gnawing on your plump finger will give your little chomper that “good hurt” feeling we all know and love! Make sure that your hands are clean, and maybe consider using one of those finger-condom textured gum brushes (make sure it’s clean, too).
There are several edibles that can offer your child the magic relief of cold or pressure (or both). Some good choices: frozen bagels, frozen bananas, giant (really GIANT) chunks of cold carrot or apple. Kids love the vinegary tingle of whole crisp pickles, too. Zwieback crackers and breadsticks are also great for gnawing.
Remember: once your child’s first four teeth come in, he can bite small, chokable pieces off of anything. A great solution to this is to buy a few baby safe feeders – which allow you to put food into a little mesh bag so baby can only eat digestible amounts – and stuff them with frozen grapes. Your kiddo can gnaw to his heart’s content and you won’t have to worry about him choking. If you can’t get the feeders, you could also use a reusable cloth teabag, or even (bizarre – yes – but useful!) a clean thin sock, tied off at the end.
Basically, your little guy wants to chew on something – it helps get those new teeth through the gums – so let him chew on a toothbrush! He’ll get used to having the brush in his mouth and he’ll have a little gum massage, too. Chewing on his pacifier, a splinter-free wooden mixing spoon or a gum massager (looks like a rubber toothbrush) will work, too.
Be forewarned, for some babies, sucking (a bottle or pacifier) might actually exacerbate the pain. If yours spits out the nipple or rejects the bottle with tears and wails (you’ll know), don’t sweat it, it’s usually a short-lived strike. Once a baby’s teething pain is neutralized, he’s ready to take that bottle/breast back. You can also try offering formula or breast milk in very small sips from a thin-lipped cup or a soft-tipped sippy cup, which lets the liquid out with less effort than a bottle or a nipple.
Go cold (and calming)-
The no-fail standby: a clean, frozen washcloth. Some suggest soaking the cloth in chamomile tea. Tie one end in a knot before freezing for even more chewing satisfaction. Keep a stash of these in a plastic baggie in the freezer so they’re ready when you need them.
Go to the store-
Teething toys and teething rings can be found everywhere these days, in all price ranges and in a variety of materials. Avoid anything with breakable or small parts, sharp or pointy edges, and anything that might contain lead paint. Check often for broken or peeling parts that could become choking hazards.
Some good toy options: stuffed animals or blankets with texturized rubber sections, wooden rattles, plush “taggies” (with folded ribbons for sucking on), small plastic-and-rubber shaped toys that are easy to hold. Also, some small chewable toys vibrate and play music, which can be a feel-good distraction for a fussy teether.
Gel-filled or liquid-filled teething rings abound. Keep a few of these in a sealable container in the fridge – the freezer can make the toy too cold, which can burn baby’s mouth – and they’ll be clean and cool when you need them. Some even come with detachable stuffed animals, which make them easier to hold. Once your baby can bite (after his first four incisors come in) you’ll want to monitor his usage – you don’t want him to puncture the plastic. Rubber or wooden teething rings are good bets for older teethers since they are bite-proof. The rubber ones do well in the fridge, too.
If your child can’t sleep through her discomfort, and your doctor approves, try a painkiller, like acetaminophen. Some doctors suggest applying the liquid medicine directly onto your baby’s gums with a cotton swab.
If over-the-counter medication is not your speed, you might find success with the variety of available homeopathic options. Meltaway teething tablets, Camilia, Chamomilla, or Aconite drops help reduce swelling and relieve irritability.
There are countless time-honored, safe and effective home treatments you can employ. For example, you can soothe those nerve endings by rubbing a slice of peeled gingerroot on your baby’s gums. Other natural remedies include: ground cloves or allspice mixed with water to form into a paste, clove oil, or natural vanilla or almond extracts applied to gums with a cotton swab. All of these are available at your local health food store, or even in some pharmacies and Asian food stores. Dilute any herbal oils with olive oil or vegetable oil, and test first on your own gums for numbing capabilities.
Popsicles and freezies are a great way to numb those gums, especially if it’s hot outside. Make your own popsicles with fruit juice and you won’t have to feel too guilty about the sugar.
Go old school (really, really old, like antiquity)-
Teething necklaces have been all the rage for thousands of years. Traditional materials like amber and hazelwood are believed to reduce inflammation and acidity in the body. Beads made of these materials are strung and tied for security, and are then worn by the mother or baby – the idea is that the beads touch the skin; they’re not designed for chewing. Some people string whole cloves to create a low-budget version of this. If this isn’t appealing to you, look into the new trend of Mommy-bling. Stylish pendants and bracelets for mama, such as the ones found at Smart Mom Jewelry, are made from BPA-free (teething-safe) rubber. Your child is going to try to chew on your jewelry, anyway, you may as well make it worth everyone’s while!
You know that traditional silver rattle you received as a baby gift that gathers dust on the bookshelf? Well, it has a purpose – give it to that teething baby! The sound is entertaining, it’s easy for her to hold, and it can’t break or be destroyed by her tiny budding teeth. If your baby wasn’t born with a silver spoon (or rattle) in her mouth, a plain old stainless steel one will do the trick. Pop it in the fridge to give it that extra bit of comforting power.
Teething is not a new thing, though it might be new to you. There are plenty of age-old and sparkly-new options available to everyone. Find the choices that best suit you and your baby, and make the most of it.
Also, take lots of photos of the toothless and new-tooth smiles to remember fondly. Before you know it, you’ll be scheduling appointments with the tooth fairy, and that brings a whole new set of woes.