Teething is a natural process through which a baby's first teeth erupt from the gums. This milestone typically occurs between the ages of 6 to 12 months, though the timing can vary from one baby to another. As exciting as it is to witness those little pearly whites emerge, teething can be a challenging time for babies who may experience discomfort and irritability. Likewise, parents may find themselves at a loss for ways to soothe their teething baby.
In this blog, we will explore various aspects of teething and provide valuable insights and tips to navigate this phase successfully.
Teething can start as early as 3 months and continue up to 3 years of age. Common signs of teething include increased drooling, swollen gums, irritability, and a strong urge to chew on objects. It is essential for parents to understand that teething can be uncomfortable for babies, and their coping mechanisms might include fussiness and sleep disturbances. By recognising these signs, parents can better support their teething babies and alleviate their discomfort.
Soothing Techniques for Teething Babies
To help ease the discomfort of teething, there are various soothing techniques parents can try. Teething toys, made from safe materials, provide babies with something safe to chew on, which helps relieve pressure on their gums. Cold objects, such as a clean, damp washcloth or a chilled teething ring, can also provide temporary relief.
Some parents opt for natural remedies like chilled fruit or teething biscuits, but it's crucial to ensure the baby is supervised while using them to avoid choking hazards. On the other hand, certain teething gels and medications should be avoided, as they may contain ingredients that can harm the baby.
Teething Gels and Powders
When faced with a teething baby in distress, parents often seek products designed to alleviate discomfort and soothe their little one's gums. Teething gels and powders are among the many options available in the market. While some parents swear by their effectiveness, it's essential to understand the pros and cons of these products before use.
Teething Gels: Teething gels are topical solutions containing numbing agents such as benzocaine or lidocaine. When applied to the baby's gums, these gels temporarily numb the area, providing relief from teething pain.
A brand we recommend is Dentinox Teething Gel.
Teething Powders: Teething powders are another option that some parents consider for soothing their teething baby. These powders often contain natural ingredients like chamomile or clove oil, which are believed to have mild numbing properties and anti-inflammatory effects.
For teething powders, we recommend Ashtons & Parsons Teething Powders.
Safety Considerations: When using any teething product, it is vital to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Always use the recommended dosage and avoid using adult products on babies and young children.
Additionally, monitor your baby closely after applying any teething gel or powder to watch for adverse reactions. If you notice any unusual symptoms or signs of discomfort, discontinue use immediately and seek medical advice.
Natural Alternatives: Instead of relying solely on teething gels or powders, many parents prefer natural alternatives for their teething baby.
Cold teething rings or chilled washcloths can offer relief by numbing the gums naturally.
Massaging the baby's gums with a clean finger can also provide comfort and help break down the surface tension of the gums.
Natural remedies like teething biscuits made from safe ingredients or chilled fruit pieces can provide gentle relief for teething babies.
Teething Rings and Their Safety
Teething rings are a popular choice for teething babies as they provide a safe surface for chewing. When choosing teething rings, opt for those made from non-toxic, BPA-free materials. Additionally, ensure that the teething ring does not present any small parts that could pose a choking hazard.
Oral Care for Teething Babies
Even before the appearance of the first tooth, parents should start cleaning their baby's gums gently after feedings. Once the first tooth emerges, it's time to introduce a soft-bristled baby toothbrush and a small smear of fluoride toothpaste for cleaning.
Cultivating good oral hygiene habits from an early age sets the foundation for healthy teeth and gums throughout life.
Proper Diet for Teething Babies
During the teething phase, babies may experience a decreased appetite due to sore gums. It's essential to offer soft and soothing foods that are gentle on their mouths.
Mashed fruits, cooked vegetables, and smooth purees can be excellent options. Avoid giving hard, chewy, or sticky foods, as they may exacerbate teething discomfort or pose a choking hazard.
Coping with Irritability and Fussiness
Teething can be an emotionally challenging time for both the baby and the parents. Irritability and fussiness are common reactions to the discomfort caused by teething. To cope with these challenging moments, parents can offer extra cuddles, soothing lullabies, and engaging distractions to divert the baby's attention from the discomfort.
Teething Complications and When to Seek Help
While most teething discomfort is normal and temporary, some complications may arise. Teething can cause mild symptoms like a low-grade fever, but high fever, severe diarrhoea, or excessive vomiting are not typical signs of teething and may indicate another issue. If a baby experiences these severe symptoms, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly.
Teething and Drooling
Drooling is a common occurrence during teething. Babies' increased saliva production can lead to constant drooling, which may cause skin irritation. To manage drooling, parents can keep a clean cloth or bib on hand to wipe the baby's mouth regularly. Applying a barrier cream like petroleum jelly can also help protect the skin from irritation.
Teething and Fever
Many parents worry when their teething baby develops a low-grade fever. However, research suggests that teething does not directly cause fevers above 38°C. Teething may cause a slight increase in body temperature, but significant fever should not be attributed solely to teething. If the baby has a fever above 38°C it is essential to monitor their symptoms and consult a healthcare professional if needed.
Teething and Diarrhoea
Some believe that teething can cause diarrhoea, but there is limited scientific evidence to support this claim. Teething may cause babies to produce more saliva, which could lead to loose stools, but it does not cause true diarrhoea. If a baby experiences persistent or severe diarrhoea, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause.
Teething and Ear Pulling
During teething, some babies may develop a habit of pulling or tugging at their ears. While this behaviour can be concerning for parents, it is not directly related to teething. Ear pulling in teething babies may be a sign of self-soothing or simply a coincidence. If there are no other concerning symptoms, such as ear discharge or persistent crying, ear pulling during teething is likely not a cause for alarm.
Teething and Speech Development
Teething can coincide with significant milestones in a baby's speech development. As babies explore their mouths during this time, they may babble more and experiment with different sounds. Engaging in interactive and communicative activities with the baby can support their language development and promote early communication skills.
Bonus Tip: Soothing a Teething Baby at Night
Teething discomfort can be particularly challenging for both babies and parents, especially during the night when sleep is essential for everyone's well-being. While it's normal for teething babies to experience disrupted sleep patterns, there are several strategies parents can employ to help soothe their little ones and promote better sleep during this phase.
- Gentle Bedtime Routine: Establishing a soothing bedtime routine can signal to your baby that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Dim the lights, play calming music, and engage in relaxing activities such as reading a bedtime story or gentle rocking. A consistent routine can provide comfort and familiarity, making it easier for your teething baby to settle down.
- Offer a Warm Bath: A warm bath before bedtime can help relax your teething baby's muscles and ease any tension caused by teething discomfort. The warm water can provide a soothing sensation and create a calming environment before heading to bed.
- Use a Teething Toy or Cold Washcloth: Provide your baby with a safe teething toy or a clean, chilled washcloth to chew on before bedtime. The gentle pressure on the gums can alleviate discomfort and offer a comforting distraction.
- Massage the Gums: Gently massaging your baby's gums with a clean finger can help reduce teething pain. Use a light circular motion on the affected areas to soothe your baby and provide relief.
- Apply a Teething Gel (if safe): If your pediatrician approves the use of teething gels containing safe ingredients, consider applying a small amount to your baby's gums before bedtime. Follow the recommended dosage and guidelines provided by the manufacturer and your healthcare professional.
- Offer a Comforting Snuggle: Sometimes, all a teething baby needs is a comforting snuggle from a parent. Holding your baby close and providing gentle reassurance can help them feel secure and loved, easing any discomfort or anxiety they may be experiencing.
- Elevate the Head of the Crib: Elevating the head of the crib slightly can help alleviate any potential discomfort from teething. A slight incline can prevent excess saliva from pooling in the baby's mouth, reducing the chances of coughing or choking during sleep.
- Keep the Room Comfortable: Ensure that the baby's sleep environment is comfortable and conducive to restful sleep. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature, eliminate excessive noise, and use soft, breathable bedding.
- Offer a Dreamfeed: If your baby wakes up during the night due to teething discomfort, offering a dreamfeed (a feeding without fully waking the baby) can help soothe them back to sleep. The closeness and comfort of nursing or bottle-feeding can help them settle down faster.
- Be Patient and Understanding: Remember that teething is a temporary phase, and your baby's sleep disruptions will likely improve as the teething process progresses. Be patient and understanding during this time, providing your little one with the extra love and care they need.
Teething is an essential phase in a baby's life that can be both exciting and challenging for parents. Understanding the signs and symptoms of teething and implementing soothing techniques can help ease the baby's discomfort. Creating a nurturing environment with plenty of love and care during this time will ensure a smoother teething journey for both the baby and the parents.
- Can teething cause a high fever in babies? Teething may cause a slight increase in body temperature, but it does not typically cause high fevers. If your baby has a fever above 38°C, it's essential to monitor their symptoms and consult a healthcare professional if needed.
- How can I help my teething baby sleep better? Establishing a soothing bedtime routine can help your teething baby relax before sleep. You can also gently massage their gums with a clean finger or use a teething toy to ease discomfort before bedtime.
- When should I start cleaning my baby's mouth before the first tooth emerges? You should start cleaning your baby's gums gently after feedings even before the first tooth appears. Use a clean, damp cloth or a soft infant toothbrush to wipe their gums gently.
- My baby is pulling on their ears during teething. Is this normal? Ear pulling during teething is not directly related to teething and may be a coincidence or a form of self-soothing. If there are no other concerning symptoms, it is likely not a cause for alarm. However, if you have any concerns, consult your paediatrician for reassurance.