Have a cranky, sometimes inconsolable little one with tender, swollen gums, and lots of drool? Chances are he or she is teething. Many mothers will do just about anything to offer a bit of relief for their young one during this difficult time. And although every baby is different and no one truly knows how long teething will last, one thing is for sure, that it will not last forever.
But if the sight of this bundle of joy in pain is too much to bear, and in the meantime, while sleep is interrupted and just about everything is getting gnawed on, we have compiled some rather unconventional methods of soothing an irritable teething child that many cultures use around the world. If scouring the globe for something to keep your baby soothed as he cuts his first teeth sound like a good idea, pack your bags! Here is a look at 19 traditional teething remedies from around the world and a list of which ones actually work!
Warning: food and drink based propositions for teething relief are only suitable for children who are old enough to eat, drink, and digest food. Please speak with your pediatrician before trying one of these remedies.
20 Hide An Egg Outside
An old African tradition stemming from the Western Sub-Saharan region that made its way to the Carribean and some areas around the United States suggests that the cure for a teething baby lies in the hidden egg. Placing an egg in a sock and hanging it outside of the room where your baby sleeps is said to help alleviate the symptoms of teething. Symptoms like excessive crying, crankiness, and trouble sleeping are said to disappear like magic and go into the egg. "When all of your baby's teeth come in, crack the egg and you will find the yolk is gone," women in a southern Guinean village say.
19 Grandma Says, Try Some Orris Root
A French tradition is to give babies orris root, or racine d'iris bio as its known in France when signs of teething begin to appear. The orris root grows exclusively in Southwest Europe and is considered a "grandmother recipe to soothe teething babies" by many French mothers. Its healing properties have been known to release an active ingredient found in the root that will cut down the inflammation, relieving painful gums in teething infants. Do not give this to children who already have teeth since the root is meant to be used to suck on with raw gums and not to eat.
18 An Age-Old Remedy For The Gums
In many African American families in the Southern United States, brandy was used to calm a fussy baby. Parents did not take shots with their infant children, instead, they dipped their finger in the sweet, distilled, fruit juice and gently massaged it on their children's gums to numb the pain and ease fussiness. One could apply directly before bed and as many times as needed until all the baby's teeth would come in. Today very few families continue with this tradition, but it is difficult to go to the south and not find at least five people over 40 whose parents did not use brandy on their gums.
17 Honey, Baby
In the Islands off the Western Coast of Africa, namely Cape Verde, the Portuguese colony uses honey to help appease a teething baby. A gentle brush of honey is said to distract babies from the pain, while the antibacterial properties ensures for a speedy and painless push through of a baby's teeth. Honey is inexpensive and 100% natural on the island, with no additives or preservatives, and many households know the person who collected it. But one should be careful about giving honey to infants under 1 year of age since honey can contain a small strain of bacteria called clostridium botulinum which can attack a developing baby's brain cells.
16 The Ice Water Rag
An old British classic is a cold washcloth for your fuzzy teething troubles. A cold washcloth dipped in cold water, then frozen can be a great solution to a baby's tender gums during teething. The best part? You don't have to assist your little one while they are getting some relief, you can just hand them the cloth and have them go at it. Cloths should be 100% cotton to avoid any nasty chemicals from going into baby's system and cleaned thoroughly before use. Be careful not to over freeze your washcloths, the porous material from washcloths that are frozen solid can stick to your baby's gums and further irritate them.
15 A Breastmilk Popsicle, Please
Little ones really like the sensation of cold things on their gums to help ease the pain when they're teething. What better way to help them cool off in the summer months and ease their sore gums than a breastmilk popsicle?! Breastmilk popsicles are delicious and nutritious and simple to make. Just get a mold, pour in some breastmilk, freeze and serve. For smaller babies consider pouring milk into ice trays and use their pacifiers as the handle for this breastmilk popsicle. Careful though, as they thaw, they can make quite a mess on and around your little one.
14 Never-Fail Teething Toys
All over the world parents use teething toys to help soothe their little one's gums while simultaneously improving their dexterity. Teething toys come in a huge array of choices, from soft silicon, to mesh, to hard and ribbed, rattles and rings and everything in between. Teething toys are a great distraction for the teething baby. Some teething toys contain water and can be frozen for real relief on sensitive gums. But because the industry has so many options, it can take some time before you find one your baby will really enjoy. Not all teethers are safe for a baby, be sure to read labels and make sure they are all BPA approved and non-toxic.
13 Immune-Boosting Amber
The people of the Baltic States in Northern Europe use amber to treat a wide array of illnesses in children, including teething. They say the remedy to teething is in the natural stone. Amber should be worn on the child's person and over time parents should be able to see a difference in their child's behavior. They are said to become less fussy and more immune to the negative effects of teething. Succinic acid that is found inside of the amber stone boosts the immune system and has been shown to reduce swelling and pain in teething children which also reduces drooling and fussiness. Many companies have made the amber into necklaces, bracelets, and teething rings for children.
12 A Medical Solution To Be Avoided At All Costs
For many years moms and dads in the United States used orajel and other oral medicines containing Benzocaine to help soothe their teething child. Recently the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning urging parents not to use this medicine for babies under 24 months of age as it could cause a condition known as methemoglobinemia. Babies with methemoglobinemia suffer from not enough oxygen in their blood, they may be short of breath or pale and in some cases, their reaction can be fatal. Studies from the FDA also link orajel to seizures in infants. Please see a pediatrician before using this gel that many parents have come to lean on when their child starts teething.
11 A Classic Cold Spoon
A quick no-nonsense approach to teething is using a cold spoon on your child's gums. Many moms from many different cultural backgrounds use this method. Using a refrigerated spoon can have the same effects as a chilled teether to help numb a baby's sore gums. Simply place a clean spoon in the refrigerator and allow it to chill for several minutes then take it out and rub it along your baby's sore gums. However, it is ill-advised to use a spoon in your child's mouth once they grow teeth because if they are not careful, a cold spoon could chip their teeth.
10 Breastfeeding As A Natural Option
For breastfeeding moms, La Leche League advises that one of the best things you can do for a teething baby is to nurse. Be careful though, teething babies have been known to knaw on moms nipples as they wait for their teeth to come in. But it's a small price to pay for a less fussy, and overall happier baby. As teething advances, there will be times when your little one will have little to no interest in nursing and may just prefer to use your nipple as a pacifier. This is okay too, just continue to count your baby's wet and soiled diapers and enjoy the extended bonding time.
9 Camilia Is Good For The Saliva Too
When in doubt go all natural when caring for your little one. Camilia is a homeopathic drop used in the United States to help babies battle the uncomfortable side effects of teething, like sleeplessness, crankiness, and gum irritation. Camilia is made of naturally-sourced active ingredients including water, Chinese rhubarb, pokeweed, and the chamomile plant. Use of the drops has no known side effects. It can be used with other medications and will not numb your baby’s throat or interfere with normal gag reflexes. The drop also helps relieve digestive pain that could be associated with teething and the increased saliva.
8 Kokeshi Dolls Are A Good Idea
In Japan, children use wood to soothe their teething gums. Kokeshi dolls are ancient Japanese wooden figures coated with beeswax used for teething and for play. Though the dolls are more of a collector's item today, wooden teethers are still used to this day. The dolls come in a variety of shapes and sizes and even are made for both boys and girls. So parents, not in Japan but need some relief for your teething baby? Wooden teething toys come in funs shapes and allow for safe chewing while babies prepare for their teeth to come in. Many parents boast about the natural benefits of wood as an alternative to plastic.
7 Catnip Is Not Just For Cats
Families in the Middle East and Eastern Europe use catnip to help calm their fussy teething babies. Sounds crazy? Well, catnip is a plant that has been shown to help with childhood ailments like coughs, asthma, and colic. Traditionally, catnip is also said to gently lower a fever, settle a tummy, and calm a fussy baby. Catnip, is actually what many mothers in other parts of the world choose to help their children get through the moodiness that comes along with teething. To use it, simply brew it like tea, steep a cloth in the brew, remove, and then let the cloth sit in the refrigerator until it is cold. This should only be given to babies who are already old enough to eat.
6 Just Give 'Em Some Cheese
One mom says her son found his own method for combatting his teething pain. "Block cheese! Every time I opened the refrigerator or freezer my baby would go to it, one day he pulled out frozen block cheese and has been gumming it since. When he's finished each day I put it back, and the same thing every day," exclaimed mother of two Deloris Hills in a Facebook post. Though this is one mother's experience, frozen fruit and vegetable purees given to children through mesh feeders are just a few more alternative methods many parents use to help provide nutrients while soothing teething babies.
5 Try Freezing Some Chamomile Tea
In much of Europe, Chamomile, known to many as German Camomile is used to ease children's sore gums. European moms use the chamomile plant to make a tea and then make popsicles for their children out of the brew. Other moms from the few Asian countries where the plant grows, use the brew to massage into their children's tender gums. The last alternative is what is advised in Western Europe, placing drops of the natural tea into their baby's mouths several times a day as needed. The chamomile plant is a natural sleep aid and anti-inflammatory.
4 Teething Biscuit Is Not Just A German Treat Anymore
One must look to Germany and thank them for their crisp, crunchy and slightly sweet traditional toast used for a teething biscuit. The Zwieback comes from German words zwei "two" and backen "to bake" because the process of making the toast requires it to be baked twice. The bread is sold in the baby aisle at supermarkets in many developed countries. And children especially like the bread for it's sweet and crunchy nature. Chomping on this toast makes a fun way to beat teething pain. Your kids will also appreciate the snack. Caution: children should only try this teething method when they are old enough to digest solid food.
3 Some Good Ol' Acupressure
Looking for a way to beat teething that's a bit off the beaten path? Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) rely on acupuncture and acupressure to give teething babies some soothing relief. According to TCM beliefs, energy channels that pass through the gums are directly connected to the stomach and large intestines. When there is stagnant energy and "extra heat" in these channels, teething irritation and inflammation can occur. To relieve teething symptoms, acupuncturists may place needles at certain points on the body to get the energy flowing again or use acupressure to massage the energy points. Not so into sticking your little one with needles? Try acupressure instead and gently massage your child's legs, toes, and points between the thumb and first finger for some relief.
2 Feed 'Em Some Cloves
In India, traditional medicine uses hundreds of different spices and herbs for healing. For teething infants, cloves are used to reduce inflammation and soothe sore gums. Moms in the large South Asian country use ground cloves to make a simple paste by adding water and mixing the two ingredients together. With a clean finger, gently massaging a small portion of paste onto a baby's gums is said to provide instant relief. As with all other food items, try in small doses first to see if your child has any irritants to the spice before applying to his or her entire mouth.
1 So... Which of These Actually Works?
Giving your child anything cold for their teething gums is a pretty safe bet when you're looking for something calming and effective. So frozen herbs, veggies, and breastmilk can all be counted as a yes. Sadly, they won't really help with sleep, though. The orris root is raved about by so many moms it's hard to imagine it not working. And lastly, breastfeeding and the intimate connection with mom is the one safe sure way to ensure your teething baby will find comfort and drift to sleep. How long they will be asleep for, however, is an entirely another story.
References: personal experience in different locations asking about local customs, Camilia.com, FDA.gov and orajel.com