Teething is one of those baby milestones that elicits both excitement and concern from new parents. Watching that first pearly white pop through your little one's gums means they're inching closer to that moment when they can really chew food and explore tastes that don't have to be pureed to death. But there's also the worry about the pain those emerging chompers are causing, which can often result in sore gums, sleepless nights, and overall unhappiness.
Ask a seasoned parent about teething and everyone has an opinion or remedy they are willing to push. But just last month the FDA issued an urgent warning to caregivers about teething ointments containing the controversial ingredient benzocaine. So what's a parent with a fussy, teething baby to do?
Let's look at both the symptoms and infant-approved strategies for easing the stress.
Teething For Beginners
It's almost hard to believe, but your cutie was actually born with all 20 deciduous teeth lying just below their gumline, so those suckers are already in place to drop when the time is right. According to the American Dental Association, teething typically kicks off between six and 12 months, with a complete set of baby chompers in place by the tender age of 3 years old.
While the six to 12 month mark is what is considered typical for teething, there are some children who get a later start than others. In fact, Dr. William Sears told Parenting.com, there's some evidence that teething patterns are hereditary. He also notes that, unfortunately, late teethers are likely to experience more pain than those who fit the standard time frame, likely because their nubbins are coming through at one instead of slowly making their mark one at a time.
Symptoms And Signs
Generally speaking it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that your child is beginning to teethe. The symptoms may show themselves before the actual tooth does, but there are tell-tale signs that it's all happening.
Does your little dude or dudette seem a bit crankier than usual? Are your standard calming techniques losing their luster? It's possible a tooth is on its way. While it's no fun dealing with that tiny crab apple while they endure this natural rite of passage, know that this too shall pass. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
Babies drool. They drool a lot. While they're cutting teeth, it may look as though they are virtually a faucet of the stuff. If you notice an uptick in drool, it's likely a tooth is pushing through those tiny gums. In fact, you may feel like it's you against the drool, with the inability to change bibs fast enough to keep up with the stuff. Relax -- this is actually the least worrisome of the symptoms.
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If your cutie appears to be regressing in terms of sleep, waking up in fits of tears or restless in his or her crib, this could be a temporary phase due to teething. A sleepless night can also contribute to the crankiness they may be experiencing, and the grumpiness you're likely feeling as your slumber is interrupted as well.
Other signs your baby is teething include a loss of appetite, sore gums, and chewing on solid objects. If he or she is experiencing anything that feels out of the norm, consult your pediatrician.
As we mentioned earlier, the FDA strongly recommends avoiding teething products containing benzocaine, but there are still some drugstore and homespun remedies that are worth looking into to get your baby through this tough time.
Wellements Organic Baby Tooth Oil
Made with USDA certified organic ingredients, preservative-free, and non-GMO project verified, this tooth oil doesn't contain the forbidden benzocaine. It's formulated to be gentle on little gums and can be applied by rubbing 1 -2 drops directly onto gums. Sometimes the simple act of applying pressure to the gum area can ease discomfort (with or without a tooth oil).
If your kiddo is having a terrible time, the Mayo Clinic suggests offering the appropriate doses of acetaminophen (like infant Tylenol) or ibuprofren (such as infant Advil or Children's Motrin). The box should offer the recommended dose for your baby's age, but if there's any concern, consult your pediatrician before administering medicine.
They Mayo Clinic also suggests offering your child a cold washcloth, spoon or teething ring to help relieve sore gums. Despite the inclination to make these objects ice cold, dial back that thought. Do not put the spoon or teething ring in the freezer. Extreme cold can damage oral tissue permanently, so keep those ice cubes in their trays.
Dry the Drool
While the excessive drool seems innocent enough, it can really irritate baby's skin, adding another layer of discomfort. Try your best to keep his or her chin dry (we know this can feel like an impossible feat), and keep a water-based cream or lotion on hand to moisturize the area if irritation or dryness occurs.
Amber Teething Necklaces
When you really want to give a natural approach a try, a baby can wear an amber teething necklace, generally designed with Baltic amber, to minimize pain and tenderness of the gums. These necklaces contain an active ingredient called succinic acid, which is believed to have a mild numbing effect. When the necklace rubs against the baby's skin, it's thought that a small amount of the oils from this ingredient are absorbed into the skin and, in essence, reduces inflammation. There is no scientific evidence that these necklaces really work, but chances are you know a parent who swears by one. Experts are split on whether or not these are a viable option, but if you do choose to use one, WebMD recommends putting these necklaces around the wrist or ankle (not the neck) and only allowing your little to wear one when you can keep a close eye on them to prevent accidents like strangulation or swallowed beads.
If your child is already used to eating hard, solid foods, try offering a teething cracker (preferably something unsweetened) or a cold, peeled cucumber or carrot. Gnawing on these items can feel good against their gums, offering some much-needed comfort.
Do you have any tips that make this phase easier for toddlers and their parents? Let us know!