There are lots of things that parents can do to help soothe their teething baby. Knowing what can help, and what could potentially be harmful, can be a little confusing.
But First, Remember...
- Some babies grow through their teething stages with no fuss at all. Others seem to really struggle and need extra soothing and comfort.
- The key to offering teething help is to balance providing emotional support with easing physical discomfort. Too much of one, and not enough of the other, won’t help your baby as much as they need.
- It’s normal for babies who are teething to want to bite and chew more than they usually do. Teething is one of the first times many babies even become conscious of their mouth. It also coincides with wanting to place everything into their oral cavity. So don’t be concerned if their focus, as well as your own, seems to be very much orally fixated for a few months.
However your baby responds during bouts of teething, know this to be true:
- Teething is a normal developmental phase
- Baby teeth are precious and need looking after
What Are Some Baby Teething Tips?
- Extra cuddles and nurturing are important when teething. You may find your baby’s routine disrupted, and they just want to sit and be held by you. Teething doesn’t last forever and generally occurs at specific ages and stages. When your baby is happier, just resume their usual routine. In the meantime, aim for a simple life and know that teething phases come and go.
- Cool foods and teething rings help to soothe inflamed and sore gums. However, be careful they aren’t too cold, causing extra discomfort. Some babies develop a preference for chewing on a particular toy, and don’t care about anything else but their favourite. Be open to what suits them and makes them happy.
- Don’t assume your baby’s elevated temperature or other symptoms are due to teething. A low grade fever can be normal during teething. However, vomiting, diarrhoea, a body rash or other symptoms are not teething-related. It’s important to have your baby checked by a doctor if they are unwell or if you are at all concerned.
Tips to Help with Teething Discomfort
Offer your baby foods to chew on such as...
- Teething rusks
- Cold, cut up fruits and vegetables. Cucumber, watermelon, rock melon, frozen banana pieces and celery are all good options.
- If your baby is bottle fed, fill a bottle with water, place a teat and cap on it and position upside down in the freezer. The frozen water within the teat provides a cooling surface for the baby’s mouth.
Offer your baby things to chew on such as...
- Wet, frozen face washers or soft muslin squares, kept until needed in the freezer. Slightly warm in your own hands before offering to your baby for a chew.
- Teething rings. A good option is to look for ones which contain (sterile) water and which can be placed in the fridge or freezer.
- Soft toys which have a bit of resistance when bitten down on.
- Rub the pad of your (clean) thumb against your baby’s gums.
Some babies are helped by getting their mind off what’s going on in their mouth, and focusing on something else entirely. Playing games, going for a walk, offering some food, or another milk feed are all good options.
You may choose to give analgesia medication in the recommended dose for your baby’s weight. Speak with a pharmacist or doctor about what’s right for your baby.
Often, breastfeeding mothers feel the presence of their baby’s teeth before they have seen them. If your baby bites during breastfeeds, quietly take them off the breast. Stop the feed and then resume a little while later. Most babies get the hint fairly quickly and learn to link action with consequences.
Cleaning Your Baby’s Teeth
Every baby tooth is precious and plays an important role in eating, chewing and the development of speech. Baby teeth can start to decay as soon as they erupt from the gum margin.
Any food can contribute to decay; however sugary, sticky foods are the biggest culprits. If you can see a tooth, it needs cleaning. Baby teeth are particularly prone to decay and it’s important to remove any food or plaque on their teeth to help prevent infection, cavities (holes) and pain. Wiping each tooth over with a soft cloth at bath time or a clean gauze pad twice a day is enough in the early stages of teething when a little mouth can be sensitive.
Alternately, a very soft children’s toothbrush is ideal. You don’t need to use children’s toothpaste until around 18 months of age; however, speak with your own dentist about this. Some children are more prone to tooth decay than others, and not all areas have fluoride added to town water. Early decay is a risk factor for poor oral health and it pays to invest in baby teeth. Decayed baby teeth can also damage permanent teeth.
Ways to Reduce the Risk of Baby Tooth Decay
- Avoid putting your baby’s teats, dummies or cutlery in your own mouth.
- Don’t put your baby’s dummy or teats into honey or glycerin.
- Don’t give your baby fruit juice or tea to drink.
Take your baby for their first dental visit when their first tooth erupts, or by 12 months of age.
Make an appointment with your child health nurse for more information about your baby’s teething. Also speak with your dentist for specific information about your baby’s teeth.