How can I help my teething baby?
Some babies are born with teeth, others won’t get their first tooth until they are a year old. For the majority of infants though, teething starts between four and six months of age and can continue through to the third birthday. Anthea Savage shares her tips.
What are the symptoms?
Some indicators that your baby is teething are excessive drooling, irritability and sharp cries, pulling their ear, restlessness, biting down hard on objects, and wanting to chew anything in sight. A hot/flushed cheek on the affected side, going off their milk and food, and a slightly elevated temperature (between 37 and 38 degrees Celsius) are also symptoms. A mild rash can also develop around the mouth, due to skin irritation that is caused by excessive drooling or dribbling.
Why is my baby in pain?
Movement within the developing jaw bone causes soreness and swelling of the gums before a tooth comes through. These symptoms usually begin about three to five days before the tooth shows, and they disappear as soon as the tooth comes through. Pain is often associated more with large molars, since they cannot penetrate through the gums as easily as the other teeth. Teeth often arrive in pairs.
Some teeth come through with no pain at all, while others can cause a lot of distress and discomfort for your baby. Some people attribute a wide range of symptoms to teething, such as diarrhoea and fever, but there is no research to prove this. You know your baby best – and if their behaviour seems unusual, or symptoms are severe or causing you concern, then seek medical advice.
How can I help my baby feel better?
If you suspect your baby’s discomfort is caused by teething, rub a clean finger along the gum to feel for ridges or swelling. If a big hug and some distractive play won’t pacify them, try some of these tried and tested remedies for relief:
Massage: Rub his gums gently with your finger or give a teether for him to chew on for some comfort or mild distraction.
Chilled items: Teethers, soothers or a clean face cloth direct from the fridge (not the freezer) can be soothing on hot and swollen gums, as can a chilled drink of water, yoghurts and fruit purées. Items direct from the freezer are too hard and can damage your baby’s gum.
Fruit/veg: A raw carrot stick or piece of apple can be a great comforter for sore gums, but make sure your baby is sitting upright and being supervised when they are chewing on these items. Try to avoid sugary foods which can cause tooth decay.
Herbal teething powders: These can have a mild calming effect on some babies and promote restfulness.
Anaesthetic gels: These can be used on babies from three months of age and act as a numbing agent to dull the nerves in the gums. Apply directly to the gum with a clean finger, as instructed on the packaging.
Medicine: If your baby is in pain, or experiencing a slight temperature, you may want to give a suitable paracetamol or ibuprofen. Aspirin should not be given to children under the age of 16 because it can potentially increase their risk of developing a rare but serious condition called Reye’s syndrome (which can cause serious liver and brain damage).
It is important that any medicine is administered exactly as per the instructions on the packaging. Speak to your pharmacist about the options available.