The dreaded teething process…as parents, we’ve all heard the horror stories of sleepless nights, uncontrollable crying, fevers, and unexplained illnesses. To make it worse, those tears aren’t just a one-time thing. Your baby has to go through it over and over again until all 20 teeth come in! What that adds up to is a lot of irritability and discomfort that we would like to help you alleviate with some of these tips.
The Teething Process
Before we get to the tips I think it’s important that we understand a little bit about the process itself. Babies can start teething as early as four months or not until after their first birthday. They can also vary on the age and order that successive teeth come in, and while we’re at it, each baby can vary in the symptoms of teething!
In general, a teething baby will be extra drooly, possibly even two months before the first tooth shows. Their gums will become swollen and red where the tooth will eventually show its face, and if you run your finger gently over the gum you will be able to feel the bumpy tooth bud as it makes its way to the surface. Your baby may try to help his teeth come in by chewing on things, especially hard objects like wood or plastic. If you haven’t been doing so already, it’s time to make sure all little choking hazard objects are off the floor or your baby will find them and put them straight into his mouth.
Teething can also disrupt your baby’s normal eating and sleeping routines. After all, who wants to eat with a mouthful of sore gums? Your baby may also be extraordinarily cranky due to discomfort and lack of sleep and some will even run low-grade fevers. Be aware that teething does not cause high fevers, vomiting or diarrhea as is widely thought. If your baby is experiencing any of those symptoms it may be best to talk to your pediatrician.
Helping Your Baby Through Teething
Now that we have a little background on teething, what can we do to help? There’s no way to prevent teething or bypass it completely, but you can help alleviate some of the discomfort. Your baby is already trying to do this by chewing on anything and everything in sight. Help by offering safer objects than your coffee table or the pebbles in your driveway.
But what teether do you choose? If you’ve ever made a trip down the baby isle you may have noticed there are at least half a million to choose from! All offer different versions of little bumps to massage sore and swollen gums. You can try picking out a few different ones to see which type your baby likes best. Some can be refrigerated to increase the benefit and the cold can be a little numbing. You can also try refrigerating a wet washcloth, spoon, or pacifier for the same effect. It’s best not to freeze teethers as this can make them too cold and actually damage a baby’s fragile gums.
If your baby is eating solids, you can offer him some food to chew on. Harder foods like large pieces of carrot can provide some relief as your baby gnaws on them. Cold cucumbers work too. Be careful that he isn’t able to bite pieces off and possibly choke on them. You can also look into using teething biscuits. Whether homemade or store bought, these hard biscuits are something firm and tasty to chew on but will dissolve instead of causing choking.
A little gum massage provided by you can help too. Just make sure to have clean hands and avoid her other teeth if she has them!
Helping Your Little Teether Get Some Sleep
The best advice for when your baby’s sleep patterns get disrupted by teething is to try to stick to the normal routine as much as possible. If your baby is used to a bath and story before bedtime, please continue. If he wakes up from discomfort during the night, comfort him as best you can with a gum massage, offer a cold teether, or even just a song in the rocking chair.
While there’s really nothing you can do that will have long lasting affects to help get him through the night, just being there for him when he needs you is important.
What Not To Do When Dealing With Teething
Choking is issue number one when it comes to alleviating teething. Since your baby is more apt to putting things in her mouth during this time, it becomes even more important that she doesn’t have access to such objects. Also, make sure the teethers you are giving her can’t have chunks bitten off them and swallowed. Make sure that someone is always watching her when she has something in her mouth and maybe brush up on the Heimlich Maneuver just in case.
I wish I had some magical advice that would make teething a blissful experience, but I don’t. I’m sorry to say that it might get a little rough just when you thought you had things pretty well figured out. Hopefully these tips will help smooth the rough patches and if nothing else, look at teething as a way of spending more time with your baby during those late night comfort sessions.