Think your baby might be about to cut his first tooth?
Before we dive into the actual symptoms of teething, there are some interesting things you might like to know about your teething baby.
You might have heard that the appearance of the first tooth means your baby should start to eat only solid foods. It’s a myth.
As you probably know, babies’ teeth buds form while they’re still in the womb. Some newborns are actually born with teeth.
If you’re breastfeeding, your baby’s new teeth are definitely not a sign from Mother Nature that it’s time to stop.
Common teething symptoms
Cutting teeth is a mysterious thing. Some babies breeze through it without batting an eyelid; for others, significant teething discomfort is present with each new tooth eruption.
Some parents are amazed to discover their infant, who went to bed with two teeth, woke up with four, without having shown any irritability.
Other babies seem to have a really hard time and need lots of help and soothing from their caregivers.
It’s exhausting and challenging when sleep deprivation and (what feels like) endless consoling and cuddling take their toll.
Find out more in our article 2 Things Your Baby’s First Teeth Are NOT Telling You.
When do babies start teething?
Most babies start teething very young. Usually, a baby’s first tooth erupts between four and seven months of age. However, some babies start teething earlier than that.
Every baby is different, though, and your infant might begin the process of teething even earlier. Sometimes you can see a little tooth in a child’s gums at birth.
Usually, the first to appear are the two lower front teeth (central incisors), followed by the two upper front teeth.
Some babies won’t get their first teeth until after 12 months of age.
Whenever your baby starts teething is all part of a natural process.
By the age of two and a half, your child will have a full set of twenty child’s teeth.
You might like to read BellyBelly’s article When Do Babies Start Teething?
How long do teething symptoms last?
For most babies, symptoms begin about three to five days before the tooth appears and then disappear when the tooth cuts through.
After cutting through the gum line, teeth take about 3 days to erupt fully.
Baby’s teething symptoms
Some babies don’t have any signs of teething and aren’t at all bothered by teething.
Others have a range of teething symptoms, which can cause myriad problems.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of teething – 9 signs baby is teething:
#1 Excessive drooling
Your baby might drool when teething starts.
If you have to change your baby’s outfit throughout the day because it is damp with drool, expect to find some baby teeth coming through in the not-too-distant future.
If the drool gives your infant a rash, try applying some coconut oil to the affected area. This should act as a natural barrier and allow the rash to heal.
Try using a bib or neckerchief to protect your baby’s clothes and keep a muslin cloth handy for mopping up that soggy chin.
You might like to read Teething Rash – Everything You Need To Know to learn more about drooling and teething rash.
If your baby isn’t his usual happy self, you’ll be the first to notice the change. It’s very likely that unusual fussiness and difficulty in settling are signals that the teething process is beginning.
Your baby might also be more clingy than usual. It won’t last forever but, in the meanwhile, you can provide him with the reassurance he needs by holding him in your arms and giving him extra cuddles.
#3 Sleep problems
‘Oh great, sleep problems’, said no parent, ever.
Disturbed sleep is probably one of the most difficult symptoms to cope with as a parent.
Unfortunately, your baby’s general fussiness during teething won’t disappear at bedtime, so you could find yourself consoling him in the wee hours, too. That means sleep deprivation for you, too, which is awful and can quickly make you feel like you’re losing your mind.
If emerging baby teeth are causing discomfort, your baby might feel happier with you nearby at night. Take turns with your partner so you can share the exhaustion. Sharing is caring, after all.
#4 Red cheeks
One of the signs of teething is redness on one, or both, cheeks when the teeth begin to come through the gum line. Your baby’s skin might also feel warm to the touch.
This symptom is generally harmless, but keep an eye out to monitor for other signs of illness, just in case, and check with your health care provider if you are unsure.
#5 Baby’s gums problems
Unsurprisingly, erupting teeth can irritate the gums and this can be the main cause of your baby’s discomfort. You might notice your baby’s tender gums look red and swollen. If you look carefully, you might be able to see a little ulcer on the gum where the tooth is about to appear.
#6 Chewing on anything and everything in sight
Teething babies often find chewing and biting help relieve the discomfort of sore gums.
During teething bouts, your baby will probably chew with extra enthusiasm on any toys and objects within reach.
There are plenty of teething rings and teething toys to choose from.
Most teething toys can be placed in the freezer for a couple of hours before use; cold is a great remedy for soothing sore gums.
Unfortunately, your baby’s constant chewing puts you at risk, too.
You might find your infant gumming down on your shoulder or arm during cuddles. It might sound cute, but you’ll be surprised at how strong your baby’s jaws are.
If your baby has started biting before or after feeds, it could be because of sore gums or teething pain. Try to keep a baby teething ring handy, so you can quickly swap your nipple for a toy when necessary.
For other useful advice, check out BellyBelly’s article Biting While Breastfeeding – 5 Tips To Stop It.
#8 Refusing solid foods
Babies who have started weaning sometimes refuse solid foods when they start teething.
If your baby’s gums are sore, biting and chewing might be uncomfortable.
Keep offering solid foods at regular intervals.
#9 Ear pulling
Teething pain radiates, so you might notice your baby pulling on his ear. He’ll usually pull on the ear closest to the erupting tooth.
Ear pulling can also be a symptom of ear infection, however, so keep an eye on your infant for any other signs, such as fever and cold symptoms.
If you notice other symptoms, or if you are concerned, see your health care provider.
How to care for your baby’s teeth
Making sure your baby has healthy teeth starts very early in life. The American Dental Association suggests you start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as the first one breaks through your child’s gums. Good oral hygiene is essential to maintain children’s oral health and prevent cavities.
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and do not use any toothpaste. Even non-fluoride toothpaste isn’t recommended for infants.
Book your baby’s first visit with a pediatric dentistry specialist, who will provide you with the best up-to-date parenting tips to help you look after your baby’s oral health.
Read more about this in When Do You Start Brushing Baby Teeth?
Can babies be sick from teething?
Some parents report their infants to have loose stools, a runny nose, and a high temperature as additional common signs and symptoms associated with cutting teeth.
These reports are seen as controversial; there’s no science to back up the connection with teething. Anecdotally, though, many parents claim teething causes these symptoms.
Some parents also report their babies have a cough that seems to come along with teething; this might be caused by swallowing excess saliva.
Pediatricians aren’t in agreement as to whether these are symptoms of teething, or whether teething makes many babies more prone to ear infections.
You know your baby best. If you think these symptoms are indicative of illness, talk to your doctor.
Baby teething remedies
The title of this section could be ‘How do I stop the crying?’ or ‘Please, send help!’
That’s because, after a few nights of no sleep, and being at the mercy of your miserable, clingy baby, you’ll probably do just about anything to offer him some pain relief.
Here are a few ideas for ways to help your baby deal with any discomfort and teething symptoms.
Fresh or frozen vegetables are a great, and cheap, alternative to a store-bought teething ring.
Refrigerated cucumber is great for babies to suck on because it’s soft and cold.
Pineapple is another excellent chilled food to use. It contains an enzyme, bromelain, which is a great anti-inflammatory that helps reduce swelling and inflammation in the body.
Pineapple is also packed with vitamin C and aids digestion.
Breast milk for a teething baby
Your breast milk is full of natural painkillers; if you breastfeed, this could be your secret weapon in the battle against teething pains.
During bouts of teething, you might find your baby hums while feeding; apparently, the vibrations help to soothe the gums.
Breastfeeding might also help your baby fall asleep.
Amber teething necklaces
Some mothers use amber teething necklaces around their baby’s neck and swear by them; others don’t find them helpful.
You can read more about them in Amber Teething Necklace – A Natural Teething Alternative.
Other methods to try
Placing your clean finger in your baby’s mouth as something to gnaw on could also give your infant a bit of relief.
Only try this before any new baby teeth come through; otherwise, you could end up with a nasty nip.
If you haven’t started weaning your baby yet, you might prefer to use a frozen wet washcloth as a teether.
The chewing helps to relieve the pain and the cold numbs the sore gums.
There are plenty of painkilling and numbing products on the market. Speak to your child’s pediatrician to find out which products are suitable for your baby.
Homeopathic teething tablets, such as Camilia, might help.
Gently rubbing teething gels on your baby’s gums might also offer some relief. Check this top-rated teething gel from Wink.
You might be familiar with Bonjela, but it’s essential to know that adult gel isn’t safe for children.
Numbing products can also numb your baby’s tongue and make breastfeeding difficult. They can also numb your nipple by transferral.
You can use pain relievers, such as infant ibuprofen or acetaminophen if your baby is over 6 months of age.
Remember, teething is a normal process and, if possible, try to leave your child free of medication as much as possible.
Plenty of cuddles
If cutting teeth is causing your baby lots of pain, keep trying different things to see which works best.
Your little one might be clingy while cutting those first molars, so make sure to give him lots of cuddles and reassurance.
One study found giving cuddles was one of the most effective methods to help infants who are distressed because of tender gums.
Even just being held can make babies feel less stressed.