Think your baby might be about to cut his first tooth?
Before we dive into the actual symptoms, 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, it causes significant discomfort.
Some parents are amazed to discover their infant went to bed with two teeth and woke up with four, without having shown any irritability.
Other babies really seem to have a 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.
Make sure you take time to recharge your batteries: even as little as five minutes can make a difference.
Find out more in our article Two Things Your Baby’s First Teeth Are Not Telling You.
When do babies start teething?
Most babies start teething very young: baby’s first teeth can erupt between four and seven months of age.
Every baby is different, though, and your infant might begin the process of teething even earlier.
Usually the first to appear are the two lower front teeth, followed by the two upper front teeth.
Some babies won’t get their first teeth until after 12 months of age. By the age of two and a half, your child will have a full set of twenty baby teeth.
How long do teething symptoms last?
For most babies, symptoms begin around 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.
How do I know if my baby is teething?
Some babies don’t have any symptoms and aren’t at all bothered by teething.
For others, sore gums can cause myriad problems.
Here are some of the most common complaints to look out for:
You’re the expert when it comes to your baby, so you can probably tell when something is amiss. If you think something isn’t right with your little one, baby’s teeth could be to blame.
If your baby seems clingier than usual or isn’t his usual happy self, those pesky peggies could be to blame. But don’t worry!
This clinginess won’t last forever but, in the meanwhile, holding your infant in your arms will give him the reassurance he needs.
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 cream 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.
‘Oh great, sleep problems’, said no parent, ever!
Disturbed sleep is probably one of the most difficult symptoms to cope with as a parent. Sleep deprivation is awful and can quickly make you feel like you’re losing your mind.
Unfortunately, your baby’s general fussiness won’t disappear at bedtime, so you could find yourself consoling him in the wee hours, too.
If those baby teeth are causing discomfort, your baby might feel happier with you nearby. Take turns with your partner so you can share the exhaustion; sharing is caring, after all.
Try to nap the next day so you can catch up on sleep. It won’t be easy, but this stage won’t last forever.
Lots of babies get one red cheek (or two) when their teeth begin to come through the gum line. The 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.
Unsurprisingly, erupting teeth can irritate the gums. You might notice your baby’s gums look swollen. If you look carefully, you might be able to see a little ulcer on the gum where the tooth is about to appear.
Chewing on anything and everything in sight
Teething babies often find chewing and biting helps relieve the discomfort in their gums.
During teething bouts, your baby will probably chew with extra enthusiasm on any toys and objects in the vicinity.
There are plenty of teethers and teething toys to choose from.
Most teething toys can be placed in the freezer for a couple of hours before use; this adds the extra benefit of numbing your baby’s gums.
Unfortunately, the 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.
Some babies gum down during breastfeeds too – ouch!
If your baby has started biting before or after feeds, it could be because of teething pain. Try to keep a teething toy handy, so you can quickly swap your nipple for a toy when necessary.
For other tips, check out this article about Biting While Breastfeeding.
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. Try placing cucumber sticks in the freezer for half an hour before offering them; the cold can soothe those sore gums.
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, so keep an eye on your infant for other signs, such as fever and cold symptoms.
If you notice other symptoms, or if you are concerned, see your family doctor or pediatrician.
What does teething feel like?
Remember that these new teeth are pushing through the gums for the first time, and paving the way for future teeth to come through.
You might remember getting some of your permanent teeth, or second molars, as a child, or even getting wisdom teeth as an adult.
The same discomfort is there for your sweet baby, but he doesn’t have the verbal skills to talk about it or even understand what is happening.
Check out our article Child’s Skull With Teeth – Creepy But Fascinating Images. You will certainly feel some sympathy for what your baby is going through.
Can babies be sick from teething?
Some parents report their infants to have loose stools, runny noses and high temperatures as additional signs and symptoms associated with cutting teeth.
These reports are seen as controversial; there’s no science to back them up. Anecdotally though, many parents claim teething causes the symptoms.
Some parents also report their babies to 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 babies more prone to infection.
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 relieve the pain.
Here are a few ideas for ways to help your baby deal with any discomfort and teething symptoms:
There are loads of different types of teethers on the market. From fun wild animal shaped teethers to the classic teething ring, parents swear by different types of teethers.
The ones you can freeze are good because the cold gently numbs your baby’s gums. Have a look at Amazon’s top-rated teething products for babies.
Fresh or frozen vegetables are a great, and cheap, alternative to store-bought teethers.
Refrigerated cucumber is great for babies to suck on because it’s soft and cold.
Pineapple is another excellent chilled food to use.
Pineapple has 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.
If you haven’t started weaning your baby yet, you might prefer to use a frozen washcloth as a teether.
Simply wet a clean washcloth, fold it and leave it in the freezer. When your baby is showing signs of discomfort, give him the washcloth to chew on.
The chewing helps to relieve the pain, and the cold numbs the sore gums.
Something to chew
Offering your clean finger as something to gnaw on could 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.
Your breast milk is full of natural painkillers, so 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.
Amber teething necklaces
Some mothers use amber teething necklaces and swear by them; others don’t find them helpful.
You can read about them more in our article and make up your own mind.
Over the counter products
There are plenty of painkilling and numbing products on the market. Speak to your pharmacist to find out which products are suitable for your baby.
Homeopathic remedies such as Camilia might help.
You can buy gels like 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 use on babies and 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.
Seek medical advice about doses for younger infants.
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 teething, 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.
It can be hard to look after a miserable baby, but remember, teething won’t last forever.
How to care for your baby’s new teeth
The American Dental Association recommends the following to care for baby teeth:
- Give your baby only breast milk, formula, water, and milk
- Don’t put juice or sweetened drinks in bottles
- Don’t put the baby to bed with a bottle
- Wipe baby’s gums with a clean washcloth or gauze after meals
- When your child’s teeth begin to come in, brush them gently, twice a day, with a small soft-bristled toothbrush