Teething was a tough phase that I remember very well for my little one.
At first it was hard to tell if he was in fact teething. But, I noticed a complete change in his happiness, an almost constant river of drool, and him wanting to chew on my fingers or anything and everything for that matter.
With those signs, I knew for sure it was time!
On one hand, he was lucky to start getting his teeth in early because he got it over with. He had a mouth full, and that tough time was over for our entire household, sooner rather than later. It wasn’t an easy few months, especially for him.
Relief was not hard to find for my guy with a lot of things we already had in our home. I’ll share these methods along with my son’s favorites and some others.
Hopefully you can provide some relief for your little one and secure some solid sleep for your entire household.
The tell-tale signs of teething.
Most infants begin show signs around 3 to 4 months old, and there are some tell-tale signs.
You may notice your baby putting his/her fingers in the mouth frequently. This is a way of massaging the gums. In clinical practice, I have occasionally seen this behavior as young as 10 weeks old.
Despite the finger “chewing” and increased drooling, the first infant tooth typically does not erupt until 6 months old. In other infants, the first teeth do not appear until the first birthday.
Here is a teething chart from by the American Academy of Pediatrics which details this further:
The dreaded teething pain.
Teething pain typically develops a few months after what I call “happy drooling” teething.
Your previously cheerful infant will experience random periods of crying or screaming throughout the day.
At night, he or she may wake and cry every hour from teeth movement under the gums during sleep.
Teething pain waxes and wanes. For example, your infant may be very uncomfortable for three or four days, then seem undisturbed by teething during the remainder of the week.
Once one or two teeth erupt, the next few may not appear for several weeks or months. Among the patients I see in practice, larger teeth such as molars tend to be the most painful.
It is also important to note that every baby experiences pain differently.
Some may seem particularly bothered by their sore gums, while others occasionally wince from pain but are otherwise cheerful. It is a good idea to keep this in mind when choosing how to best manage teething pain.
The AAP offers good advice which will be discussed in more detail below:
Cold food or drink will help with swollen gums.
I know whenever I have injured myself, ice would help relieve any swelling and pain quickly.
Not only does it reduce swelling , but it also kind of numbs the area and helps any throbbing pain to go away. Below are some cold foods many of us have at home that could provide relief.
- Try a cold carrot. They are natural and safe to let your baby just “go to town” on.
- A frozen waffle or bagel. Again, hard and safe to chew on while easy to grip.
- Cold cut up cucumber slices. Cucumbers are also thought to have anti-swelling properties in them.
- A frozen cheese stick if it is age appropriate. Cheese is typically introduced into the diet around 9 months old. Be sure to use a “sealed-packaged,” pasteurized version due to the risk of bacterial infections that can be particularly harmful for infants. You can also serve it unfrozen, but frozen may provide the chill longer.
- Cold celery. Not only is it cold but it is sturdy and the pressure from biting will also give relief.
- A cold pickle. This one may depend on your baby’s palette and preference.
- Cold soft foods like applesauce and yogurt. It’s a yummy snack with cold relief.
- Cold water in a sippy cup w/ ice cubes. Your little one can chew on the cup and enjoy cool relief.
- Frozen fruit juice slushy. You can make your own combo of fruit and freeze your blend in a 4 oz. zip-lock storage container. Then, slightly thaw and serve it when needed. Frozen slushy pears mixed with apples were one of my son’s favorites.
- Frozen breast milk. You can freeze this just the same as the fruit slushies and serve.
Chill familiar household items.
- A washcloth. Simply wet part of the cloth, stick it in a zip-lock for protection,and freeze it. Then, remove the cloth from the zip-lock and let your baby chew away.
- A frozen pacifier. This one worked great and was one of my son’s favorites. You simply dunk it in water to let some of it soak in, then freeze it.
- A frozen baby spoon. A cold spoon is also easy to hold and can hold the chill for a good while.
Mesh and Non-Mesh Food Teethers Can Work Wonders.
- There are some mesh teething products on the market like the Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder and the Sassy Baby Teething Feeder. You can easily fill it with fruit and serve it cold or frozen for delicious relief. Some moms do find these hard to clean and may pass.
- My son’s ultimate favorite teether was the Boon Pulp Silicon Feeder. It was not messy, easy to clean, and just awesome! I usually stuffed it with banana or strawberries, and froze it. My son loved his frozen fruit-sicles.
- Rubbing their gums. Simply doing so with a clean finger tip can help. Of course, this is before the teeth break through the gums.
- Hard teething toys. These can give relief simply from the pressure they give back when your baby bites them. There are so many on the market. However, you may want to review what materials they are made of for overall safety purposes as with all products.
- Organic and natural plush teething blankets. These are also a great remedy, providing a softer pressure on your baby’s gums. For example, the Teething Blankie by Apple Park Organic Farm Buddies.
- Wooden teethers are also a safe alternative. teethers, for example, can come unfinished or finished with organic flax seed oil.
- Teething crackers and biscuits are another way your baby can apply pressure to the gums. They start off hard and then slowly melt away. There are many different brands on the market.
Many parents express to me a concern about the risk of choking from these types of foods.
Fortunately, they are designed to quickly dissolve from saliva, preventing small pieces from breaking off and becoming a danger.
- A nice warm bath. Parenting.com suggested a warm bath to distract a teething baby. This gives them the chance to take their mind off the pain by splashing around. I know this is something I enjoy after an achy day.
- Breastfeeding. Also suggested by Parenting.com, simply holding your little one close and breastfeeding them can help soothe them.
- Dry the drool. Excessive drool is a large part of the teething process. Keeping it wiped up will prevent skin irritation which will only make the process more of an ordeal for your little one. If you are unable to keep up with the amount of drool before irritation develops, I recommend the application of gentle emollient ointments to protect cheeks and chins. Bibs can be used to prevent irritation on the chest and belly.
- Teething gel. On the tough nights when my son would cry out in agony I would use Baby Orajel Naturals Gel. It’s made of a homeopathic formula and was easy to rub in, and I noticed it gave him relief quickly. Usually, I would put some on right after he finished his bottle and before I laid him in his crib.
Orajel Naturals is the one topical teething gel that I do still recommend for my patients It is free of belladonna, caffeine and benzocaine. Benzocaine is an anesthetic ingredient that was previously used in infant teething remedies. It’s not longer used do to the risk of seizures or a condition called methemaglobinemia.
Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP
Acetaminophen is appropriate for infants of any age, but ibuprofen should not be given prior to 6 months old. This is due to lack of maturity of the kidneys, the primary way ibuprofen is metabolized from the body. Also, the packaging of these mediations often gives dosing based on age rather than weight. It is important to discuss the weight appropriate dose with your pediatrician.
Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP
Other Natural Remedies.
- Chamomile tea, tincture and oil may be something to consider for teething relief. According to Livestrong.com, it is recommended by pediatric specialists at the University of Michigan. Unlike some other herbal remedies, chamomile is both safe and effective in reducing inflammation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/
What’s NOT recommended.
Dr. Leah Alexander has some recommendations for teething relief that is not recommended and should be avoided.
As a pediatrician, I do not recommend teething tablets or most other homeopathic teething remedies. Many of them contain belladonna, caffeine and other ingredients that are not safe for infants. The FDA has recalled many of such products from the market.
Although the use of teething necklaces and bracelets are popular, they are not recommended by the medical community.
The claims of amber having medicinal benefits are false, and these items are choking hazards. Both the FDA and AAP discourage the use of teething necklaces and bracelets.
Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP
Read the Signs.
Your little one will tell you what they need. Don’t be afraid to try more than one or all of these remedies to get your baby feeling happy again!
Teething is one of the times I remember the most, because, not only is your little one suffering, but you too are mama, waking in the middle of the night to relieve him. And plus, it just breaks your heart to see your precious little one in so much pain.
Just hold on though; this too shall pass!