The development of a baby’s first teeth can be both a moment to celebrate and fear for parents. While it’s great to see your child’s empty gums finally populate with tiny new baby teeth, allowing them to eventually eat all kinds of solid foods, they will experience a great deal of pain and frustration as their teeth break through their delicate gums.
However, we explore how parents can minimize teething pain and fussiness as much as possible so they can focus on enjoying this milestone rather than praying for it to end!
1. Learn What Your Baby is Going Through
During teething, your baby’s first teeth will physically push through the gums (ouch!). This is a completely normal part of growing for all babies that typically happens when they are around 6 months, but can sometimes happen much earlier or later.
In some cases, a baby’s first teeth may only appear after their first birthday. If it’s taking a while for this process to start, we would advise you not to worry. All babies will develop teeth eventually so it’s just a matter of waiting until they’re ready.
As you’ll probably have guessed, the complete transformation of your baby’s gums can be quite painful. As well as the actual pain of their teeth coming through, there is also a great deal of frustration and unease caused, often stopping them from sleeping.
During this period, they may also develop an insatiable appetite for biting and chewing stuff, which can alleviate the pain somewhat (we explain more about this later).
Generally, there’s a natural sequence to how your baby’s teeth develop too. This generally involves the initial emergence of their front teeth, followed by the top middle teeth. Over the course of a few months, other teeth will develop until they finally have a full set of teeth (first teeth that is).
As it can take until they are 2-3 years for their gums to fill completely, you may notice them teething on and off over the course of a few months.
2. Understand the Signs and Symptoms of Teething
Although some babies will be more affected by teething than others, there are a few telltale signs that they are going through this difficult process. These include:
- The gum red where the new teeth are breaking through
- Your baby’s cheeks are flushed
- They are rubbing their ear or cheek (outside of where their teeth are coming through)
- An excessive amount of dribbling
- A teething rash around their mouth
- A desire to bite and chew things more than usual
- Increased fussiness and irritability
By looking out for the most common symptoms, you can act quickly to offer them the best soothing solutions so their pain is minimized.
As it can still be difficult to diagnose teething yourself, it can be helpful to consult your doctor if teething symptoms occur. This is especially useful when they appear alongside other symptoms or if symptoms carry on for a very long time.
It’s not unusual for a baby to be suffering from teething as well as another ailment/sickness at the same time, or for what you thought was teething pain to actually be something else.
3. Soothe Gums with Pressure before Bedtime
One of the immediate urges for most parents with teething children is discovering how to soothe the gum area, which is clearly the source of the pain. And while you won’t be able to completely remove pain from this part of their body, there are a few things you can do in the short term to ease their suffering.
- Gently massage your baby’s gums
- Let your baby chew and bite your finger
- Use a wooden spoon or one of our trendy teethers for them to bite
- Rub your baby’s gums with a soft washcloth (soaked in water)
The reason this works is that it offers light pressure against the tooth trying to break through – just make sure that whatever object you put in your baby’s mouth isn’t brittle or sharp enough to hurt them.
In addition to this, it might also be useful to give your baby objects that are cold, which can induce a numbing effect. For instance, a chew toy can be placed in the fridge before you give it to your baby.
While you won’t be able to completely remove pain from this part of their body, there are a few things you can do in the short term to ease their suffering
4. Give them the Right Food during the Day
Another activity some parents have found success with is giving a baby the right kind of food to chew (assuming your baby is ready to be introduced to solid foods). In the same way that the pressure of chewing on a finger can give them relief, this can also take away some of the pain.
Also, giving your baby a variety of foods from around 6 months of age (in addition to milk) will help set your child up for a lifetime of healthier eating, according to the NHS.
If your baby’s teething pain is really bad, they may actually want to avoid anything that is too hard altogether. If this seems like the case, you may need to adapt their diet so they are still getting all the minerals and nutrients they need to stay strong during the teething process.
Suitable foods for teething babies who can’t handle solids include:
- Plain yogurt
- Pureed or soft minced meat
- Mashed veggies
Remember, foods that are cold can also give them added relief, so putting certain items in the fridge first might be a good move.
5. Wipe away Dribble to Avoid Irritation
Babies dribble more when they are teething. And leaving them alone may result in your baby’s face and clothes becoming soaked in drool. This can be unhygienic, but more importantly, can add to the distress your baby experiences when teething as your baby may become itchy or develop a rash on the chin as a result of this.
The best solution here is to be more vigilant and attentive during your wiping exercises. Regularly wiping your baby’s mouth and chin before bedtime and after they have fallen asleep with a soft cloth will prevent any potential soreness or skin irritation that might stop them from sleeping, or cause them to wake up.
6. Comfort Your Baby
Giving your baby enough hugs and attention while they are teething can make a great difference. Especially when you are trying to get them settled for bed. Sometimes the pain they are feeling is only minor and lingering rather than powerful and sudden, so having an adult to distract them with some love and care can help take their minds off things.
Generally making sure your baby is comfortable and happy is also advised. This could involve making their bedrooms or play areas comfy and cozy, adjusting room temperatures so they are warm at night, dressing them in their favorite pajamas, removing any sources of loud noise or bright lights, and generally providing them with a safe environment.
If you are wondering how to help your baby sleep while teething and need some tips on how to soothe your baby at night, take a look at our blog post:
7. Stick to a Routine
Despite what we’ve mentioned above, we would also caution parents not to completely give up on the routines they have already developed for their babies when they are teething. Giving them a few more hugs and kisses doesn’t mean derailing them from their sleep training plan completely.
When it’s time for bed, do your best to stick to their normal times and bedtime rituals, whether this involves reading them a book, giving them a bath or singing them a lullaby. All of this will only strengthen their ability to cope with distress on their own and make it easier for them to self-soothe and fall asleep.
Giving them a few more hugs and kisses doesn’t mean derailing them from their sleep training plan completely.
How to Help Baby Sleep when Teething - Final Tip
It’s worth mentioning that there are various gels and medicines for babies who are teething, however, there is disagreement about whether these actually work and even if they are 100% safe for your baby.
The FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics warn against the use of topical teething gels containing lidocaine or benzocaine as they can cause local reactions and rare but serious side effects.
Speaking to a doctor first would be prudent, before you use any local or mild antiseptic products, even if they are designed specially for babies.