If there’s one experience that will be mutually disagreeable to both you and your baby, it’s teething. While we all agree that little babies with teeth are just adorable, the process of each tooth coming in is a rough one. Worse, sometimes your baby is teething and you don’t realize it. You just thing that something is terribly, terribly wrong.
In this article we’ll provide some useful answers to common questions about baby teething, in hopes that it makes the process go a bit easier for you.
When Do Babies Start Teething?
Most babies cut their first tooth between 3 and 6 months, and have a full set (20 teeth) by age 3. The graphic at right gives you an idea of the typical teething order. Your baby might have two or four coming in at once, usually every couple of months.
The two bottom teeth and two top teeth are first, and they’re also the easiest to spot. Honestly I think they are the least painful. When your baby’s cutting four molars at once and you aren’t even aware of it, your life is going to suck. Because you have all of these symptoms to enjoy.
What Are Teething Symptoms?
The signs that your baby is teething can be subtle, because they overlap quite a bit with an infant’s general behavior and fussiness:
- Drooling is the big one to watch for, and in my opinion one of the most reliable signs. All babies drool a little bit, but teething really pushes it to a new level.
- Rashes around the mouth, chin and neck area sometimes result from the irritation of all that drooling. Yeah, it’s gross.
- Swollen gums. If you can manage to get your baby to hold still long enough to look in his or her mouth.
- Refusing to eat. The pain of eating/chewing often outweighs the hunger, and this usually makes the baby miserable.
- Refusing the pacifier. Same cause, different source of baby crankiness. Ours always loved their pacifier, so when they spit it out we knew things were serious.
- Chewing and biting. At the same time, a teething baby might chew on just about anything — crib rails, toys, their hands, your hands — and the distinction is that they’re biting down more than usual.
- Fever / runny nose. These seem to coincide with teething sometimes, though they’re difficult to distinguish from a little cold.
- Wake-ups at night. Because teeth grow at night, that’s often when they cause the most pain. So occasionally your baby might just wake up screaming for no apparent reason.
There’s also the general symptom of increased fussiness, at least in babies that suffer from teething discomfort. They’re just unhappy.
What Teething Remedies Work Best?
The suffering that teething causes for babies — and by extension, their parents — has been around as long as we have. In the time of my grandparents, the trusted remedy was to rub a bit of gin along the baby’s gums (according to my parents, anyway). If rubbing it on didn’t numb the pain, I’ll bet the booze itself had a calming effect. Sadly, those day are gone and we have to find other teething remedies that are less likely to result in a call to Child Services.
Here are the remedies I’ve found to be the most effective, in order of preference.
1. Baby Orajel / topical pain reliever
We are big believers in modern medicine, and Baby Orajel often provided the relief that let our baby sleep and preserved our last bit of sanity. You can apply this mild topical anesthetic with a Q-tip or finger tip. It works quickly and effectively; we found it most necessary at nap time and bedtime.
2. Frozen Waffles
This was a recommendation from our pediatrician, and one of the reasons that we love him so much. Frozen waffles offer three benefits: they’re cold, chewable, and also a source of some nourishment. Obviously this is for babies that have started solid foods. It’s just as good as a freezable teether toy, with the advantage of being edible.
3. Freezable Teether Toys
There are a ton of gel-filled rattles and chew toys available specifically for teething; I like the kind that you can put in the freezer to keep cold. The cold numbs the pain and also makes it interesting for your baby (rather than just something to chew on).
4. Teething Pacifier
There’s a unique kind of pacifier made for teething babies by Razbaby, called the RazBerry teething. It’s specially textured to massage the gums while the baby sucks on it, and there are a lot of moms that swear by it.
The pacifier is BPA-free, non-toxic, and made from medical-grade silicone. You can freeze it, too, for a bit of extra comfort.
Sometimes you can tell your baby’s in pain, and maybe see the swollen gums, and really want to do something to help directly. For this I highly recommend the Zo-li Gummy Stick Massagers. These toothbrush-like gum massagers let you gently rub the parts where teeth are coming in. It can really make a difference.
Watch your fingers; they will bite you! It’s adorable only until they have about 4 good teeth.
6. Baby Tylenol or Advil Pain Relief
When our son had about four teeth coming in at once, he suffered pretty badly. The Baby Orajel worked a little bit, but with his gums completely swollen, a slight fever, and a runny nose, he was just miserable.
7. Chewable Teething Necklace
What about a wearable fashion accessory that’s also a portable teether for your baby? These baby teething necklaces are all the rage. I haven’t tried them, but I certainly like the idea because it’s portable and in the right location when you’re holding your baby against you.
Surprisingly, there are more and more of these teething necklaces for moms, in a wide variety of styles. It’s a functional accessory, right? Better they chew this than your clothes or shoulder.