10 common teething symptoms and advice for new parents
Just when the days of non-stop feeding, colic and ceaseless crying seemed to be behind you; when your baby might be sleeping through the night; when he is starting settle into a regular routine, teething begins.
Even though teeth very rarely arrive before 3 months, teething symptoms can appear as much as two to three months before that first tiny tooth does. Symptoms and severity vary greatly from one baby to the next, but more often than not teething symptoms cause pain and need relief.
Our survival guide will help identify teething symptoms and advice is given from other parents.
What are the symptoms of Teething?
Some babies really do suffer when teething and so do their parents This may be because of soreness and swelling in the gums before a tooth comes through. These symptoms usually begin about 3 to 5 days before the tooth shows, and they disappear as soon as the tooth breaks the skin. Some very lucky babies (and parents) don’t seem to be affected by teething. Both experiences are very normal and often parents find that certain teeth breaking through will be worse than others.
These are common signs of teething:
• Swollen, bulging gums
• A tooth visible below the gum
• Trouble sleeping
• Trying to bite, chew, and suck on everything
• Rubbing her face
• Rejecting food
• Grabbing her ears
• Nappy rash and sore bottom
”All three of my children’s experiences were very different; but generally, I noticed that the first few teeth that came through are the worst. Whether my babies just got used to the pain and symptoms after cutting their first teeth is actually unproven as they were too young to explain, but after the first few teeth had broken through, they seemed to suffer less. ”
Amanda Waring – Mum of three and founder of Mama Jewels.
When do teeth arrive and what are the signs?
Just when the days of non-stop feeding, colic, and ceaseless crying seemed to be behind you; when your baby might be sleeping through the night; when he is starting to settle into a regular routine, teething begins. Timings can vary greatly, but generally, dentists advise timings of particular teeth in accordance with this chart:
Even though teeth very rarely arrive before 3 months, teething symptoms can appear as much as two to three months before that first tiny tooth does. Symptoms and severity vary greatly from one baby to the next, but you may observe one or all of the following:
• Drooling. You might find that your baby’s tops are suddenly soggy. Fasten on a dribble bib to keep her more comfortable (and cleaner), and gently wipe her chin throughout the day to stave off chapping or a red rash (if that doesn’t work, ask your doctor about a mild moisturizer such as Sudocrem or even Lansinoh nipple cream). Pooling saliva may also cause a slight cough or even trigger the gag reflex. If she’s otherwise healthy, you can safely ignore both.
• Gnawing. She’s not trying to be naughty. Little nips at your fingers, breast (ouch!), or spoon help relieve the pressure she feels from under her gums. Teethers and Teething necklaces may then start to come into their own although at three months they will not be able to hold objects in their mouth.
• Crying. Some babies breeze through teething with nary a whimper, while others suffer from a good deal of pain — which they feel compelled to share with you in the form of whining or crying. I have three boys and they have all been so different. The eldest suffered quite badly, our middle son didn’t have many symptoms and our youngest had many sleepless nights and trips to the Pharmacist and doses of infant Calpol or Ibuprofen.
• Refusing to eat. Since sucking movements can worsen teething pressure or pain, your baby may refuse to nurse or eat, or may nurse briefly and then turn away. Keep at it, and call your doctor if the strike lasts more than a few days. Our youngest son literally threw all of his dinners on the floor and would only eat cold yogurt for a while, until we administered Calpol and I gave him milk to settle him.
• Waking. Especially when she’s working on cutting that very first tooth, your baby may fuss during the night as well as during the day, so be prepared for a little extra cot –side duty for a while – not fun when you’ve been getting some sleep again!
• Nappy Rash and sore Bottom. Doctors disagree on whether diarrhea and fever may also be signs of teething (though most mums who’ve been through it will tell you they are). Even if you think you can chalk up these conditions to an about-to-arrive tooth, mention them to your doctor if they last more than a couple of days and try to keep your baby hydrated with milk and/or water.
Pharmaceutical Remedies for teething
For babies over four months old, you can rub the sugar-free teething gel on their gums. You can get the teething gel from your local pharmacy.
Teething gels often contain a mild local anesthetic, which helps to numb any pain or discomfort caused by teething. The gels may also contain antiseptic ingredients, which help to prevent infection in any sore or broken skin in your baby’s mouth.
Make sure you use a teething gel that’s specially designed for young children and not a general oral pain relief gel, as these aren’t suitable for children.
It’s best to talk to your pharmacist or GP before using a teething gel for babies under four months old.
Teething powders are a Traditional herbal medicinal product used for teething pain relief & associated symptoms based on traditional use. They contain herbal tinctures and are administered orally by making your baby actually swallow the powder. They claim to help alleviate the symptoms and we did use it with our three children with some effect.
Calpol AND Nurofen
If your baby is in pain or has a mildly raised temperature (less than 38C), you may want to give them a sugar-free painkilling medicine that is specifically for babies and young children. These contain a small dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Children under 16 years old shouldn’t have aspirin.
Always follow the instructions that come with the medicine. If you’re not sure, speak to your GP or pharmacist.
Natural Teething remedies
Advice from parents who’ve been there
Thankfully, there are lots of alternatives to shop-bought medicinal treatments, so here is our round-up of some of the best.
Comforting a teething baby
Comforting or playing with your baby can distract them from any pain in their gums. Rubbing their gums may also help relieve the pressure of the teeth trying to breakthrough.
Ice Cubes and/or ‘Lollies’
Using either a simple ice cube tray or a proper lolly mold if you have one, freeze either water or breast milk into small portions. If the baby has a good grip, you can let them hold a frozen morsel themselves to gum away at, or if it’s easier, wrap it up in muslin, slightly crush if you like and offer that way. Either way, the coldness with help soothe painful gums and many babies find comfort in the solid shape to chew at.
A similar idea, is frozen fruit or vegetables – bananas, carrot sticks, cucumber, celery – anything you can cut into a baby-friendly ‘finger’, offered straight from the freezer. Obviously, to avoid a choking hazard, baby should not be left unsupervised with these frozen treats.
Made from non-toxic materials such as silicone, BPA free plastics and natural unfinished wood and hung around the mummy’s neck, a teething necklace is a perfectly natural way to give your little one something to teethe on and play with. They are often available in a wide variety of colours and are designed to look like natural wood necklaces but are also engineered not to break when the baby pulls and chews them. They also provide a great distraction when baby is feeding and a focal point for playing when sitting on their Mummy’s lap.
Parents have been doing this for years, so it’s an old one, but a good one! Essentially, take a clean flannel, soak it under the tap, and pop it in the freezer for a few hours. The coldness and chewable texture both relieve and soothe.
Camomile tea has long been used for its soothing and calming properties, and it’s also perfectly safe for babies. You can either use the tea to make ice cubes as described above, or to soak a flannel in before freezing, or indeed, apply the cold tea direct to baby’s gums.
Naturopaths claim that the succinic acid contained within natural Baltic amber provides relief for babies teething. While there’s no solid ‘proof’ about the calming natural pain relief contained in the semi-precious stone, thousands of parents still swear by this method. The necklaces are inexpensive and look lovely on boys as well as girls, but recently there has been considerable concern about the safety of children wearing necklaces, particularly whilst sleeping.
Teething rings and toys give your baby something to chew safely. This may ease their discomfort and distract them from any pain. Some teething rings can be cooled first in the fridge, which may help to soothe your baby’s gums. It is not advisable to put teethers in the freezer as the extreme cold could damage your baby’s gums.
As with everything to do with babies, what works for one, may not work for another, so do be prepared to try different things and see what helps your baby best.
At Mama Jewels we sell a teething pendant made from Amber and silver which is designed to be worn by the parent and the baby can teethe on it to get hold of that precious succinic acid. There is no risk of strangulation or choking as baby isn’t wearing the necklace Mama is!
Caring for your babies new teeth
It is recommended that you register your baby with a dentist when their teeth start coming through. From an early age let your children watch and see you brushing your teeth. Model the action and make it fun!
A tooth brushing song is a great idea to help make bedtime and mornings more fun and less stressful. The NHS recommends that you start brushing your baby’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as their first milk tooth breaks through.
All babies are unique, their symptoms and preferred relief will be different and you are doing a great parenting job!
When to contact your Doctor
Home treatment usually helps relieve minor teething symptoms such as discomfort, drooling, and irritability. But talk to your doctor if your child has other symptoms that become severe or last longer than a couple of days.
If your baby has diarrhea, a temperature, or runny nose, don’t dismiss it as a sign of teething, especially if the symptoms last longer than 24 hours.
Do not be surprised if your Doctor fobs you off with instructions to administer paracetamol and diagnoses classic teething symptoms. As a parent, particularly if it is your first child, these symptoms are extremely alarming if you haven’t seen them before and your child will be very distressed. However, doctors do see this every day and will know if something is untoward.
When our eldest son was six months old he had a nappy rash that was so bad you couldn’t even apply the cream to it because it was so raw and weeping. This was caused by the acidic poo as a symptom of teething, but I had no idea this was the case. In distress, I took him to the doctor thinking he might get an infection and he’d need medication, but in fact, the doctor advised we allow him to spend as much time as possible without a nappy on. It worked and the raw skin dried enough for us to be able to apply a barrier cream.
It was a scary time! Amanda Waring – Mother of three and Founder of Mama Jewels.
Also, talk to your doctor about any other teething concerns, such as if your child:
• Is age 18 months and has not had any teeth come in.
• Has visible signs of tooth decay.
• Has permanent teeth coming in before the primary teeth
are lost, resulting in a double row of teeth.
• Has any facial injury that has damaged a tooth or gums.
Your doctor may refer your child to a dentist who specialises in children’s teething problems if this seems to be needed.
And finally…. please remember that although a teething baby is one of the most normal things (how much pain can be normal I will never know!) it is expected to be a stressful time as a parent. Arm yourself with the tools above and ride out the storm Like most things with new babies, it’s a phase and the phase will pass.
Bless you at this difficult time x