Teething can be a nightmare for some babies and their parents and for others you don’t know it’s happening until you get that first nip from your bubba, or they flash you a grin with their new tooth gleaming! It’s luck of the draw as to what happens, but here is some information to help you navigate this major milestone and hopefully take some of the stress out of it.
Baby's teeth start developing during pregnancy and although it’s rare babies can be born with teeth! Some babies can start teething from as early as 3 months but won’t normally get their first tooth for a month or two after. Most babies will get their first tooth around 6 months of age and when their teeth come through it is called an eruption. Timing can vary a lot as all babies are individuals. However, the order the teeth come in is usually the same with the first two teeth being the lower central front teeth, followed by the upper central front teeth and
then the canines which are either side of the central teeth on the lower and upper jaw. By three years they should have 20 baby teeth.
So why can teething cause so much disruption.
Teeth are covered in enamel which is used to protect them. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body and is harder than bones. Teeth can exert an average of 200 pounds of pressure when they bite down, so no wonder it hurts when they cut through the gum. Tooth enamel is not only strong but it's durable too. Teeth can last for hundreds of years if we don’t eat sugary foods and look after them!
Is it always bad?
As I said above not all babies are affected. The teeth that can be the most painful are the canines. These ones are a bit fatter and pointy when they come through and I have had experience with children being unwell when they were waiting for these teeth to break through. The illness is not caused by the teeth coming through but more to do with the ways your child tries to alleviate the pain. For example, putting everything into their mouth, thus introducing lots of germs or because their body is trying so hard to deal with the pain could this perhaps mean their immune system is slightly lower???
Often as they get older the pain doesn’t appear to affect them in the same way and they are not normally as sad, most probably due to the fact that they can express themselves a bit better and they recognise it as a process that they have been through before.
How long will it take for their teeth to emerge?
This is a great question and the answer…. how long is a piece of string! Every child is different, so although they say that babies don’t start teething until about six months, some babies can start at two months!
It is also a gradual process that can come and go, so they may appear to be teething for a couple of days and then seem much better for a week or so before it starts again. It can take four weeks plus for that first tooth to emerge.
Common problems associated with teething.
Nappy Rash – When a baby is teething, they produce more saliva through all the chewing that they do. This can cause upset stomachs as the saliva creates more stomach acids. There is another thought that the saliva itself actually changes in Ph and becomes more acidic. This is to help the new teeth emerge through the gums, but it can also cause an upset stomach. This can lead to frequent and loose stools, which in turn can lead to a very sore bottom! It’s not uncommon for this to turn into red sores and can be very painful and uncomfortable for a little one. Either way it creates a sore bottom!
Dribble rash – Babies put everything in their mouths when teething to try and help ease their pain. They have a desire to bite and chew on everything in reach. The pressure on their gums can help ease the discomfort, but the chewing motion increases the production of saliva. This then results in excess saliva which causes them to dribble, which can cause irritation on their faces and chests, due to the dribble soaking their clothes. As an aside, Mother’s that are breastfeeding their little ones may develop sore nipples due to the excess saliva.
Tugging ears – Babies often tug their ears when they are in pain. However, it is important to get your baby checked out by the doctor if they are doing this and have a temperature, to make sure that they don’t have an ear infection.
Not sleeping – Is the pain worse when a baby lies down, or could it just be the fact that everybody becomes more sensitive as the day goes on and as we get more tired. We are less tolerant and when we put baby down to sleep, they have no distractions from the pain. It therefore makes sense that a baby is going to be more irritable at night.
Runny nose, cold or mild fever – again, no definitive reason why this should be, but likely to do with the number of things that they put into their mouth.
So, what can we do to help?
Nappy rash – Take the nappy off as soon as they have soiled it, so don’t let them sit in it for any length of time, not even to just get home. Change the nappy in the back of the car if necessary. You don’t want the acid-like poo on their skin for any longer than it needs to be.
Try and let them have nappy off time during the day. This allows the bottom to dry out and heal.
Use a barrier cream. There are lots of them about. Today I was recommended a toxin free brand called, Seedlings. Check them out here https://www.youngliving.com/en_NZ/products/seedlings-diaper-cream There are also the standard ones like Sudocrem and Zinc that have been around for years. The other thing a nanny friend of mine recommended was lanolin nipple cream, which is gentle and can be used anywhere on the body. When using a cream on baby’s bottom always be careful not to use too much as it blocks the pores on the nappy, so the nappy will not work as effectively taking the urine away from the skin. The other thing to try is some breast milk. Breast milk has heaps of amazing benefits and healing a sore bottom is one of them. Squirt some milk on or dab some on with a cotton wool pad and let it air dry before using a barrier cream.
Dribble rash – When a baby is teething, they can dribble profusely. It’s like they have sprung a leak in their mouth. Often bibs get soaked through within minutes. It’s really important that you don’t leave a wet bib on or wet clothes near your baby’s skin, this will just aggravate them even more. Try and keep the area as dry as possible but dab not rub as rubbing will cause irritation too. You can apply a layer of Vaseline to stop the skin becoming sore or if it is already irritated try using lanolin nipple cream. This will help repair the skin and it’s gentle and safe to use.
Not Sleeping – Be kind and understanding. Offering a breastfeed can help with pain as the natural hormones that are produced help with pain relief and are calming. If they are really struggling and clearly in pain, you could try a teething remedy like Weleda or perhaps a rub which goes onto their jaw like teething tamer. If that is still not helping, look at giving them some paracetamol to ease the pain. I’m not huge on taking painkillers, but equally when things get bad, I will. Your little one doesn’t have the ability to say what they want so you need to advocate for them. Whenever giving your baby any medication or teething product make sure you read and follow the instructions carefully and stick to the recommended dose.
Giving them a cold teething ring/toy that has been specifically designed for teething.
A cold damp flannel can also be nice to chew on. You can keep this in a container in the fridge or freezer.
Letting them suck on an ice cube, or breastmilk ice cube which is placed in a baby feeder. If they are eating solids, how about making them a smoothie ice block or even just a frozen banana. These can all help ease the discomfort in their mouth.
Letting them chew on a teat from a bottle/dummy or beaker can give them some relief too.
Baby massage can also help, massaging around the jaw line.
Massaging their gums with a clean finger or even with a toothbrush that slips on your finger can be great. https://nz.iherb.com/pr/Brush-Buddies-Baby-Care-Finger-Toothbrush-0-3-YR-1-Finger-ToothBrush/67371?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIw9uZs63R6QIV1cEWBR2vxws5EAQYASA
Some people swear by the use of amber necklaces for helping their baby with teething pain. The amber is believed to release an oil onto the skin which helps soothe and has an analgesic effect. Personally, I get a bit worried about the possibility of strangulation. Below are a couple of links about the risks, so just be aware and mindful and make sure you watch your baby at all times if you do decide to try one always ensure it is removed before they go to bed.
So, in conclusion, teething can be a nightmare or a non-issue. There are certainly things you can do to ease the pain, but it is just another stage that you and your baby need to navigate through together. Good luck and please comment if you have found any magic remedies that have helped you and your little one.