Teething refers to the eruption of new teeth in the baby, a developmental milestone that usually first occurs around 6 – 10 months of age although sometimes starts as early as 3 months. Some babies teeth appear one at a time. Others cut several teeth simultaneously. Teething is usually a painless process. However, some babies do experience uncomfortable symptoms. For instance, there can be loss of appetite, sleeplessness, ear pulling, gum rubbing, coughing, and possibly a low fever. Drooling may cause an uncomfortable rash around the mouth. Some infants and toddlers experience significant soreness, swelling and even blisters in their gums during this period. It is common (and understandable) for babies and toddlers to be more distressed and irritable than usual when they are teething.
If your baby is in the process of teething, consider the following tips:
Parents are advised to be more patient and sensitive to their child’s changing moods and needs during the teething stage. Infants can become so distressed with teething pains that they cry all the time. Teething may also result in behavior traditionally associated with infant distress, such as clinging to Mom or refusing to be separated. Try to be patient – your little one will become more independent and happy again when the tooth finally appears. However, as many teeth need to cut through, you can realistically expect to have to settle and soothe your teething baby off and on for almost 3 years! There are likely to be some hard days and nights. Even so, these will be scattered between the happier, pain-free periods, giving both you and your baby a much welcomed break!
How to Help Your Teething Baby
Fortunately, there are many things parents can do to help. If there is inflammation, applying something cold to the gums usually helps. Gently rubbing ice cubes in the area where the tooth is about to come out has been known to soothe pain. There are also teething toys, such as teething rings, that you can place in the freezer for an additional chill. Frozen washcloths and cold water are also good alternatives. Some parents have found cold foods such as yogurt and chilled applesauce to be helpful. If none of the above work for your baby, you can try using Infant Tylenol and other infant medicines. Your pediatrician may recommend a specific product.
Traditional means of soothing a distressed infant are also recommended during this stage. At this time, traditional comforts such as holding and rocking are definitely in order. Providing additional stimulation, such as a gentle massage, may also prove a valid distraction to a baby that is teething.
Making Temporary Adjustments
If the soreness is interfering with the infant’s ability to eat and drink, parents might have to make some temporary changes in the child’s diet or feeding style. For instance, a child on solids may need a temporary liquid diet until chewing becomes more comfortable again. Offering the child cold water in between feedings can also help. In some cases, giving a child something solid to bite on is very helpful (avoid choking hazards of course!).
The good news is that teething eventually comes to an end. For most kids, the stage passes uneventfully with minor symptoms requiring little or no intervention.