A teething baby can really pull at a mother’s heartstrings. Most moms will anticipate a change in their baby’s behaviour but what comes with teething is nothing compared to what parents expect.
Mothers will often chat with friends that have children and prepare themselves for their new adventure based on old wives’ tales. Truth be told, every child is a unique little person with their own unique personality and will react to teething in their own unique way.
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Preparing for teething
Mom, don’t hold your breath and certainly don’t expect your baby to turn into a little monster. Teething is a normal process that all babies go through and all parent do survive except in that low budget Hollywood movie.
Teething does teach you a lot about your little one’s likes and dislikes, so cherish the moments, both good and bad. The use of teething aids begins shortly before your little one’s first tooth shows. There are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for the time your baby starts cutting their first tooth.
- Advice from your Pediatrician: In the first few months of your baby’s life you will pay regular visits to your pediatrician and other child care professionals. Use these visits to ask questions about the teething phase a baby goes through. This will give you a fairly good idea of what to expect and how best to prepare.
- Medicine: At some point, you may believe that only medicine will be able to calm your baby down but it is best to avoid any type of medication or chemical-based remedy unless it has been prescribed by a medical doctor.
- Stock up: You may want to purchase two or three different types of teethers beforehand. Pay attention to what the teethers are made of and read the safety precautions on the packaging.
When does teething start?
Noticeable teething signs will begin a little while before your baby cuts their first tooth which generally happens between 4 and 7 months old, although for some it happens a little later.
Here is the specific order that your baby’s teeth will usually appear:
- The two central bottom teeth known as the central incisors will mark the beginning of a new smile.
- A month or two later, the four upper teeth called central and lateral incisors will grow out.
- Another month will pass until the lateral incisors show next to the bottom front teeth.
- The food grinding molars are next in line to push through. Two molars on either side, top and bottom, totalling 8 molars that will serve your little one for the first decade or so.
- The canine or eyeteeth in the upper jaw between the incisors and molars are the last to show.
The whole process from the showing of the first bottom tooth to the canines normally takes about 32 months. By the time your little one is three years old they should have a mouth full of shiny white teeth. There will be ten teeth on the top and ten at the bottom making it 20 baby or milk teeth in total. Only at adolescence, does the tooth tally begins rising to an average of 32 adult teeth.
What teething signs should I look out for?
Here are some signs that your baby is beginning their teething milestones:
- Drooling: Your baby will begin drooling a lot. This may cause a rash to develop around your baby’s mouth but to prevent this, keep a cloth handy and wipe the droll away as it appears.
- Flushed cheeks: This is a normal sign of teething and is nothing to be too concerned about; besides, rosy cheeks make babies look cute.
- Temperature: Your baby’s temperature may be slightly elevated but not high enough to be concerned. If your little one’s temperature exceeds 102°F or 39°C which indicates a fever, you should look for any other signs that your baby presents and call your doctor for advice.
- Chewing and biting: The urge to chew and bite does tend to get the better of your baby during this time, mostly as a means to relieve gum irritation. They will chew and bite on anything close to them so have a teether handy at all times.
- Swollen and red gums: The movement of the teeth pushing up from your baby’s gums causes slight swelling and redness.
- To eat or not to eat: Babies will demand feeding but then appear not to be hungry at that time. They simply want something in their mouth to put pressure on their gums as a reaction to the irritation. The sucking motion that provides them comfort while feeding may aggravate gum irritation and cause them to stop feeding but they will soon pick up and continue feeding. This may upset their usual appetite and if it persists it is best to consult your doctor.
- Clingy: Your little one may become clingy as they deal with this strange sensation that is upsetting their sense of security. They will rely on mom or a caregiver to comfort them.
- Fussy: Babies may appear irritated with things they normally like and may cry when you try and comfort them. This is normally interpreted as your baby being fussy but the irritation from teething can be tough to deal with at times. Your baby is responding to a higher sense of urgency much like they cry when hungry. A little understanding goes a long way to avoid unfairly stereotyping your little one as fussy.
- Poor sleep pattern: Your baby’s normal sleep pattern may be periodically interrupted but a little comfort and affection will settle them down again.
- Lose or soft stool: Softer than normal poop that will often result in a rash on your baby’s bottom is part of the teething phase. Be sure to check and change your baby’s diaper regularly and use an effective bum cream to offer added protection against the rash.
Teething products and what mothers can do to help
Manufactured baby teethers come in a range of sizes, shapes and colours while some are filled with gel and others not. Teethers that contain gel can be placed in the refrigerator to get cold as the lower temperature has a good soothing effect on the gums. Do not freeze the teether as this will hurt your baby.
Some babies may not enjoy cold teethers so don’t be alarmed if your little one rejects a refrigerated teether Teethers range from gel-filled rings to hard smooth toys. With gel-filled teether, you inspect them to make sure there are no holes in the teether. If you do spot a hole then discard it immediately.
Make sure that whatever goes into your baby’s mouth is clean and sanitised, including your finger, mom. You can gently rub your finger over the rim of your baby’s gums to provide immediate relief. Your baby may bite on your finger to help relieve the pain. This is another good bonding exercise for mom and baby.
Teething powder is said to be great as they provide much-needed relief; however before you consider using a teething powder consult your paediatrician as there are claims that not all of these products actually relieve teething pain and discomfort.
Some may even contain harmful chemicals or sugar and may contribute to tooth decay. Dosage is vitally important and must only be administered strictly according to instructions sot is best to rely on the advice of your doctor if you are considering this as a remedy.
A cold wet cloth is another simple method to try but make sure your baby does not push too much of the cloth in his or her mouth especially with a blocked nose. The soft texture of the material does wonders to relieve the irritation.
Teething biscuits are also considered good and safe for your baby as they slowly dissolve in your baby’s mouth as they suck and chew on them. Only use teething biscuits once your baby is eating solids and not before. Ensure that no pieces break off as it could be a choking risk. If a piece breaks off, remove it immediately.
Amber necklaces are a common choice for some mothers but they do pose risks, both suffocation and choking. There is no scientific proof that they actually work so weigh up the risks against the perceived reward. It is best not to put any type of necklace around your baby’s neck for safety reasons. Amber necklaces are normally made from a string of small amber pieces and if the necklace breaks your baby could run the risk of choking.
Oral hygiene must begin before your baby cuts their first tooth. Milk residue will linger in you baby’s mouth and present a breeding ground for germs. Moms, clean your baby’s gums at least once a day using a piece of damp gauze to gently wipe your baby’s gums clean.
From the first visible tooth, you should brush your baby’s tooth and gums in the same way but increase cleaning to twice a day.
From about one year old you can start using a soft-bristle baby toothbrush but not with toothpaste just yet. Have your baby with you when you brush your teeth so they can learn about the process especially the “spitting out” toothpaste trick.
Brush your baby’s teeth in front of a mirror so they can see and learn about oral hygiene. Once they are able to spit things out of their mouth you can introduce a baby toothpaste, starting with a very small amount to avoid unnecessary intake, to begin with. This is just to get your baby used to the taste of toothpaste.
As your little one gets older, brushing teeth is something you can do together as it will take some time before your little one masters the brushing motion. Practice makes perfect.
Teething is something that all babies go through and while some express irritation more intensely than others, it is, fortunately, a manageable phase and is not a consistent uphill battle like dealing with colic.
Teething pains will come and go and in the tough times, mom needs to be at hand to offer some relief. Dealing with drool is more of a full-time requirement than attending to teething pain so there is no need to brace yourself for 32 months of agony.
Most children will breeze through teething and will come out stronger on the other side with all the attention, caring and affection that only serves to strengthen your bond with them. By starting with oral hygiene early you are teaching your little one a good lifelong habit that helps to keep cavities at bay.