As a mum, you’ll relate to that heart-breaking experience of seeing your baby in pain. So it seems especially cruel to have to watch them endure teething. Utter torture for everyone involved! Just the thought of hard, blunt objects cutting through the gum is enough to make anyone squeamish. And our little ones have to endure this 20 times before the age of three!
While it can be awful for your baby (and you), it should only take a week or two for a tooth to come through and stop causing pain. And thankfully there are some ways you can help soothe your teething bubba. Read on to get the scoop.
When do babies start teething?
Baby teeth generally start to make an appearance at around six months of age, so if you’re staring at your rosy-cheeked, dribbly bub and panic-googling “Can babies teeth at 2 months old?!” you can probably relax (for now). It is worth noting that some babies get started as early as three months, or even as late as 12 months. (In very rare cases, babies can even be BORN with teeth!)
Here’s a handy baby teeth chart from Pregnancy, Birth and Baby showing the estimated age each tooth is expected:
Baby teething chart sourced from: Pregnancy, Birth and Baby
Most common baby teething symptoms
1. Red cheeks and gums
One of the first signs of a teething baby, noticeably red cheeks could be more than your baby’s rosy-cheeked perfection. Cheeks share nerve pathways with teeth and gums, so teething pain can present in cheeks, and your bub might also rub at them in irritation too, making them redder.
Take a peek in your baby’s mouth and you may also notice that their gums look sore, swollen and red. You might even be able to glimpse that pesky tooth cutting the gum, which looks (and no doubt feels) as painful as it sounds.
2. Interrupted sleep
Teething babes often struggle with sleep, which is understandable given that they’re waking up in the night to aching gums. Teething can also affect daytime naps, and may throw out your baby’s routine.
In saying that… interrupted sleep is a sign of pretty much everything a baby goes through: developmental leaps, gas, hunger, overtiredness etc. So don’t get fooled into thinking poor sleep is always related to teething, even when they’ve hit that baby teething age. Jen Butler, early parenting guru, has a great podcast episode on how teething affects sleep.
Feel like your baby has turned into a walking puddle? Excessive drooling is another one of the most common signs of a teething baby.
Saliva production kicks into gear at around the 3-month mark as your baby’s body prepares to transition from a milk diet to solid foods. So dribbling could be normal, but when teeth are at play you’ll probably be wiping away drool even more than usual. Get those bibs on high rotation!
4. Biting and chewing
Babies like to bite and chew on stuff, this we know. In the first year of life, it’s a key way that they interact and learn about the world (which is why you need to watch them in the garden if there are snails present).
However, you may notice your little one chomping away on objects more aggressively than usual. Or they may suddenly burst into tears while chewing. This could be a sign that a tooth is about to break through.
Chewing helps babies alleviate teething pain, so let them go for it! Baby teething toys like a teething ring, Munch Mitt, cool slice of cucumber, teething rusk or even your knuckle (which we hear is quite tasty) can be offered to teething bubbas for relief.
5. Lost appetite
It’s normal to panic a little when your baby suddenly won’t eat food, but this too could be related to teething. As long as they’re getting enough fluids, they should be fine. Breast milk can help ease teething pain, so experts suggest offering more feeds than usual when your baby is teething. And if they drink formula, offer extra feeds to ensure they’re full.
Other signs baby is teething
Remember, the teething symptoms mentioned above can mean other things too (welcome to the mindf*ck that is motherhood). Look out for multiple baby teething signs to confirm that teeth are, in fact, the issue.
Other baby teething symptoms may include:
- Cold-like symptoms such as congestion or a slight temperature
- Nappy rash
- Pulling ears.
And if you’re worried about any of your baby’s symptoms, check in with your paediatrician.
Ways to soothe your teething baby
It can be real tough seeing your little one grow their baby teeth. Becoming familiar with the signs will help you know when to offer them some relief.
It’s a good idea to check in with your pediatrician for advice about recommended teething relief solutions. But in the interim, here are some top techniques to help with teething.
Offer something cool
Placing something cold on your poor bubba’s swollen, red gums can help to reduce inflammation and relieve teething pain. It’s the same principle as applying a cold pack to an injury.
Try a cool washcloth or refrigerated teething ring. Or if your baby is old enough for solids, you could give them a cold piece of fruit. Watermelon, cucumber or mango straight out of the fridge are winners.
If you’re wondering why your baby is chomping away vigorously on whatever they can get their hands on (a rusk, the TV remote, your knuckle), it’s because the pressure against their sore gums actually overwhelms sensory receptors and relieves the pain. Parent Educator and Registered Paediatric Nurse Penny – @sick.happens on the ‘gram – says it is so.
Offering a teething ring can be great, as this allows little ones to hold on and chew to their heart’s content. And while this may sound weird as hell, you could even jump in with a gum massage to soothe those irritated gums.
Consider pain relief medications
Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be good options for relieving your little one’s teething symptoms. You can get these over the counter at the chemist. They come in liquid form with a handy syringe to help you get it into your bub’s mouth (note: wrestling may be required). If the “delicious” fake orange or strawberry flavour doesn’t make your child whoop in delight, the relatively rapid pain and fever relief should.
Pain medications are especially useful when you can actually see the tooth splitting through the gum. You’ll know it when you see it. Just be sure to pick up medication appropriate to your baby’s age and follow the directions on the packet. Check with your pharmacist or doctor if you’re unsure about which medications to use and the correct dosage.
Think about teething gels
Your pediatrician may suggest using teething gels to numb the gums. These gels contain an anti-inflammatory called choline salicylate to reduce pain and swelling, and an antiseptic to prevent infection.
They may seem to help your baby, or they may not. There isn’t a whole lot of evidence linked to their effectiveness with teething, and there are some warnings out there about them causing numbness in the mouth that leads to feeding and swallowing complications. So educate yourself on the use of teething gels before going down this route canal. (A tooth pun – we had to!)
Distract, distract, distract
When you’re in pain and feeling miserable, the last thing you want to do is sit around thinking about how sore and miserable you feel. Babies often cope with teething better when there’s a suitable distraction at hand. Play games, go on outings, read books and keep your little one busy during the day, and you’ll often find that their mood picks up.
Ah, but what about at night? Bedtime and nap times can often seem a billion times harder when your baby is teething. Everything is quiet and dark, and they start to notice how much their gums are hurting (a lot). Many parents find evenings a good time to make use of pain relief medication, and some swear by humidifiers with essential oils, like the Aroma Snooze.
Give all the cuddles
Studies show that mama cuddles are proven to be 99% effective at making teething babies feel better (based on internal research conducted at Mumli). They might make you feel better too.
Teething is tough – both for your baby and for you. Stay strong, mama and try some of these methods to see if they offer relief for your babe.
One final note: if the thought of losing that toothless grin makes you sad, don’t worry. Your baby’s smile will be equally charming once their teeth pop through. And when their baby teeth start falling out. There’s still lots of adorableness ahead.
Now, time to go buy a tiny toothbrush.