Teething is a pain for both babies and parents. It’s hard to remain patient when your little one is so clearly in pain and grumpy. The constant drool, the change in mood, and the need to chew on everything in sight is a drain on everyone’s emotions.
Most babies begin teething during their first year. It can start as early as four months, but often starts at six months. It can continue off and on for several years until their full set of baby teeth comes in. Often, it’s most painful at the beginning, and you may no longer notice any symptoms after they’re eighteen months old or so.
Signs of Teething In Babies
Cause of irritability in babies is hard to identify.
Lots of things can cause a grumpy a baby, such as upset stomach, congestion, ear infection, or another sickness.
Rather than try to guess which one of the dozens of possible reasons is to blame for your baby’s fussiness, try looking for several signs that scream “your little one is teething!”.
- Excessive drooling
- Diaper rash
- Runny nose
- Decreased appetite
- Pulling on ears
- Rubbing cheeks
Relief is right around the corner, with many cheap home remedies and some natural soothing options for you to choose from.
Your child will quickly find his favorite, or you may end up rotating a few different things out to give him some variety.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “Just a clinical antidote on signs of teething: I see quite a few infants and toddlers in the office for ear pulling or hitting the side of the head near the ear.
In most cases, there is no fever, nasal congestion or other sign of illness. Parents, however, are concerned about an ear infection which prompts them to schedule a doctor’s visit.
In about 50-60% of cases, the diagnosis is just teething. I am mentioning this as it may be reassuring to parents that something more serious isn’t occurring.”
How To Soothe A Teething Baby
While there’s nothing you can do to stop teething from happening, you can help your baby get through it as best as possible.
There are many different remedies available over the counter (if you ever need to go that route), and most teething symptoms can be relieved at home without seeing a doctor.
The following article from the AAP also has some very helpful suggestions.
Cold Food & Drink
Ice always helps with swelling and pain.
When babies are teething, their gums are inflamed, causing a lot of irritation and discomfort.
Giving your baby cold foods to eat or something cold to drink will help numb the area and help the throbbing go away.
Cold carrots are natural and safe for your baby to chew.
Be sure to supervise chewing to make sure they don’t bite off a piece of the carrot or place it too far back in their mouth – but if the carrot is thick enough, it will taste and feel good.
2) Frozen Waffles
It sounds silly, but a frozen waffle is easy to hold onto and hard to chew.
Until it thaws, your baby may enjoy the rough texture against their gums.
3) Cucumber Slices
Cucumbers have natural anti-inflammatory properties, so not only are they cold, they can help naturally treat the inflammation that teething causes as well.
4) Frozen Cheese Stick
A frozen cheese stick feels good when it’s frozen, and once it thaws, could be safe for an older teething baby, as long as they can tolerate dairy products.
When thawed, it’s a cold, tasty snack!
Celery is sturdy and can withstand a lot of biting pressure. The pressure applied to your baby’s gums while they chew will feel just as good as the cold temperature.
Your baby may or may not prefer the flavor of pickles, but if he does, it’s another great option for applying cold and pressure to the gums.
7) Applesauce & Yogurt
Soft, cold food is an excellent snack that may bring some cooling relief. Chilled baby food of any kind, depending on your baby’s palate, can help bring teething relief.
8) Ice Water
If you fill a plastic sippy cup with ice water, not only can your child drink it (as long as your pediatrician says it’s safe) but they can also chew on the cold plastic.
This remedy brings two different kinds of relief in the same container.
This method is obviously not so popular, though, because of possible chemicals leaching from plastic sippy cups as babies chew on them.
Frozen fruit makes a healthy treat for your child to eat.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “Do not give frozen fruit juice to your child. Although juice can be a treat, it is not healthy. It is not recommended under the age of 1 year.
That said, recommended frozen fruit is fine.”
10) Frozen Breast Milk
If you have frozen breast-milk, or you are still breastfeeding, use the frozen milk to slightly thaw and serve at a colder temperature than normal.
Chilled Household Items
Sometimes, items other than food work well for teething babies and can be used to chew on when they’re not hungry or thirsty, or you just don’t want them to have the extra calories.
You can get a washcloth wet and put it in the freezer for a few minutes.
Let your baby chew on the frozen washcloth. As it thaws, it’s still safe for baby to chew.
2) Frozen Pacifiers
If your baby takes a pacifier, you can dip it in water and then freeze it.
Give it back to your baby cold for a new – and effective – teething toy.
3) Frozen Baby Spoon
Spoons are easy for babies to hold.
Running a spoon under cold water and freezing it gives your baby a fun toy to chew on with supervision.
4) Food Teethers
Many manufacturers now offer mesh teething products.
Munchkin and Sassy are available at many retailers, and allow you to fill it with food and serve it cold.
As it thaws, it’s safe, and it gives your baby some relief.
These alternatives can be harder to clean and tend to be messy as they melt, but in a controlled environment, they’re fun for your baby.
Boon also has a silicon feeder that’s not messy and is easy to clean.
You can stuff it with bananas, strawberries, or any other favorite food, and then freeze it.
Some babies don’t like cold on their gums. It can hurt more than it helps, depending on how sensitive your baby is. Sometimes it might even give them a brain freeze.
Instead of giving them something cold, use items that help them apply pressure.
1) Rubbing Their Gums
A clean finger on your baby’s gums can help to apply some pressure and relieve a bit of pain.
Don’t do this if the teeth have already broken through or you run the risk of getting bit.
However, this method can also help push teeth through the gums if they’re close to coming through already.
2) Teething Toys
Teething toys relieve pain just because they are designed to help your baby apply pressure as they chew.
There are a lot of options on the market, but make sure they contain materials you are comfortable with giving to your baby according to age, developmental ability, or allergies and other sensitivities.
3) Teething Blankets
Teething blankets provide soft pressure for babies who don’t like hard teething toys or aren’t avid chewers.
They come in fun shapes, colors, and exciting textures to keep baby entertained.
4) Wooden Teethers
Wood teethers are always a safe alternative to plastics and other synthetic materials.
You can get them unfinished or in a variety of finishing options, like flaxseed oil.
5) A Note About Teething Necklaces For Baby & For Mom
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “I would caution against the use of teething necklaces and bracelets.
According to a variety of medical authorities, they are not found to help with teething pain, and they can be a choking hazard if the bracelet or necklace breaks.”
6) Crackers And Biscuits
These foods aren’t cold; however, they have interesting textures and allow your baby to apply pressure as they chew and slowly melt away.
There are many different brands and flavors to suit each baby’s taste.
Distract With Comfort
You can also distract your baby by doing another activity that’s nurturing and comforting to them.
1) Warm Bath
Try giving your baby a warm bath to distract and comfort them when they’re not at ease.
It may take their mind off of the pain by playing and splashing in the water.
Baths often help adults relax and melt their stress away, and it can have the same effect on babies.
Breastfeeding is a common mechanism for comfort in babies who suffer from many ailments.
Being close to their mother provides comfort, the smell of their mother’s milk helps them relax, and the sucking motion helps in soothing them.
3) Clean Up The Drool
Leaving saliva on your baby’s skin can cause irritation. Use a bib to absorb most of it and keep it off of clothing. Wipe their face often and make sure you keep them clean and comfortable.
This is especially true if your little one’s going through a teething rash at the time.
There are plenty of medications on the market to offer babies relief from teething pain.
A Note About Teething Tablets
Hyland’s teething tablets were the subject of some controversy claiming they caused seizures.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “I don’t recommend Hyland’s (or other brand) teething tablets, nor most homeopathic teething remedies.
Most of them contain belladonna. Belladonna can increase the intraocular pressure and cause glaucoma. Some other teething tablets contain caffeine, listed as “Caffea” on
2) Topical Medication
There are many over the counter medications you can use to help your child through teething by relieving the pain topically.
These topical solutions go directly on the gums to provide numbing and pain relief. As always, use these with care and caution to prevent choking.
Baby Orajel is one of the most common topical remedies. There are nighttime and daytime varieties, as well as original and natural formulations.
You may have to experiment to see what works best for you and your child – and as always, it would be best for you to talk to your pediatrician about this first.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “The one exception to the note I made above is Baby Orajel Naturals which I do recommend.
I want to make a distinction between this product and other forms of Baby Orajel, including the night-time version. They contain Benzocaine which is not recommended under the age of 2 years old (when most of teething is over anyway).
Benzocaine can lead to methoglobinemia and death. Here is a statement from the FDA.
The AAP also discourages products with benzocaine and belladonna (read about this here).”
3) Pain Relievers
Infant’s and children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen are available over the counter for pain relief.
Always use the recommended dosage for your child’s weight and make sure your child’s doctor is okay with these solutions.
If you prefer not to use synthetic medications for your infant or toddler, there are many natural remedies with pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties that can get your child some temporary relief.
1) Eliminate Stress
Stress causes inflammation as well.
Your baby is already stressed if he’s teething because he doesn’t understand why he’s in pain or how to relieve it.
However, making sure your baby gets enough rest, eats healthy foods and maintains a day to day routine filled with activities they enjoy all helps relieve stress.
Continue to feed your baby breast-milk or formula as well, because sucking soothes babies and any deviation from a familiar environment or routine can cause additional stress.
2) Balance Blood Sugar
Even young babies and children can suffer from blood sugar swings.
Maintaining normal blood sugar levels and keeping them from swinging helps to eliminate stress on their tiny bodies as well as reduce inflammation.
Keeping your baby on a healthy, balanced diet is always important, but especially critical during this time.
Prepare meals and snacks that are balanced in both protein and healthy fats to maintain blood sugar stability and keep the adrenal glands in check.
Maintain A Healthy Immune System
There is some controversy among doctors as to whether teething can cause a fever or a cold. However, there is no disputing that teething doesn’t make your baby feel very good at all.
All of the increased saliva production can cause congestion, which leads to a wide variety of other ailments that can make your baby feel worse.
Try boosting your baby’s immune system to keep them healthy, because whether or not the congestion, fever, and fussiness are coming from teething or not, a cold on top of teething won’t be fun for anybody.
Keep breastfeeding if you already are, because the antibodies in your breast-milk will keep baby healthy.
You can give your baby extra vitamin D in a liquid to support a healthy immune system, or you can increase their outside playtime, with sunscreen and plenty of shade, of course.
With your doctor’s approval, you can also give your baby probiotics to promote a healthy gut, build flora, and improve overall health and immunity.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “To clear up a few misconceptions parents have, first things first, there is no medical evidence about the efficacy of rosehips tea.
There are also some medical conditions where consuming it is harmful (i.e. G6PD deficiency). I would not recommend giving this to an infant without discussion with a doctor.
Also, I would NOT, by any means, recommend giving an infant catnip. Even WebMD discourages it.
That said, there is nothing harmful in the medical literature regarding the use of ground cloves or chamomile.”
When Should I Call The Doctor?
You can handle most of what your baby’s teething has to throw your way at home.
Only call your doctor if your baby develops a long-lasting or high-grade fever, seems more uncomfortable than normal, or shows other signs or symptoms of an illness unrelated to teething.
Caring For Your Baby’s New Teeth
With all of teething comes teeth (d’uh!).
These new teeth require care, just as your adult teeth do. Even before your baby’s teeth come through, get in the habit of brushing with a soft cloth. It removes bacteria from your baby’s mouth.
When the teeth do come through, you should begin brushing. Use a soft-bristled brush and a non-fluoride toothpaste, unless otherwise directed by your baby’s dentist. It’s also essential to begin seeing a pediatric dentist for regular checkups.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “In clinical practice, I recommend wiping down the tongue of newborns with a moist washcloth daily to reduce milk build up.
In older infants, I suggest wiping the gums with a moist washcloth daily, up until the first tooth erupts.
Once front teeth are present, I suggest an “over-the-finger” toothbrush for use after the last breastmilk or formula feeding at night. This type of toothbrush works fine until molars erupt.
At that point, it is best to use a toothbrush with a handle to better reach the back teeth (and prevent biting of the parent’s finger).
While teething isn’t a pleasant experience, it passes relatively quickly, leaving your baby with a beautiful new smile and some new chewing skills.
They can eat more solid food now, and their smile will be irresistible.
Hang in there. This, too, shall pass!