A few years ago I saw an image of a baby’s skull and it really shocked me.
Surely this is an exception… was my first thought, but upon further research I learned the truth.
Our babies’ skulls are loaded up with ALL of their teeth, for life!
I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to be before having three children and helping each of them go through their own, often painful, teething process, that those teeth had to come from somewhere!
But it’s amazing!
The more I think of it, the more amazing the whole process of baby teething seems to me.
Our beautiful little ones start with gummy smiles, and when their systems are ready, their bodies start giving them the tools to eat solid food.
Unfortunately, we are not all blessed with perfect bouncing babies that we can’t even tell are teething.
If you’re reading this, chances are you have a little bundle of joy that isn’t feeling so joyful these days.
Speaking from experience, baby teething can cause a lot of late nights with worried parents wondering if this will ever come to an end – for both you and your tiny tots.
In this article, I’m going to give you the tools to help you and your baby through this process!
Table of contents:
- When does teething start?
- Teething Chart
- What is the teething process?
- How long does teething last?
- Common Symptoms of Baby Teething
- Warning Signs and Complications
- Natural Remedies for Teething
- Traditional medication
When does teething start?
First, it goes without saying (I’m saying it anyway!) that every baby is different. If each baby came with a handbook, their books would be drastically different. Some babies start teething at 3 months, and some start at 12 months.
There is no rule, no wrong or right, but generally the first teeth (bottom front) start at about 5 months, and the last baby teeth (second molars) erupt at around 24 months of age.
Again, I’d like to stress that the actual teething period for your baby could be drastically different.
|Upper Teeth||Tooth Emerges||Tooth Falls Out|
|Central Incisors||6-10 months of age||7-8 years of age|
|Lateral Incisors||8-12 months of age||8-9 years of age|
|Canines||16-20 months of age||11-12 years of age|
|First Molars||11-18 months of age||9-11 years of age|
|Second Molars||20-30 months of age||9-12 years of age|
|Central Incisors||5-8 months of age||6-7 years of age|
|Lateral Incisors||7-10 months of age||7-8 years of age|
|Canines||16-20 months of age||9-11 years of age|
|First Molars||11-18 months of age||10-12 years of age|
|Second Molars||20-30 months of age||11-13 years of age|
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What is the teething process?
Teething is often referred to as the “cutting of teeth” because when a tooth comes in, it literally breaks (‘cuts’) through the gum tissue to let the pearly whites come into their glory.
Pre-teething can be happening for a few weeks, or even more than a month before you begin to see a tooth erupt. This is the period where the teeth are moving into place, preparing for their grand entrance.
Signs of pre-teething can include restlessness and an increased desire to munch on hands or toys. Excess saliva is a very common response to the trauma the mouth is about to experience, and is already experiencing internally. This means more drool, and possibly loose stools.
You may be able to see the white of the tooth pressing under the skin.
Sometimes your baby wakes up in the morning with a beautiful little tooth just sitting there, where there wasn’t one before!
A completely natural process, which occurs across many species of the earth, and can be so exciting for parents!
How long does teething last?
The entire baby teething phase can last for up to two years, but some babies get all of their teeth in really quickly (like one of my children), with just the second molars and canines awaiting their turn.
My youngest had a nice break between 12 months and 20 months with no teething pains. During that intermission, I almost forgot what to look for!
Some little ones struggle with just their first few teeth, but then their body seems to adapt to the process, and the rest are smooth sailing.
Common Symptoms of Baby Teething
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Probably the easiest, most noticeable sign of a baby moving into the teething phase is the presence of excess saliva. You’ll know that this is happening by the number of bibs, onesies and blankets you find yourself washing!
Of course, you’ll also see it on your beautiful baby’s face, and be wiping it up constantly.
Some babies drool more than a St. Bernard, and some don’t drool at all! I was blessed to have one of each!
Hands (or other toys) in the mouth
This can be a symptom, or it can be a tendency.
Babies naturally use their mouths to explore their world.
They don’t have adult notions of being sanitary or appropriate, and it’s fun to slime up tables, windows, toys and, well – anything that fits!
But, when it’s a symptom of teething, you will generally see more gnawing.
Maybe on fingers, or a fist. Maybe on toys – especially ones with fun textures that massage the gums.
Sometimes you’ll suddenly notice that your baby wants to use his or her spoon as a chew toy rather than as a vehicle for food.
Crankiness, wakefulness, rejection of food. These are common baby problems, I know.
First of all, blaming these behaviors on teething is so easy when your mother in law asks what’s wrong. Second of all, they may actually be because of teething!
Obviously, if there is an excessive behavior that lasts for days or weeks on end without breaking, you’ll want to have your baby checked out by a doctor, but if you have a passing crankiness that comes and goes, it’s hard to be sure, but teething may be to blame.
You may notice a rash on the face, neck, or chin.
Seeing a rash on your baby is always concerning, but if you suspect your baby is teething, you can rest a little easier if you see something pop up.
Of course, be wary if you see signs of infection, or a rash that is spreading to the rest of the body.
Some babies also get a diaper rash due to the changes of stool, with the extra saliva passing through their systems.
I had one child that never got a diaper rash until the day before she would cut a tooth.
It was a clearly telling sign.
Flushed cheeks and a slightly raised temperature
My little boy, who was my middle child, had the rosiest cheeks every time he was about to have a tooth erupt.
It made him incredibly cute, (as if he needed to be any cuter with his already charming, dimpled smile,) but it also warned us that a new little tooth was going to pop through at any moment.
Some babies also have a slightly raised temperature, but still within the non-fever range.
Jury’s out among parents on whether teething can spike a fever in their tots, but professionals insist that fevers are decidedly NOT a symptom of teething.
Other things that you don’t want to ignore are irritability that lasts for more than a few days and rashes that spread across the body – especially with signs of infection.
Vomiting is also not a sign of teething.
Warning Signs and Complications
Nursing, and bottle feeding issues
A baby who is teething will often bite.
If you’re a breastfeeding mama you probably know this all too well.
An excellent way to handle this common scenario is to carefully unlatch your baby from nursing whenever they begin to bite.
This can be tiresome, and it may seem like your little one just is not getting the message, but remember to be patient with them.
They are learning, but they also may be in pain and biting feels good on their tender gums. It could be a natural reflex that they can’t even control.
After teeth begin to come in, babies usually have no problem continuing to nurse pain free, but sometimes a different nursing hold, or direction of holding baby, may be needed while the learning curve is rounded.
If I could indulge in a cautionary tale… A friend of mine once told me (true story!) of when her daughter was nursing, and her daughter decided to nibble a little too strongly for comfort. Instead of tenderly unlatching her daughter and restarting freshly, or taking a break – my friend firmly scolded her six month old baby.
She was instructed by well meaning advice to use a “bus driver” voice and to give her daughter “the look.”
Unfortunately, this worked.
It worked so well that her baby, whom she intended to nurse well into her first year of life, refused to nurse ever again.
We each have to find what works for us!
We each have to dance in the relationship with our baby, and find a common level of comfort.
Don’t let me, or anybody else, tell you what is perfect for you!
Each baby, each mommy, and each relationship – is entirely unique.
Bottle feeding may also change drastically during the teething stage.
Babies tend to gnaw away at their bottles, causing breakage and leaks.
Your baby may also struggle with bottle feeding after a few teeth pop through, but just stick with it, and your baby will catch on!
Appetite may wane during symptomatic teething days.
This is to be expected, but if you see the numbers continue to drop week after week, this is a big red flag.
Don’t hesitate to bring this to the attention of your pediatrician.
There could be a few small tweaks in your schedule that will make all the difference, or there could be other risk factors to consider, which should not be overlooked.
Your baby might also have a little discomfort as they nurse or drink from a bottle, but it shouldn’t last for more than a few days.
As I said, if your baby is nursing or bottle feeding, they may have a bit of a learning curve as they adapt to the task with a few teeth in the way, but overall, this shouldn’t really result in weight loss.
Perhaps a week or two of a plateau, but not a loss in weight.
Wait… for me? Or for baby?
Well, both, really.
Your mini-me may have periods of wakefulness during teething pain, but days and nights on end of sleeplessness are not at all normal.
You will know if this is happening, because you are most likely taking an active role in the midnight crib parties.
And the 1AM parties, and 3AM, and 6AM, annnnd… you get the point.
If this is the case, there could be much greater issues at hand than teething troubles.
Definitely book an away party at the doctor’s.
Natural Remedies for Teething
Amber teething necklace
An amber teething necklace is a necklace made of ancient tree resin from the Baltic Sea.
These necklaces are made safe for your baby to wear by being double strung, and by having each stone individually tied on.
Not only do they look completely adorable, the science behind how they work is that the naturally occurring succinic acid within the precious gem seeps out when the stone is warmed by body heat.
Succinic acid is known to aid in pain relief and reducing inflammation.
It is important to know the source of your amber, and do some research prior to buying, as there are many fakes out there, or less potent sources of amber.
Baltic Sea amber contains a higher percentage of succinic acid than other deposits.
Opinions are diverse about the effectiveness of these necklaces, but there are many parents who swear by them.
An amber teething necklace is not for chewing on, but to be worn around the neck or ankle.
Most who oppose this wonderfully natural method of helping ease a baby’s teething phase, do so because of the possibility of a choking hazard.
Obviously, the necklace should be removed before your baby is laid down for a nap or put to bed, and you should always have your little one under supervision while they are wearing it.
Cold or slightly frozen washcloths can be an effective way of easing your baby’s pain during teething.
To use a washcloth, you’ll want to make sure you start with clean, sanitized cloths, that have been washed with hot water, and thoroughly dried.
Soak half the cloth in water, then put it in the freezer for about an hour.
Your baby can gnaw on the frozen part of the cloth.
The frozen washcloth should be perfectly cold to numb the pain for a while, and even after the cloth begins to thaw, it makes a nicely textured, safe toy which your baby will enjoy chewing.
The dry half of the cloth is meant to be the part your baby can hold onto.
You don’t want frozen little fingers!
This is an affordable and easy method to ease your baby’s teething pain, so you can have a few on hand, and never be unprepared.
To prevent unsafe mold from beginning to form in your washcloths, it’s best to stick with water, and avoid the temptation of using sugary juices.
Filtered, or spring water may also be a wise choice if your tap water has undesirable chemicals added, or traces of contamination.
Washcloths are one of the simplest methods of helping a teething baby, and also one of the most effective.
A silicone teether is usually in the form of a ring or other shape that your baby can easily grip.
They vary in hardness, but they’re usually bendable with bright colors and have multiple textures to choose from.
These often seem like a great option to soothe your little one’s teething pain, because they are solid pieces that can’t break off or come loose.
Although these are incredibly handy, portable, and fun for kids, there could be a hidden danger with these teething toys.
Recently, a study has shown that even toys labeled BPA free or non-toxic contain, can leech toxic chemicals.
For a toy that your little one will be putting in their mouths and attacking with large amounts of drool, this teething toy might not be the safest choice, unless you can find a brand with the studies to back up their safety.
A durable, and eco-friendly choice for a teething toy is a wooden teether.
Wooden teething toys are available in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and applications.
Most of them have a ring, or multiple spots to put fingers for gripping, as well as to hook onto car seats or other toys.
You can easily clean them with a damp cloth and mild soap.
Never spray them with chemicals or other cleaners.
When choosing a wooden teether there are a few things you might want to consider.
Look for all natural wood that isn’t treated with stains or toxic paints.
This may seem like an obvious thing companies who create baby products would avoid, but you are your baby’s best advocate, and you might be surprised what kind of corners some companies will cut.
Always do your research!
Teething rattles are an excellent option for a baby who needs a little extra pizzaz to keep their attention!
They can be in many shapes and sizes, and they can make a variety of different noises.
It’s easy to find one that is perfect for your baby.
A few things to watch out for when choosing a rattle, as in with the other toys that babies like to chew, are non-toxic materials and a design that will stand up to your little one’s daily wear and tear.
Be especially careful with the rattles that it won’t break open to expose or spill out whatever is inside.
The pieces could be a choking hazard. Some rattles also have gel fillings with glitter sparkles, etc…
These fluids are usually non-toxic, but if you see any of your rattles wearing down it’s best to toss it and move on.
This can be hard to do if your baby has a favorite!
Luckily, teething rattles are easy to find.
Teething Gels and Oils
Some parents find the answer in teething gels and oils.
Essential oils are usually not formulated for oral use, but there are some that are approved for ingestion.
If you’re a little uncomfortable with putting oils or gels in your baby’s mouth they might help even when massaged onto your baby’s skin near the jawline.
Chamomile is often used to create a topical herb blend that parents really believe in to help their little ones.
As with all other products, make sure you do your research!
Some oils may be to strong for your baby or cause sensitivities. Always consult an specialist.
A cool drink of water can be a quick and easy solution.
This probably won’t work every time, but if you’re grasping at straws to find a way to help your baby, this one is usually always available and relatively harmless to give it a try.
Just like we want a refreshing drink when we’re hot or stressed, your baby enjoys refreshment too!
The coolness of the water can be a welcome sensation, and a welcome distraction for your little one.
Avoid giving water to babies under the age of 6 months, and even after that – do it sparingly!
Babies should get most of their hydration ideally from breast milk, and otherwise, formula.
Trying the cold water trick should not be a constant go to, because it could cause problems with your baby’s metabolism.
Just a heads up before you go bottoms up with your baby!
Homeopathic alternatives are worth consideration, and are increasingly what parents are turning to in lieu of all the unknown dangers in commercially developed products.
There are amazing products out there that you can trust to treat teething symptoms with ease.
Many homeopathic remedies are based on recipes, traditions, and practices which have been passed through the generations, and withstood the test of time.
Often you will see some of these remedies come under attack by the FDA for various reasons.
Take care to be sure you’re getting to the bottom of the story!
Taking the time to massage your baby’s gums can be a very effective way to help manage their teething pain!
Your little one probably already loves to put things in his or her mouth, so why not indulge that tendency by using a soft gum massager.
These come as little wands, or as sleeves that you can slip over your finger, but they usually have soft massaging bumps or toothbrush-like silicone tendrils.
You can just use your finger, too, if you choose.
Gently massage around the painful areas of the gums, not pushing too hard to cause more discomfort, but just hard enough to coax the tooth to pop through, which will help to ease the pain.
Even if the tooth is far from coming through it can still cause baby pain, and it helps to massage the area.
After you’re done, wash the massaging tool well, as it can be a breeding ground for bacteria if it isn’t cleaned and left to dry completely.
Cold baby food
Cold baby food has a similar effect to a cold washcloth, although perhaps more fleeting.
Sometimes the shock of a cold bite can also help to take your tot’s mind off of the pain in their mouth, and focus on the yummy food.
The coldness on their gums could have a numbing effect as well as help them to fill their bellies.
Many times a baby’s appetite is decreased when they are going through teething pain, and this is a great way to encourage your little one to eat.
If your baby is eating solids, you might find a frozen banana or an icy fruit slushy to be a good option.
I like to joke that the best teething relief for my baby girl is her 7 year old brother!
He always knows how to make her smile, even if she’s in the middle of a fit.
The point here is, don’t underestimate the power of distraction to help your baby to get through the pain of teething.
Soothing music, nature sounds, or even going for a walk.
These types of methods work for many mama’s-to-be in labor, and if they work for that, they will certainly have some kind of influence on your baby’s sweet mind. If only we had baby teething training!
And if none of the above methods work…
You can look to medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), or Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) to assist in pain relief.
Just be careful to follow your doctor’s recommendation and never give more medicine than is required for you baby’s weight.
It’s very easy to over medicate, so be vigilant about what time you are dosing your baby, and exactly how much.
Especially get your doctor’s advice for infants younger than 6 months old.
Even though I don’t suggest Tylenol or Ibuprofen, if your baby is in distress and you are desperate to bring relief, this could be an option, however, I would like to stress that it should only be used when nothing else works.
Giving your baby pain medication has the potential risk of masking other problems, or creating other problems, so this should be a very last resort.
Now, Go to Sleep
As much as I know you’re enjoying this riveting editorial on baby teething,
I know you probably need sleep more…
Hopefully, you agree that now you can move on with your day feeling well equipped to make informed decisions on how to handle your fussy teething tot.
As a mother, businesswoman, wife and creative individual (in no particular order), I know how confusing all the information that’s thrown at us on a daily basis can be.
There are so many conflicting opinions on different topics regarding teething.
Making a well informed decision is the best thing you can do for your little one.
I truly hope you actually did enjoy the read.
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