I’ll start by pointing out that by no means am I am expert on teething or children in general, my advice comes solely from my experience with one baby and also endless discussions with my partner (MD) and girlfriends who have babies of a similar age.
Our daughter Tilly started ‘teething’ at around 4months old – teething is not necessarily a medical term, it refers to a period during infancy whereby a child’s teeth are growing, lasting well over 12 months. In fact some children don’t get their first tooth until they reach one year old.
Tilly didn’t have consistent or particularly noticeable symptoms of teething until around five and a half months of age, at which point she became more irritable.
So how do you know if your baby is teething? Here are some common signs
- Excessive saliva
- Constant need to chew for relief
- Small bumps appearing in gums, usually bottom centre appear first
- Teething rash, red irritated gums
- Refusal to eat or feed
- Frequently touching the face and mouth
- Waking and crying at night
- Slight rise in temperature
Some these symptoms need to be closely monitored, temperature should not exceed 37.5c, so be mindful of this and also of rashes and refusal to feed – if you are concerned always seek medical advice from your Doctor.
A lot of these signs of teething are also common signs of many other ailments, so it can be difficult to ascertain what exactly is going on. Tilly, for example, had several of these symptoms due to intestinal upset at three months of age.
I have found that the best thing to do, for us, is to treat or manage each individual symptom.
Here are some tips on what has worked for us so far:
- Teething toys: Sophie La Girafe is a great, natural teething toy. Be mindful of the excess saliva which can accumulate inside it and cause mould, change the toy frequently. Tommee Tippee also has some great teethers which are BPA free, but still do contain chemicals. These are great for putting in the fridge and offering cold, adding a tiny bit of anti inflammatory relief.
- Cool baths: particularly in summer, as heat adds to irritability and discomfort I have found that the cool water offers relief and also an element of fun to distract the child. This also helps with a child’s slight increase in temperature. Be mindful that if your child has a high temperature/fever it can be detrimental to cool them down and medical advice should be sought, as an infection is likely present.
- Keeping busy: Tilly gets more agitated when she isn’t stimulated, she cries and chews much more. I take her out of the house for a walk, or to playgroup with other children to keep her mind off those baby teeth.
- Fan or air conditioning to sleep, in hotter temperatures: Tilly sleeps better when it is cooler, she does still wake up irritated, but definitely not as much. I avoid heavy clothes and blankets (for me it is early autumn and it is warm).
- Pets: my dog and cats have been her best playmates, again it is distraction. Tilly will stop screaming instantly when she sees an animal, at times it is the only thing that stops her crying! Be mindful and don’t ever leave your pet alone with your child, even the most friendly pet can unintentionally hurt an infant or toddler.
- Keeping hydrated: this can be tough, as they lose their desire to feed or drink in general. The more that they refuse to drink, the more irritable they may become. Avoid dehydration and offer fluids and food very often. Tilly will refuse to eat one minute, screaming as loud as can be, then eat or drink as little as two minutes later. I offer Tilly Chamomile tea, water and breast milk. Often if Tilly won’t drink water I will add some frozen organic berries to the water, to give a hint of flavour (in a sippy cup, ensure berries cannot fit through the drink holes, or drain – beware of any choking hazards).
- Encourage naps: Since sleep can be erratic during the night it is important to sleep during the day, this also reduces irritability. Getting to sleep is not always easy; reading a book helps me with my daughter, also lying next to her and then moving her to her cot once she is asleep.
- Staying calm: My daughter will scream for hours on end, it is of course highly stressful at times, but staying calm myself helps to calm the child. They are experiencing discomfort, they need reassurance and security, so stay calm, take a second to compose yourself and breathe through it. Music helps me during these stressful times, as does some mindful meditation during quiet nap times – for those not comfortable or familiar with meditation it can seem silly or uncomfortable, but it is quite amazing to even just see the benefits of some silence and deep breathing for 5minutes a day. Think about how you feel when you are stressed or anxious – the first thing that happens is that your breathing changes to short, shallow breaths and your heart rate increases. By physically slowing your breathing you can take back control of your emotional state and reduce your heart rate at the same time.
Obviously, with my partner being a Doctor he advises infant Panadol during highly irritable spells, however I have managed to avoid this, as I have a preference of using a more holistic approach. Pain relief is an easier option, which gives faster relief – seek advice from a doctor or pharmacist prior to administering.