Ava loves our weekly outing to the supermarket – I think it’s the combination of all the food on offer and the promise of a new audience waiting to be charmed. Unfortunately, my once efficient shop now takes at least 50% longer – partly due to the fact that I inevitably have to placate her with some form of sustenance, but in large part due to the number of times we get stopped by (as my husband refers to them) the “old dears”. Ava loves the old dears. The ones with painted on faces and high arched brows are her favourite And what do they stop us to talk about? 9 times out of 10 it is to comment on the fact that she must be teething. I actually find this quite funny but then the more it happens, the more I realise how poorly we understand teething. If a baby is grumpy – they must be teething, if they are off their food – must be teething. The thing is, until our little ones can tell us themselves, it’s all a bit of guesswork. So how can you tell if your little one really is teething?
Signs of a teething baby
- cheeks may look particularly rosy
- baby may want to bite on or avoid a particular area
- drooling or dribbling more than usual
- gums may look red (if you can get a look inside!)
- sleep may be disturbed
- may be less keen to brush or allow things in their mouth
Remember the key here is that you are looking for a change in behaviour over perhaps a 5 -7 day period, anything more then it is unlikely to be teething. A baby who hasn’t slept well for months may have a sleep association such as the powerful “feed to sleep” association (if you haven’t come across the wonderful The Baby Sleep Site it is worth a look).
How to help your teething baby
- If your baby is weaning, try cooling fingers of cucumber in the fridge for them to chomp on.
- Place teething rings in the fridge (not freezer!) for a cooling effect. Cold, wet flannels can also be used to similar effect.
- Sugar-free teething gels (such as Calgel Calpol Teething Gel) which have been designed for babies from 3 months can be helpful to numb the overlying gum as a tooth comes through. Use sparingly and for a few days only.
- If your baby is drooling more than usual – try to keep their chin dry as this will hopefully avoid a rash.
- Help your baby by massaging their gums with a clean finger. The pressure is usually comforting, and distracting too.
- If your baby is gnawing at his/her hands – try to substitute a crunchy carrot or breadstick but please avoid rusks as they are usually full of sugar.
I know a lot of Mums who bought Sophie the giraffe for their teething babies. Ava took to gnawing on a Scooby Doo action figure – a hand me down from her brother which seemed to work equally well! Just check for small parts which may represent a choking hazard or sharp edges which might traumatise little mouths.
When is teething not teething?
Did you know that having a raised temperature is NOT usually a sign of teething? If your baby has a fever it is much more likely to be caused by a viral infection. (Don’t forget – always treat a raised temperature quickly in little ones – get the calpol out, strip them down and place a cool, damp flannel on their forehead). There has actually been some research which could not find any links between teething and diarrhoea – another nasty which often gets blamed on teeth.
I’ll be honest, I’ve got it wrong myself. I had a truly awful night with Ava when she was about 8 months old. I spent hours up with her screaming. Every time I laid her flat she went mad. Eventually I resorted to putting her in the carrier, only transferring her to bed when she was well and truly zonked. I cursed her teeth again and again that night. The next morning I was getting her dressed and I noticed a gunky discharge from one of her ears. Her ear drum had perforated. It must have been excruciating for her, my poor lamb. If symptoms seem more severe, it is always better to see your GP, just in case.
The rise of the amber necklace
You may have noticed babies wearing amber necklaces to ease their teething symptoms. They are getting more popular as parents start to explore alternative therapies. I try to keep an open mind on these things. If a parent tells me that an amber necklace is helping their baby, I am delighted for them. The scientist/sceptic in me does struggle to understand the proposed mechanism of action and I could not find any supporting evidence-base to recommend their use. Will Ava will sporting one? Erm no! I believe the risk of strangulation/choking outweighs any potential benefit. Is it working for your baby? Good for you 🙂
And what of teething granules?
Again, I couldn’t find a good evidence base to support their use, but anecdotally a lot of Mums seriously rate these granules. I can see that the massaging effect (see tips above) combined with a sugar hit might perk up a flagging baby but I struggle with the idea of homeopathy as a valid treatment. A word of warning though – many of these granules contain lactose. Steer clear if you have a lactose-intolerant baby….
I guess having Ava has made me see things in a different light. I do think that ‘teething’ exists as a phenomenon but I also believe that teeth get the blame for a multitude of nasties too. My tried and tested routine? Lots and lots of TLC and a Piccolo Music CD 🙂
Now repeat after me the mantra off all new Mum’s and Dad’s……”this too shall pass” 😉