Are you ready for some adorable toothy smiles? Did you know that your baby's teeth start developing even before they're born? Around 6 weeks gestation, the formation of teeth begins. At 4-7 months old, the exciting moment of your baby’s first teeth begins to erupt. But don't be fooled into thinking it's time for solid foods just yet! Breast milk is still the primary source of calories for at least the first 6 months until your little one shows signs of readiness for solids. While some babies sail through teething with little discomfort, others are much more uncomfortable. Your baby may experience only some teething symptoms or all of them. Rest assured, there are many ways to ease teething for your baby at home.
A baby’s teeth formation begins in utero around 6 weeks gestation and goes through 4 stages of development. Between 4 -7 months old, around the middle of the first year after birth, the baby’s teeth start to poke through their gum line. The first teeth are usually the central incisors, otherwise known as the bottom two front teeth, followed by the top central incisors. (1)
Teeth coming in is not a sign of readiness for solid foods. Breast milk is recommended for babies for at least the first 6 months of life until they show signs of readiness for solid foods. Some signs of solid food readiness are being able to get into and out of a seated position on their own, head control with the ability to turn their head side to side, the pincer grasp developing, and no tongue thrust being present. Although it is rare, some babies are born with a tooth that has already erupted.
Symptoms of teething can include:
Mild skin rash around the mouth
Swelling, soreness, and redness of the gums
Irritability and crying
Wanting extra comfort
Biting and wanting to chew
If your baby is experiencing a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea during teething, contact their healthcare provider.
Teething Relief For Baby
Biting feels good when gums are sore. A teether to gnaw on puts pressure on their sore gums and gives some relief. A teether with parts your baby can chew on for the front teeth and the molars allows them to reach all the tender areas. Teethers are made from a variety of materials. Since it is going into your baby’s mouth, you will want to choose one made of safe materials. Plastic teethers may contain phthalates which are endocrine disruptors and should be avoided. (2) Silicone teethers are a much better option. (3) Natural wood and cloth teethers are a natural option.
The unique design of the Legendairy Milk Silicone Teething Toy can reach all of your baby’s tender areas with pliable nubs on the sides (soothe sore molars!) and ridges on the top for your baby to chew on for front teeth. The easy-to-grip shape promotes clutching and two-handed play, stimulating your baby's multisensory learning. The teether also includes a fun "bobblehead" design and a suction cup on the base.
Soak a washcloth with water, chamomile tea, or chamomile hydrosol (4), roll it tightly, and pop it in the freezer. After it freezes, your baby can chew on it between nursings. The cold will help numb the inflamed gums. Chamomile is calming, soothing and reduces pain. It can help a fussy baby relax and fall asleep easier while teething.
Breast Milk Popsicle
When your baby’s mouth is sore from teething, they may not want to nurse as much. Giving a breast milk popsicle is an excellent solution to get more milk in their belly and soothe their sore mouth simultaneously.
Mesh Food Holder
If your baby is already eating solid foods, try freezing a chunk of banana in the mesh food holder. Bananas can help with relieving loose stools or diarrhea sometimes experienced during teething. (5) Bananas contain potassium, an electrolyte that depletes when having diarrhea. The pectin (soluble fiber) in bananas absorbs extra water in the intestines and helps the baby’s stool be more formed. Other frozen fruits and veggies are watermelon, broccoli, carrots, and peas. A frozen cube of breast milk in the mesh holder also works wonders for teething relief!
The principle of like healing like is the foundation of homeopathy. Remedies are made from plant, mineral, and animal products and go through a series of dilutions and succussions to achieve different potencies. (6) The key to homeopathy is choosing the correct remedy. It is highly individualized, and attention to symptoms rather than the condition you are treating will help guide you to the correct remedy. Chamomilla is one the most common teething remedies when your baby is very irritable, fingers are always in the mouth, and one cheek appears red while the other does not. (7) Ignatia is the right remedy for your baby if they seem more distressed rather than irritable, experience quivering, and wake crying. Having a homeopathic doctor or naturopath on your team is valuable for deciphering which remedy will work best for your baby.
Some products are marketed to parents as teething remedies but have risks to consider.
Amber Teething Necklace
Baltic amber has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory. Amber is a resin that, when heated, releases succinic acid. While some parents have felt Baltic Amber has reduced symptoms of teething pain for their baby, there is insufficient evidence in studies for this. (8) If you choose to use an amber necklace, the necklace must be sized correctly, should never be worn while your baby sleeps, and your baby should never be left unattended while wearing the necklace. Choking is a risk of using an amber necklace, and using them is highly discouraged. (12)
Clove oil is a common recommendation for teething. It should never be used internally and is not recommended for external use for a baby. Essential oils are very potent. If they are not diluted enough, it can cause irritation to the skin and mucous membranes.
“According to Leung and Foster, Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, the highest average maximum use level for clove is recommended at about 0.06% (that would be for adults), and for babies, it would have to be around a third of that or maybe even less, so that would be around 0.02% or less, i.e., a maximum of 200 parts per million with a recommendation of less than that. To put this into perspective, if we follow their guidelines (and these are industry standards), we’d be looking at a maximum of 1 drop of clove essential oil in 5 litres of a carrier or 1 drop of clove essential oil in 1.32 US Gallons (169 ounces).” (9)
Products Containing Benzocaine
Read the labels on teething gels, sprays, and oral products before using them with your baby. The FDA does not recommend benzocaine for children under 2 years old. It is associated with serious, potentially fatal risks. (10)
Having a baby’s hands free lets them explore their world. Confining their hands can inhibit sensory input. (11) Although babies find relief in chewing for sore gums, encouraging sucking on their fingers is not advised for jaw and teeth development.
Ouch! My Baby Bit Me
Biting does not feel good for moms if their baby clamps down or bites while latched during nursing. It is one of the common reasons a mother may stop breastfeeding.
Offer a teether before nursing. It will reduce the urge For your baby to gnaw on you once latched at the beginning of your nursing session.
Pay attention when your milk flow slows toward the end of a feeding when biting often occurs.
If you feel your baby clamping or about to bite, slip your finger in their mouth to break the suction.
If you are experiencing changes in your baby’s latch or new pain with nursing that are not resolved from teething comfort measures, contact your IBCLC for a complete oral evaluation.
If there is damage to your nipple, express breast milk onto the nipple. Coconut oil can promote healing for damaged nipples. This works great for diaper rash, too.
Give your little one lots of extra cuddles, and consider wearing them in a sling for the extra comfort they need during teething times.
The journey of teething in babies is an exciting and sometimes challenging time for both parents and little ones. While teething symptoms can vary, you can try various home remedies to provide relief. It's recommended to avoid certain products due to their potential risks. Lastly, if your baby bites while breastfeeding, implementing preventive measures and seeking support from an IBCLC can help alleviate discomfort and ensure a positive breastfeeding experience for both of you. Enjoy those adorable toothy smiles and stage in your baby's development!