The formation of a baby’s teeth 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 to be able to turn their head side to side, the pincer grasp is developed and no tongue thrust is present. Although it is rare, some babies are born with a tooth already erupted.
Some babies sail through teething with little discomfort while others are much more uncomfortable. Your baby may experience only some symptoms or all of them. There are a lot of ways to ease teething for your baby at home, but if your baby is experiencing a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, contact their health care provider.
Symptoms of teething can include:
- Increased drooling
- Mild skin rash around the mouth
- Swelling, soreness and redness of the gums
- Irritability and crying
- Difficulty sleeping
- Wanting extra comfort
- Low grade fever
- Biting and want to chew
- Decreased appetite
- Diaper rash
Teething Relief For Baby
Biting feels good when gums are sore. A teether to gnaw on, putting pressure on their sore gums gives some relief. A teether with parts your baby can chew on for front teeth as well as the molars allows them to reach all the tender areas. Teethers are made from a variety of materials. Since it is going in your baby’s mouth, you will want to choose one that is made of safe materials. Plastic teethers may contain phthalates which is an endocrine disruptor and should be avoided.(2) Silicone teethers are a much better option.(3) Natural wood and cloth teethers are a natural option.
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 they are 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 a good solution to get more milk in their belly and soothe their sore mouth at the same time.
Mesh Food Holder
If your baby is already eating some solid foods, try freezing a chunk of banana to put in the mesh food holder. Banana can help with relieving loose stools or diarrhea sometimes experienced during teething.(5) Bananas contain potassium, an electrolyte which is depleted from 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 to try are watermelon, broccoli, carrots and peas. A frozen cube of breast milk in the mesh holder works wonders for teething relief, too!
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 with 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 right remedy. Chamomilla is one the most common teething remedies when your baby is very irritable, fingers 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, experiences quivering and wakes 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 not sufficient evidence in studies for this so far.(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 no not recommended for external use for a baby. Essential oils are very potent. If they are not diluted enough, it can irritate 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 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 the age of 2 years old. It is associated with serious, potentially fatal risks.(10)
Having a baby’s hands free let’s 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 to the parent if their baby clamps down or bites while latched during nursing. It is one of the common reasons a lactating parent may stop breastfeeding.
For The Nursing Parent
- 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 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 full oral evaluation.
- If there is damage to your nipple, express breast milk onto the nipple and cover it with some nipple cream to promote healing. 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.
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Cummings & Ullman, Everybody’s Guide To Homeopathic Medicines, 1991, 5;90 - 91