Before I became a mom, I remember a friend referring to her teething baby as being in “rabid chipmunk mode”. Having now made it through eight of my son’s teeth, I would say that description is a pretty accurate assessment. “Rabid chipmunk” with bouts of “sobbing clingy irrational inconsolable rabid chipmunk”. And I’m sorry to report – but the process does not get easier as more teeth come in, you just get tougher. Seeing your baby in pain will make you want to try anything to make them feel better, but where to begin? From teething toys to natural remedies to using regular old Tylenol, here is a list of ideas to help get you started.
*Anti-Inflammatory/Numbing Foods: Celery, pineapple, ginger, mint and barley water all have properties that act as mild, natural anti-inflammatories, while green onions/scallions create a mild numbing sensation. Some give pieces to their babies in whole form to gum on, but if you are concerned about choking (once Baby is able to bite pieces of food off with their teeth) then put small pieces into a mesh feeder. Another route is to steam, puree and strain the juices out (make sure to strain through a very fine sieve or cheesecloth if your baby is using a bottle, as even the smallest food morsel can clog up a bottle spout). The juice can be frozen in an ice cube tray and kept for several months in the freezer to be used as needed – just toss a frozen cube into a bottle with diluted juice or milk. Mint and ginger slices can be steeped in water and frozen.
*Amber and Hazelwood Teething Necklaces: A common misconception about the name – the child does not actually chew on the necklace. In fact, there shouldn’t be any way they can get it into their mouth at all. The necklaces are made of individually knotted amber or hazelwood beads that, upon contact with the skin and warming up, are said to release medicinal properties to help with discomfort. Their actual effectiveness is widely argued. Some swear by them, though science indicates there really isn’t anything they do. If you feel it works, make sure to take note of:
-That the clasp is easily releasable and pops open with the slightest pressure.
-Proper fitting: Not too tight or too loose. A photo circulated about the dangers of teething necklaces depicting abrasions on a toddler who had gotten “tangled” up in her necklace…there should never be any way your child could fit an arm or hand through the necklace.
-Consider removing the necklace once your child is able to yank it off. When my son was around 6 months he pulled his necklace off and shoved the whole thing in his mouth. End of necklace.
*Natural Teething Tablets (Oral Soothe, Hyland’s): Small, sweet natural tablets that dissolve on contact with saliva and can be used to help with redness and inflammation. A panic started a few years ago with rumor that Hyland’s tablets had opium in them. The controversial ingredient in question is actually called belladonna, otherwise known as “deadly nightshade”, which in its raw form is toxic, but in processing to use in medicine, no trace of toxicity is left.
*Camilia: All-natural individual liquid-doses that can be squeezed into a bottle or directly into Baby’s mouth to help with irritability and sore gums. With a very low risk of side effects and no contraindications with other medication, Camilia is a safe and gentle option to try.
*Teething Toys: These can vary widely in look, size and price. Some have short bristles, some can be frozen, some are soft, others more firm. For molars, consider teething aids with longer handles (almost like a teething toothbrush) so Baby can reach their gums all the way in the back. Check out any grocery store, baby supply store or large retail outlet and you will have many options (you may have to try a few before you find one that your baby likes).
*Try refrigerating teething toys instead of freezing to make it easier for Baby to hold.
*Semi-Frozen Washcloth: Wet one end of a washcloth and let it partially freeze. Once somewhat frozen (totally frozen can burn their gums), Baby may enjoy gnawing on the cold end while holding onto the non-frozen end. In theory this should feel great on their gums and help with inflammation and provide temporary numbing, however some babies are not a fan of anything cold (same goes for cold teething toys).
*Popsicles and Frozen Foods: Even if Baby isn’t a fan of biting on cold things, a popsicle made of juice, frozen yogurt or breastmilk, or cut-up bits of frozen food in a mesh feeder might entice them and help with numbing and inflammation.
*Orajel and Anbesol: A mild numbing cream rubbed directly onto Baby’s gums (when you have a cranky, writhing baby, getting the cream actually on the gums can be a challenge). Do use caution and follow the directions very carefully as it is possible to overdose due to an ingredient called benzocaine, which in rare instances can cause serious health problems. These products are generally not recommended for children under 2.
*Infant Tylenol or Infant Motrin: Liquid doses that can help with the most painful teething days (the taste can be too strong for some babies and they’ll spit it back out, consider mixing it with a little juice or milk and giving it to them in a bottle). Use care to give a proper dose based on your child’s weight (not age). How to quickly remember what dosage to give? Ask your pediatrician for a print-out showing detailed weight and dosage amounts, take photo with your phone and save it to “favorites” so it will always be easy to access. There are now dye free and sugar free alternatives.
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