If you can imagine a serrated knife poking its way up through your tender gums, you may be able to understand why teething can make even the happiest baby miserable. Teething can also cause a slight fever, discomfort in the ears, and chafing or rashes on the face, thanks to all the extra drool. Some parents insist that the excess drool brings on bouts of diarrhea or loose stool, while some experts insist that diarrhea is a sign of other issues. Regardless, parents want to help their little one find relief one way or another.
Pain-reducing medicine may be given with a doctor’s permission. Topical gels can numb the gums, but usually the drool washes the effectiveness right out of the mouth. Unfortunately, swallowing large amounts of numbing gel can numb the throat, leading to a weakened gag reflex, which isn’t good.
As strange as it seems, chewing with those sore little gums can actually make them feel better. Chomping on a chilled teething ring or even on a parent’s (clean) finger can bring relief. Beyond that, there are many possibilities that a parent can keep in his or her bag of tricks:
- A frozen washcloth: This tried and true method has been around forever, proving just how effective it is. Keep a supply in the freezer so one is always available.
- Store bought toys: They aren’t called teething rings for nothing! However, be sure to read the packaging instructions: some of them aren’t meant to go in the freezer as the liquid inside can expand, leading to breakage.
- Unusual chew toys: A toothbrush, a splinter-free wooden spoon, or even a pacifier can provide great chewing options.
- Food from the pantry: Teething biscuits like zwieback toast or zwieback crackers are classics. Breadsticks are a good choice. And if your little one is up for it, a chilled whole pickle.
- Frozen food: Frozen bananas, frozen bagels, frozen strawberries, frozen popsicles—you name it. Cold is good.
It’s important to remember that as your child’s teeth break through, it will become possible for him or her to nibble off little pieces of whatever food you are offering for teething relief. This means extra vigilance is needed. Several companies sell baby safe feeds, which are basically mesh bags that hold frozen food so the bits that may make it into a baby’s mouth are small enough to prevent choking. Otherwise, you can try using a reusable cloth tea bag.
Your baby may go on a feeding strike, refusing the breast, bottle, or pacifier, when the pain reaches its peak and makes the act of sucking uncomfortable. Be patient, because a hungry baby will eventually eat. Offering liquid in a beginner’s sippy cup can help, too. Whatever you do, hang in there. Soon enough those pearly whites will be peeking through and it will be on to the next great adventure: biting!