Teething is a painful process—for parents and babies alike! With 20 primary teeth in total, arguably the first ones hurt the most. Your child’s teeth may start coming in anywhere between 5-12 months, yet signs of discomfort may show even earlier than 6 months as the jagged edges of teeth start to push against the gums.
The first teeth to cut through are typically the two bottom fronts (central incisors), then the four upper teeth (central and lateral incisors). The (back) molars usually show up shortly after the baby’s first birthday, followed by the pointed teeth between the molars and incisors (canines). The second set of molars arrives behind the first set at around age 2. Sometimes there is no clear teething pattern, with teeth appearing in ‘batches,’ and there is rarely cause for concern.
While your baby is teething you can expect plenty of irritability, drooling, and swollen gums. Your child will begin mouthing any object in sight, so be sure to keep any dangerous items well out of reach. It may be helpful to keep a bib on your child during the day to soak up all that saliva. You may also notice a rash around the mouth at this stage. Pat the area around the mouth to keep it as dry as possible.
During this time, babies may experience a loss in appetite and have trouble sleeping. Some parents even report ear pain, diarrhea, and low-grade fever in their teething infant. Be mindful, a fever that is persistent or above 101 degrees will requires a visit to your child’s doctor, as the cause is unlikely to be related to teething.
Gently rub your child’s gums with a clean finger or a wet cloth. Light pressure feels good and soothes sore gums.
A cold compress helps reduce inflammation. Try having your baby suck on a chilled, twisted cloth or teething ring. Bear in mind that chilled items will only stay cool for around 20 minutes, so you may wish to keep, and rotate, a few teething rings in the fridge.
Opt for ridged or bumped rubber instead of liquid-filled teething rings, which can puncture after repeated chewing. Hard vegetables, such as peeled and chilled carrots or cucumbers, can double as homemade teethers. But make sure to supervise your child closely since such items could pose a choking hazard.
Many parents swear by liquid Tylenol for pain relief if the pain gets too much. Follow dosage instructions carefully, though, because too much Tylenol, too often can be harmful to your child. And always consult your child’s doctor if the pain persists beyond a few consecutive days.
Sometimes affection and distraction are the only remedies for fussy babies. If nothing else, rocking and hugging your child may bring them momentary comfort.