Teething Tips To Help Soothe Your Baby
What you should know about your baby’s first little chomper.
It can be exhilarating to see your infant hit important milestones: their first chubby, gummy smile, wobbly steps, and (the pièce de résistance of their babyhood development) their first “mama” or “dada.” Each little bit of progress is so heartwarming, you can almost feel yourself melt into a puddle of baby love. But not all headway is fun all the time. Some strides can naturally bring a little tension along for the ride, like separation anxiety, introducing new foods, and (hand in hand with the latter) possibly finding yourself negotiating with a picky eater. And it’s likely that these bittersweet advances are preceded by yet another—your baby’s first tooth.
There may be nothing cuter than seeing your infant grin with their first tiny little chomper. Yet, at the same time, baby teething can be an uncomfortable and upsetting time in both your lives. We know how hard it can be to see your little one in any discomfort, especially if you feel like you’re at a loss as to how to soothe them. However, as with many things in parenthood, what can help the most is knowledge, experience, and a lot of trial and error—a lot.
To help prepare you for (and get you through) this trying time, we’ve put together a handy teething guide. Ahead, we’re diving into exactly what teething is, some teething symptoms to look out for, and teething tips to help you both get through the day a little easier. We’ll even give you the lowdown on the best kind of teething toys to try, as well as what to avoid. Now, sit back, and let’s dig our teeth into it all.
When Does Teething Start?
You may have noticed that around 3 months old, your infant is especially drooly and it seems as though their hands (and feet) are particularly tasty to them. It’s common to interpret these developments as signs that they’re at the teething age. And, though it’s possible for your baby’s first tooth to erupt as early as 4 months of age, it’s more likely that what you’re seeing is your baby learning to explore their world with their mouth. For most babies, their teeth start to develop and push their way out of those tiny gum lines between 6 and 12 months old.
Either the upper or lower incisors, in the center of their mouth, are typically the first to protrude, followed by the opposing teeth on either the top or bottom. From there, new baby teeth tend to appear every few months, popping up from the middle of their mouth to their back molars. By the time they’re 3, most children have a full set of pearly kiddy whites.
Of course, no two infants’ bodies develop the same way or at the same pace, so if your little one’s teeth develop a little before or after these average teething ages, there’s usually no need to worry. Often, the timing that baby teeth come in is based on genetics. That said, if you are concerned, it’s always best to speak to your pediatrician.
And, speaking of doctors, when your baby’s first tooth does make an appearance, it’s also time to start looking for a reputable pediatric dentist—or a regular dentist who’s both skilled and comfortable with treating small children. And try to bring them to see a dentist by their first birthday, as the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry both recommend. There, your kid’s dentist will check the development of their teeth and advise you on properly caring for their little choppers.
And, once your baby’s first tooth does come in, it’s time to start caring for it. Scrub-a-dub-dub that tiny tooth—even if it’s just the one—twice a day with a silicone baby brush that fits on your finger. It’s also recommended that children are introduced to fluoride at 6 months old, or when their first tooth arrives. Fluoride, a mineral often added to tap water, helps harden tooth enamel to help prevent tooth decay. Of course, your baby shouldn’t have too much water, only a few sips, so they don’t fill up on it and miss out on valuable nutrients from formula, breastmilk, or solid food. Always discuss the introduction of brushing and fluoride with their pediatrician and/or dentist before starting any baby dental care routine.
What Are The Symptoms of a Baby's First Tooth & Teething?
Here comes the not-so-fun part of your baby teething—teething symptoms. Your infant is limited in communicating what they’re feeling, beyond you deciphering what their different cries mean. (And some kids don’t even show any signs of teething pain at all.) But symptoms of teething pain can often mimic something else, such as a cold. This is because they may be irritable and easily upset, and exhibit sleep regression, ear-rubbing, and a mild temperature (101 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.3 Celsius—call the doctor if it’s any higher), as well as diarrhea and a loss of appetite. They may also have swollen gums, a rash around their mouth, excessive cheek- and gum-rubbing, and a penchant for chewing on something hard.
Research has shown that 70-80% of parents recognized these symptoms as being due to teething. But, 20-30% likely thought they were due to a minor cold or illness, illustrating just how hard teething symptoms can be to identify.
Some of these same symptoms of teething pain, like irritability or a loss of appetite, can also be confused with another common culprit—infant gas. To distinguish between the two, see if your baby is straining, arching their back, becoming intermittently stiff, or bunching up their legs. If they are, it’s probably air bubbles trapped in their tummy. The good news is you can easily relieve their gas by giving them Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief Drops in either our dye-free or original formula. They work quickly to break gas bubbles down to help your little one naturally relieve them. Plus, the active ingredient, simethicone, won’t stay in their system—it’s not even absorbed.
If you’ve ruled out a cold or minor illness, as well as gas—hopefully with the help of your pediatrician—there are other teething remedies you may want to give a try.
How Can I Soothe My Baby's First Tooth & Teething?
Although there’s no magic wand you can wave to banish your little one’s discomfort, there are teething tips you can try. Of course, always ask your pediatrician what they recommend, but be sure to keep the following dos and don’ts top of mind too.
Do try using one clean finger to gently massage or rub your baby’s gums.
Do use a firm teething ring without any liquid inside (which can accidentally leak or burst). However, Don’t use the kind that can be stored in the freezer, since they can become too hard and be counterproductive.
Do try giving your baby something firm and cold (just not hard and freezing) to munch on, like a clean and cool, wet or frozen washcloth.
Don’t give your kid any medication your pediatrician hasn’t greenlit—and even when you give them an approved topical pain reliever, Do be careful not to overdo it; too much can interfere with their swallowing reflex and turn their saliva into a choking hazard. Along the same lines, Don’t give your infant any teething tablets or medication that contain two ingredients promoted for teething pain, but which the FDA specifically advises against: belladonna (a plant poison) and benzocaine. Belladonna is marketed as a homeopathic ingredient in some teething products, but the unregulated amount of it in supplements can cause unnecessary risks. Benzocaine has been linked to risks of developing methemoglobin in teething babies, which significantly reduces the amount of oxygen carried in the blood and can, therefore, be potentially fatal.
Do offer your child a teething biscuit, but Don’t leave them unattended with it (chunks can break off and become a choking hazard). And Don’t rely on them exclusively, since they have no nutritional value and often contain excess salt and sugar.
Don’t use an amber teething necklace (or any other kind of teething necklace, for that matter) or teething beads. There’s not only no research behind their effectiveness, but they can also be a strangulation risk.
Do ask your doctor if there’s an appropriate baby dose of acetaminophen, like Tylenol, you can give them. Same with ibuprofen, such as Motrin, as long as your infant is over 6 months of age. Just be sure to ask what the proper dose in milliliters would be based on your child’s age and weight, since most teething remedies such as these come in liquid form.
Next: Teething pain can be a real bummer for your kid, especially when it’s bedtime. Learn how to help them get a better sleep while they're teething—and beyond—in our Baby Sleep Guide.