As you likely know, babies are not born with teeth. Those gummy little smiles, while cute, prevent your baby from being able to enjoy solid foods. (When my son tried his first taste of spaghetti – it was a match made in heaven!)
Teething is an important milestone for your baby, it rarely an enjoyable one for anyone in the house. While some babies may appear to be unaffected by the process, teething can be a vicious cycle for others. For starters, it can be quite uncomfortable for your little one. At night, it can become unbearable and prevent your baby from sleeping. (This in turn leads to an overly cranky baby due to sleep deprivation!)
As we all know – a baby who cannot sleep typically means no one else will sleep through the night as well. (My son, Oliver, certainly made sure I knew he was teething at night!) From parents to your other children, this can lead to a tense household. However, there is some hope. Below, I discuss the teething process as well as a few tips and tricks to helping your baby cope with the pain and sleep through the night.
Knowing what to look for is important. Why? Because it can help you to immediately preparing for the inevitable teething process that is about to occur. While each baby is different, the most common signs of teething are:
Your baby may exhibit one or more of the symptoms above. Gum inflammation may also lead to a low-grade fever, typically less than 101 degree Fahrenheit. However, you know your baby better than anyone else. Any changes in behavior or mood should be carefully noted.
Teething is not the only thing that can disrupt sleep for your baby. Ear infections and colds are also known to cause issues with sleeping. Pay attention to things like fevers, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, irritability, and sluggish or unresponsive behavior.
With a new baby, taking chances with colds or infections if never a good idea. If your baby appears to not be feeling well, contact your pediatrician.
Family history often dictates when your baby will start to teeth. If you or the father started teething early, for example, your baby likely will too. The same can be said about late teething.
For most babies, the central incisors are the first teeth to erupt. (For those of us who are not dentists, this refers to the two front, bottom teeth.) The four front teeth often follow this on the upper gum line, known as the central and lateral incisors. While this pattern is typical, each baby varies and other patterns are not cause for concern in most cases.
By 18 months, your child should have at least one tooth. Whether they have just started to teeth or have been teething for quite some time, 18 months tends to be the general rule of thumb. (At this time, whether your baby has teeth or not, it is time to schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist. Not only can a pediatric dentist determine the health of your baby’s new teeth, they can also check for any conditions that may be preventing teeth from sprouting. This early start to dental visits also helps your child to foster a natural, healthy bond with the dentist making for easier appointments down the road.)
In most cases, your child should have sprouted all of their baby teeth, referred to as primary teeth, by the time they turn 3 years old. If your baby is anything like mine, once one tooth popped out – the rest seemed to follow quickly.
Sleeping through the night is important for everyone. However, a teething baby can seriously affect this as crying is often the only way to communicate this frustratingly painful experience. But how can you help baby to sleep despite this?
First thing first. What you should never do is rub alcohol of any kind on your baby’s gums. We have all heard this advice at some point in our lives. However, whiskey and other adult beverages are extremely dangerous to the health of your baby and their development. This suggestion is an old wives’ tale and not one any modern-day parent should even attempt.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about tried and true advice experts and other mothers can stand behind.
Teething objects are known to help alleviate pain during waking hours. In particular, cold teething objects have been found to be extremely soothing. According to Jill Lasky, D.D.S. of Lasky Pediatric Dental Group, chilling a wet washcloth or chewing toy is an ideal, healthy way to help ease your baby’s pain. (Do not freeze the toy; this can make it too hard and cold for a baby to use.) Luckily, many of the teething toys on the market today are made for chilling, and are age appropriate, nontoxic, BPA-free tools specifically meant for your baby’s mouth. (Please note, many experts agree that you should not provide your baby with teething rings or topical teething gels. These items may contain substances that are unhealthy for your baby to ingest. As teeth begin to emerge, babies may puncture these rings and cause liquids to seep into their mouth. The FDA explicitly warns parents from the use of over the counter topical numbing gels since they can be too toxic for babies.) For my son, we found a teddy bear/towel toy that he loved to chew on while teething. In fact, he still loves his teddy bear blankey even though he eventually shewed the nose right off!
Running a cold, clean finger over your baby’s gums may also help. At night, if your baby is uncomfortable, it may help to quickly run cold water over your finger to cool it before rushing into the nursery to help. This all-natural means of addressing inflammation costs nothing but helps to sooth the gums quickly. (Cool foods, like applesauce or refrigerated purees, are also known to sooth inflammation of the gums.)
If your baby appears to be in serious pain, speak with your pediatrician. They may recommend an over the counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. (Your pediatrician can recommend a specific dose for your baby. Never give them a full adult dosage!) You should note that babies should never be given Aspirin. This medication has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, which is rare but extremely life threatening and serious should your child develop it. Medications, as directed by your pediatrician, can often help your child go 4 to 6 hours without pain, making this ideal for bedtime usage. Often, it is recommended that you provide this medication right after bedtime feeding to ensure it is processed correctly and efficiently through your baby’s system with food.
Teething while sleep training can be extremely frustrating for both you and your baby. You do not want to rush in to comfort your baby and undo any of the progress you have made. (I know how hard this can be! My son is my world and when he cries, my heart cries. But – sleep training is important to your little one’s emotional and mental development.)
For example, if you are trying to train your baby to sleep in their crib at night, bringing your baby back to your bed while comforting them is a bad idea. It undoes the progress you have made thus far and re-associates them with depending on you to sleep. Instead, pick your baby up from the crib and simply hold and comfort them until they have calmed. Then, place them back into the crib to go to sleep.
It is hard to allow your little one to suffer alone while teething. There may be a night or two where you throw the rules to the wind and cuddle our baby all night long. I know I am guilty of this myself! However, the goal is not to do long-term damage to an already difficult sleep training process. One night may not be damaging. However, constantly sleeping with your baby will likely destroy any sleep training progress you have already made. Find a balance that soothes your baby without creating new “bad” habits when it comes to bedtime.
Have you heard of Baby Sleep Miracle? Its a very clever sleep-training program I used with my son when he was first born. It’s an all encompassing guide that covers every possible scenario regarding a sleepless baby. You think your baby is stubborn? Lol anyway you can read my review of Baby Sleep Miracle here and learn more about the program. I highly suggest you check it out because it really helped me figure out why I couldn’t get Oliver to sleep sleep.
While teething can be a painful process, it is important to remember that it is a necessary one. Teething will allow your baby to begin eating a well-rounded diet. No longer are the relegated to milk, formula or pureed foods. Everything from fruit to meats can now been eaten without having to be blended into a goopy mess. (Seriously, though, Oliver’s love of spaghetti makes the entire teething process worth it. As were his first bites of chocolate, sprinkle cookies, and Spaghetti-O’s!)
Teething also helps to increase bone and brain development as well. Because food also plays a part in your child’s physical growth, teething indirectly helps to support your baby’s weight gain and immunity system.
It also helps to develop your baby’s ability to communicate. How? According to Sherry Artmenko, founder of Play on Words and a renowned speech-language pathologist, your baby’s teeth help to exercise the muscles associated with oral-motor skills. In other words, as your baby increases their biting and chewing, it helps to build the muscles needed to articulate specific sounds.
What does all this mean to my fellow Mombie’s out there losing sleep while baby teethes? Two words: mental mantra! Repeat after me: “One day, I will miss this!” After all, once those teeth pop – that gummy smile is gone forever. While I love Oliver’s little grin and watching his reaction to every new taste – I will miss those gummy little nibbles and smiles.