Your Baby and Teething
If you use a teether that contains gel, be sure to examine it regularly for cracking or other signs of wear and tear.
Certainly teething may also cause some irritability, if not from the pain then from the pressure of the teeth against the underside of the gums. Unfortunately, your child's primary means of solace, sucking, offers him little comfort when he is teething. In fact, sucking may increase the pressure on his gums and any pain he feels.
Your baby is in an impossible position: He wants to suck because of its soothing effects, but he doesn't want to suck because it causes him pain. As a result, your teething child may lose some of his appetite for nursing (or bottle-feeding)-and maybe for solid foods, too. If he does drink from the breast or bottle, your baby may stop short and then start again many times. Try not to worry. Once the tooth has cut through the surface, his appetite will return.
Do not offer food as a teether until your baby has begun eating solid foods. Even after he's started on solids, stay with him and stay alert if you offer him a hard food to use as a teether. Take special care that your baby doesn't choke on any piece that breaks off in his mouth. Be ready to fish out any small piece of food with your finger.
Because sucking doesn't do the trick, you have to try something else to relieve the pressure on your baby's gums. Teethers, especially cold ones, are likely to offer your baby some much-needed comfort. By biting down on a teether, your baby can balance the pressure from under the gums. Cold teethers have the added benefit of numbing the gums to extend the relief.
Any of the following items make great teethers:
- A teething ring, especially one designed with a gel inside that cools when stored in a refrigerator
- A hard, smooth toy with no pieces that might break off
- A toothbrush
- A bagel
- A frozen banana
- Something cold to eat
- An ice cube
- A cold, wet washcloth
- A small piece of ice wrapped inside a washcloth
If your baby bites down on your breast or fingers when teething, remember that he's not trying to hurt you. To relieve the pressure from under the gums, he will bite down on virtually anything you put in his mouth.
So try not to get angry with your baby. If you must, say (but don't shout), "Ow!" Then gently but firmly draw him away from your breast. Look into his eyes as you tell him, "No biting!" Then return him to the breast if he's still interested. (Be patient. It may take more than one lesson for your message to sink in.)
Your baby will also find his own "teethers":
- The handle of a rattle
- The railing of his crib or playpen
- An unsuspecting relative's finger
- His mother's breast
If none of these teethers work for your baby, try rubbing the tooth and/or gum firmly with your own finger. (You may want to dip your finger in ice water first to chill it.) Consult your pediatrician before using liquid acetaminophen (or any other medication) to ease pain associated with teething.
The first teeth, which are always the front ones, are not for chewing, but rather for biting. But although your baby won't use these teeth to chew, he still starts to chew food around the time his first teeth come in. Even before the molars start coming in, your baby learns to chew using just his gums. Actually, your baby probably started to practice chewing on toys at around three or four months. But by five or six months, he needs food to practice on, too. Again, watch your baby carefully whenever he's chewing on anything. If he swallows something without chewing it thoroughly, he may start to choke.