This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Rosanna Spear, a partner at Lansdale Pediatrics, a private outpatient pediatric practice in Lansdale, PA. Spear has been practicing pediatrics for over 20 years, she is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and board-certified with the American Board of Pediatrics.
Congratulations! Your baby’s teeth are coming in… but, woe is you, so are those sleepless nights of fussiness. Trying to soothe a teething baby can be a nightmare, not just for our miserable babies and toddlers, but also for us. The sleep deprivation struggle is real. In fact, there are a lot of teething pain remedies being advertised out there that prey on just that. You’re tired, your baby’s in pain — you’re willing to do anything to just. make. it. stop! Hey, we’ve all been there.
Unfortunately, it turns out that a lot of these (sometimes very pricey) remedies for teething pain being sold to parents aren’t recommended by doctors or the FDA. So what is actually safe? We’re here to break down everything you want to know about teething babies.
What are teething baby symptoms?
You know how every time your baby has a mild fever or diarrhea, some well-meaning person excitedly tells you they must be teething? Well turns out, research says those kind souls are effectively wrong. These are the actual symptoms of teething, according to the Mayo Clinic:
Excessive drooling: Yup, it’s time for those cloth bibs to shine, as your baby literally leaves a trail of drool wherever they go. Kinda like a little human snail.
Chewing on everything: While babies do love to put everything in their mouths anyway, you’ll notice they’re working those gums much more.
Irritability or crankiness: This one may be the worst part, dealing with a constantly fussy baby is a lot.
Sore or tender gums: Your baby’s gums may appear red and/or swollen around where the teeth are starting to come out.
Slight increase in temperature: We’re not talking about a real fever here! Just a slight increase in temperature.
Decrease in appetite: Would you want to eat solid food when your mouth is sore and throbbing? Probably not. It’s normal for babies and toddlers to shy away from solid food and drink more milk when they’re teething.
If your baby has a fever (especially in the early stages of teething) or diarrhea, you may want to call your doctor.
When do babies start teething?
Your baby’s first teeth will start to come in around 6 months, and those last molars can come in as later as 33 months. Yes, that is one long teething journey.
What teething baby remedies can I use?
There are a few ways that you can safely help reduce your baby’s pain and discomfort, according to the Mayo Clinic and the FDA:
Keep it cool: A cold spoon or chilled teething ring (not frozen!) can help soothe those aching gums. Just make sure to supervise your baby with these objects.
Massage away: Get your clean fingers in your baby’s mouth and give those gums a little gentle massage. Hey, it’s definitely not the grossest thing you’ll ever do as a parent. Plus, it’s a chance for a little cuddle.
Cool food and teething biscuits: If your baby is already eating solids, the Cleveland Clinic recommends teething biscuits or cold foods like yogurt. One wise mom even recommends bagels for teething, when age-appropriate. But do make sure to wash your baby’s gums after. Yep, once those teeth start coming in, so do the risks of cavities. And seriously, no one wants to deal with dentist bills at this stage.
Certain over-the-counter medication: This isn’t a solution you’re going to want to rely on regularly. But if your baby is having a rough night because of teething, it’s ok to give them Tylenol in the recommended dose for your child’s age and weight. It’s always good to call your doctor and check with them before giving your child any medicine.
Ask another mama: In case you haven’t yet caught on to this fact, other parents will be one of your greatest resources in motherhood. So, if you run your baby’s teething woes by someone in your baby’s daycare circle, for example, she might be able to offer a mom hack you hadn’t thought of. Or, at the very least, she’ll be right there to commiserate with you over the lack of sleep.
What teething pain remedies should I stay away from?
Many teething products on the market may not be entirely safe. Here are the deets on a few apparent teething treatment no-nos:
Teething necklaces: When you see a kid with a stylin’ amber teething necklace, you might be tempted to pick one up for your fussy little drool machine. Unfortunately, both these amber necklaces and the pretty silicone teething necklaces marketed for moms could pose a significant danger to your baby. According to the FDA: “There are serious risks associated with using jewelry marketed for relieving teething pain such as choking, strangulation, injury to the mouth, and infection. Other concerns include potential injury to the mouth or infection if a piece of the jewelry irritates or pierces the child’s gums.”
Oral analgesics: The FDA recommends not using any topical numbing creams on your baby’s gums either, as there is little proof that these actually work. Not only do they wash out of your baby’s mouth within minutes, but they can also be “associated with significant risk.”
Homeopathic over-the-counter remedies: While you’ll definitely meet mamas who swear by homeopathic teething tablets and gels, it’s best not to make these your go-to. “Lab analysis of some homeopathic remedies found greater amounts than labeled of the ingredient belladonna, which can cause seizures and difficulty breathing,” advises the Mayo Clinic.
When should I see a doctor about teething pain?
Teething pain may bring about much crankiness and sleepless nights, but it usually can be managed at home. However, if your baby has a fever, diarrhea, or is completely inconsolable for a long stretch of time, err on the side of caution and call your doctor.
Good luck, mamas. We’ll get through this one.