Guest Post By Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN
If your baby is around six months old and seems cranky, you may wonder whether or not they are teething. You might also notice they are drooling extra and trying to put everything in their mouth.
5 Natural Teething Tips to Soothe Sore Gums
Most babies are a little older when they begin teething. However, for some it can happen as early as three months old. If you think your child is teething, here are five tips to naturally soothe sore gums, plus when to consider medications.
1. Massage Your Baby’s Gums
Sometimes massaging your baby’s gums can help them feel better. You can wash your hands and see if you can find the spot where the new tooth is going to break through.
Once you’ve determined where your baby is feeling sore, apply gentle pressure and massage any sore areas in their mouth. Many babies find relief with this or gnawing on your knuckles. Just make sure your hands are clean!
2. Make Popsicles
If you are feeding your baby through breastmilk, consider making breastmilk popsicles. Amazon, Target, and Walmart all typically carry reusable popsicle trays for young kids with silicone bases that are easy for little hands to hold.
Unfortunately, it is not recommended to freeze formula. However, if freezing breastmilk is not an option, or you’d like an alternative, consider a frozen smoothie bar if your little one is on solids.
Blend some banana, strawberry, yogurt, and water and pour the contents into the molds. Whether a breastmilk popsicle or a fruit popsicle, both options can help provide relief and provide a healthy snack.
3. Frozen Washcloth
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding hard, solid teething rings. These can be too hard for a baby’s mouth. However, a chilly alternative is freezing a washcloth.
It’s easy to make several frozen washcloths at a time, and they provide gentler, cold relief for your little one.
4. Chew Toys
Several plastic and rubber toys are made specifically as chew toys for babies. And many of them come in fun prints and designs, like slices of bacon, strawberries, or other colorful options.
Just make sure to avoid chew toys that could be hazardous, per the AAP. These include teething necklaces and bracelets containing amber beads, wood, silicone, or marbles. Silicone itself isn’t harmful to babies but becomes a choking hazard when it’s a bead on a teether.
Teething bracelets and necklaces can also be a strangulation hazard. So, to be safe, err on the side of caution and stick to handheld plastic or rubber toys instead of necklaces or bracelets.
5. Snuggles and Distraction
Your little one may need extra snuggles and distraction when teething to keep them from noticing teething pain. Teething is a great time to play engaging games like singing and clapping together or going for a walk and pointing out different objects and activities around you.
You may notice that teething worsens at night. One of the reasons for this is that at bedtime, there are no longer the distractions of the day.
Medications and Ruling out Illness
While teething can typically be handled by providing natural interventions, such as gum massages or safe items to chew on, sometimes pain relieving medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (also known as Tylenol® or Children’s Motrin® respectively), can provide extra relief. If you notice your child’s teething is worse at nap time or bedtime when you’re not there to keep them busy, consider pain relief.
Depending on your child’s age and size, you may need to check in with your pediatrician about whether or not to give pain medications and the proper dose. For example, acetaminophen is typically safe to give to young babies. However, ibuprofen isn’t usually given until babies are six months or older. If unsure, check in with your child’s healthcare provider or a pharmacist for advice.
It’s also important to point out that per the AAP, you’ll want to avoid any pain relievers that you place on a baby’s gums. A teething baby drools so much that the medication is likely to be ineffective, as most of it will wash away. And, since most of these topical medications contain numbing agents, they can numb the back of the throat. This can cause problems with your baby’s ability to swallow.
Lastly, know that a slightly elevated temperature can be normal in a teething child per the AAP. However, teething shouldn’t cause a high fever. Sometimes parents mistakenly blame what’s an illness on teething. If your child has a fever, is irritable, or has other symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, they likely have a bug. If you’re worried about your child’s symptoms, contact a healthcare provider to determine if they should be seen.
Even though teething is a normal part of a baby’s growth and development, it can cause discomfort. While most of the time natural remedies can help provide relief to a teething baby, sometimes medications are useful to provide additional relief—especially before naptime or bedtime.
And, if you’re ever in doubt about whether or not to give medication to your baby, what the dose is, and if your baby is teething or sick, your child’s healthcare provider is a great resource.
For More Information About Teething, Try These:
- How to Tell If Your Baby is Sick or Teething
- What Parents Need to Know About Teething and Diaper Rash
- Why Teething May Worse At Night
Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN, is a mother of four and a registered nurse with a background in pediatrics. When she's not working, you can find her cooking up tasty family dinners or keeping up with her kids on a hiking trail in her home state of Colorado.
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