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Mother and Baby

Teething: your definitive guide

While that little mouth filling with teeth is a big step towards eating solids and growing up, it does mean quite a lot of fuss and discomfort for both you and your baby.

Just when your baby is starting to sleep through the night, yep, teething arrives.

While some babies will cut their teeth with hardly a whimper, others see the arrival of their toothy grin with restless nights filled with drooling, gnawing and crying.

But it isn’t all bad – there are lots of toys, gels and treatments that are perfect for solving this exact situation and will help your baby, and you, get some kip.

When do babies start teething?

Perhaps your baby is eight months old and teething, perhaps he’s four months old – teething comes at different ages with different babies. But the majority of babies start teething at around the six month mark.

Unfortunately, teething is a long process. It may take your little one up until the age of two and half to have grown all of his milk teeth.

Which tooth comes first?

Teething signs & symptoms

Your baby’s new teeth may give him absolutely no discomfort at some points and lots of hassle at other moments. So, enjoy those moments that he’s happy and chilled.

You may find your baby wakes often and refuses to eat

When he’s in pain, you may notice his gums are sore and red where the tooth is coming through or that one cheek is flushed. You may also find your baby wakes often and refuses to eat. These are all quite common signs of teething.

‘Your baby may dribble and chew a lot,’ says Professor Mitch Blair, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. ‘Or he may just be generally quite unsettled.’

A teething rash on the chin is also a common symptom.

If your baby’s behaviour is out of character or you think the symptoms are severe, speak to your GP for advice.

How to manage baby teething

Luckily, there are lots of great toys and products in shops that are really great for your teething baby – it’s all about finding what works. 

Teething rings, teething gels and cool drinks are usually really successful and something as simple as playing with your baby can sometimes distract him from the pain in his gums, too.

‘If your baby is in pain or has a raised temperature, you may want to give him medicine but make sure any painkilling medicine is specifically designed for children,’ says Professor Blair. ‘These contain a small dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen and should be sugar-free.’

It is extremely important that when giving your baby medicine, you always follow the dosage instructions that come with the medicine. If you are not sure, ask your GP or pharmacist for advice.

Seven ways to soothe your teething baby

  • To numb your baby’s gums, give her a teether that’s been chilled in the fridge for half an hour. Or if she’s over six months, offer her some cold water in a cup. Depending on her age, feed her chilled fruit purées or pop a chunk of frozen banana or plums in a baby-feeder mesh bag for her to gnaw on safely.
  • Give your baby a clean flannel soaked in warm water to suck on as the warmth can ease aching gums and help teeth break through the gums.
  • Experiment with teething toys to find one that offers just the right pressure to ease discomfort. The nobbly bits on some teethers can provide extra relief and will give your baby’s gums something to grasp onto. Buy one with a range of textures, so she can experiment for herself. And have a selection of different shapes too: circular teethers are best when she’s cutting her front teeth but she’ll need a longer, thinner design to reach her molars. The crook of your little finger makes a great teether – but wash your hands first. And if she’s restless at night, gently press on her gum with your little finger – it’s a great way to soothe her without waking her up.
  • Infant paracetamol is best for relieving mild to moderate discomfort before a tooth comes through. And when she is actually cutting a tooth, infant ibroprofen may be more effective as it reduces inflammation.
  • Teething granules contain a natural pain reliever to ease discomfort and they easily dissolve in the mouth. They are sugar free, but always check label if your baby is lactose intolerant, as some contain this.
  • Teething gels contain a mild anaesthetic to numb the gum. Choose a sugar-free gel. If your baby is under four months old, check with your pharmacist first. With all pain relief, consult your GP after a couple of days if the discomfort hasn’t eased.
  • Extra cuddles and kisses really do help soothe the pain, especially if you have skin-on-skin contact. This releases oxytocin, which decreases pain levels.
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