Mother and Baby

Teething - Signs, symptoms and how to soothe teething pain

Baby teething

While your baby’s 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. To help make things easier, we’ve found the symptoms to look out for and the genius ways to soothe teething pain.

When do babies start teething?

This completely depends on your baby – some babies will start teething at four months old, others won’t get their first teeth around the eight-month mark. The majority of babies will start teething at around six-months-old.

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

What are the symptoms of teething to look out for?

Your baby won’t teeth in quite the same way as any other baby on the planet, so play detective and learn his warning signs. Common symptoms include:

  • Dribbling or coughing, which is a sign your baby is making extra saliva as he teethes.
  • A few choice nappies or an out-of-the-blue nappy rash from swallowing all that extra drool.
  • A warm or flushed cheek.
  • Trouble drinking, eating or sleeping.
  • Your baby pulling at their ear, chewing their fingers or batting their face.
  • Being clingy or cranky.

It’s important to remember, your baby is born with the crowns of all 20 of their milk teeth almost completely formed. This means they are still teething even when there’s not so much as a swollen gum.

How can I soothe my baby’s teething pain?

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1. Find the right teether for your baby

If you want to have something to hand that your baby can play with and gnaw on, look for a teething toy. There are lots of different types available – and you may get through a few before you find 'The One'. Try different textures and different shapes – circular teethers are the best for when the front teeth are coming through, whilst a longer, thinner design can help with molars. We've summed up the best baby teethers on the market here. 
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2. Put the teethers in the fridge for half an hour

Keep a sealed tub of teethers in the fridge for your little one as the cold sensation can help relieve sore gums. If he’s already weaned, keep some chilled cucumber sticks and bananas in there as a gum-easing snack.
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3. Soak a dishcloth or flannel 

Soaking a new and clean dishcloth or flannel in warm water or chamomile tea and give it to your baby to chomp on. The warm water can ease aching gums and actually help teeth to break through the gums.
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4. Apply pressure

You can try using one of your fingers to press gently on your baby’s gums to temporarily relieve discomfort. Warning: this may hurt once your tot’s teeth start coming through! Also, remember nothing works better than the crook of your finger, so let your little one knaw on your clean hands if they want to. 
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5. Breastfeed… or not

Research has shown that some babies want to be breastfed more during teething, and it can also help align their teeth. But bear in mind there are some babies who find the sucking action more painful than normal on their gums and refuse milk. If this happens and your baby is older than six months (ready for weaning), you can offer him some puree or give your tot expressed milk in a suitable cup. Most of the time, babies can be encouraged to return to breastfeeding in a couple of days.
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6. Teething biscuits

If your baby isn’t a fan of cold food, then teething biscuits can be an effective alternative. There are plenty of brands available – just read the label to check that they are approved for your baby’s age and don’t leave him unattended.
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7. Rub in peppermint or vanilla 

Mix two tablespoons of coconut oil and one drop of peppermint essential oil in a bowl and apply a tiny dab on your baby’s gums. Vanilla is a great natural calmer that has been shown to sooth anxiety – and your baby could love the sweet taste. Try rubbing a small amount of diluted pure vanilla extract on to your baby’s gums for relieve pain.
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8. Make breastmilk ice cubes

Just like ice is great for sprains and muscle pain, it’s a super soother for inflamed gums. Freeze some of your breastmilk, formula or water into ice cube trays and rub them on your baby’s gums without letting go of the cube at any point. (Never leave it in his mouth to avoid the risk of choking).
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9. Chill a spoon

A cool metal spoon is a lovely soother for sore gums. Just make sure you only chill it in the fridge rather than freeze it, as it may stick to your baby's tongue and hurt them. 
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10. Use pain relief when you need to

If pressure isn’t enough to appease your teething baby, your next step should be to reach for a sugar free teething gel with a mild local anaesthetic to numb the pain. Make sure it’s one made specifically for infants as brands vary, and stick to the recommended dose and frequency. If he’s still in pain, medicine containing paracetamol or ibuprofen, but don’t use this as a long-term treatment: the rule is not to give it for more than three days without seeing your doctor.

What else should I look out for?

Remember – teething doesn’t cause a fever, so don’t attribute a raised temperature or diarrhoea to his fangs. Ear infections can present very similar symptoms to teething, so as a general rule, if you’d be worried by his symptoms if he wasn’t teething, see your GP.

Teething can lead to other issues that add to your baby’s discomfort, so get there first with these simple tips:

  • Dribbling can lead to a rah on his chin, so smear on a barrier of cream before it goes red.
  • Sucking as he drinks can trigger pain - if you find your baby bobbing on and off your breast, see if he finds it easier to drink facing the other way. Swap the arm you’re holding him with if you’re bottle feeding, or let him feed from both breasts on his most comfortable side by popping his body under your arm like a rugby ball to find from the second boob.
  • If he’s weaned, be led by him: he might find munching on something dry like toast brings relief, or find soft foods better.

Read next: 9 of the best baby teethers to soothe sore gums 

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