Teething is often blamed for unexplained periods of sleep disturbances, causing your baby to be unsettled and looking like or sounding like they are in pain from teething.
Symptoms commonly attributed to teething:
- Gas and wind
- Coughs, runny nose and colds
- Nappy/diaper rash
- Sleep problems
A tooth can take 3 to 6 days to cut through properly. So any signs outside of this are usually down to something else; their developmental stage, gross or fine motor developmental learning curve, building social awareness, babbling, learning to sit up, or crawl, a period of separation anxiety or mastering their hand-eye coordination task! The Wonder Weeks App is amazing for Mental Leaps which are completely different to Physical Milestones. The app will tell you crankiness periods, what to expect and how to manage!
It’s easy and common to reach for pain relief. Parents assume teething is a long and painful process. But if it’s not in the 3 – 6 days of cutting the teeth pain relief will not work. Unnecessary pain relief could be harmful with prolonged usage too; you could easily give them pain relief for ‘teething’ at 4 months old when they won’t actually cut a tooth until 8 or 9 months!
Gas/wind: Often seen as a sign of teething but in actual fact there is no research or evidence to prove that teething causes gas and wind. It’s usually related to the digestive system and is something your baby has had to eat.
Fever: Teething may trigger a very low fever up to 38°C (100.4°F) but any higher is usually an underlying issue like a cold, cough or viral.
Coughs, runny nose and cold: When teething your little one’s immune system maybe weakened. As Teething is an inflammatory process it does not directly cause a cough or cold and neither is there any research or evidence that points to this. By the time babies gums start opening and they are cutting a tooth they are at the age where they maybe exposed to new environment, outside germs, less sterilised equipment and more interaction with people. An average number of colds for a baby is around 10 per year.
Diarrhea: When I first heard the saying ‘’Ooohhh that’s a teething poo’’ I wondered what the hell that meant. Many parents say their little one’s poo has a vinegar smell around the time of teething. It’s unlikely that teething has actually caused the diarrhea directly. Your baby is likely to have been exposed to a bug or has an upset tummy.
Nappy/diaper rash: This often occurs when baby is passing stools- or pooing- frequently. It’s common for parents to report nappy rashes at the time of teething. If their poo is more vinegar-like it is possible that a nappy rash will increase.
So, what ARE the symptoms of teething?
This is a pretty obvious one, as gums are being broken down and become swollen and inflamed. However, how a baby responds to this will be an individual thing; some babies scream for days and some-if you’re lucky- are fairly unbothered. There are some ideas further down on how to manage teething pain.
Again, this is fairly obvious as teething does cause pain. But going back to the above point, some babies aren’t that bothered by teething and some are. That said, there are other issues with teething that can cause night time problems, and these can include:
- More frequent breastfeeding (the action of breastfeeding soothes the pressure in the jaw and mouth)
- Fewer distractions in the night time, which means that something that could pacify a baby in the day (i.e cuddles and toys) is no longer there.
- More blood flow to the head due to lying down, which can make the pain feel worse.
- Overtiredness: babies who are over tired produce more cortisol, which makes the pain response intensify.
Other visible symptoms of teething (will last around 4-5 days)
- Chewing on lots of hard objects – including knuckles, wooden toys, feet, utensils and any other hard object they can lay their hands on!
- Reluctance to eat
- Pulling at their ears
- Bright red cheeks
How do we relieve the symptoms of teething?
Firstly, it’s important to note that before you try any kind of remedy for teething, you need to make sure that it IS actually teething and not something else. For example, red cheeks can also be caused by the slapped cheek virus and ear-pulling could actually be an ear infection. So if you’re not sure, get your bub checked by your GP!
But if you’re sure it’s teething, you can try any of the following:
- Teething granules, powders or gels, available from all pharmacists and supermarkets
- Cold, hard watery foods like chilled melon or cucumber
- Frozen (but partially thawed) chunks of banana
- A frozen (but partially thawed) flannel to chew on
- An ice lolly made from breast or formula milk
- An amber necklace, though these are slightly controversial as they pose a choking hazard. They also contribute to the idea that teething is a lengthy process.
- Make sure bub gets enough sleep
- Letting your baby nap upright in a carrier
- Keeping the baby’s environment calm
- Using teething toys. All the better if you can chill them first!
To round up:
So, despite millions of hits on Google, thousands of blog posts on how to help with teething, hopefully it’s a little clearer that teething is both simpler, and more complex than you might think! Here’s a summary:
- Teeth are present from birth, and usually begin to emerge around 6 months
- Teething is often blamed for many other problems. It is important to rule out illness, tiredness and developmental stages before you assume that teeth are to blame
- Try to avoid prolonged use of pain relieving gels and medications
- Try to keep the atmosphere calm and relaxed, and minimize stress and overtiredness – these things will make teething worse.