Teething is something every parent of a newborn has to deal with, but it can sometimes be hard to predict. Your baby's first tooth might appear as early as 3 months, but it's totally normal for baby to be closer to their first birthday, or even beyond that, before their first pearly white pops through. Most children, however, will get their first tooth by around 6 months old. Keep in mind that teething symptoms sometimes begin weeks or even months before a tooth actually shows up, so keeping a record of when symptoms appear can help you tell when baby is actually close to sprouting a new tooth.
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1. Teething rash
One common sign of teething is redness or a rash around your baby's mouth or chin. Teething often leads to more drooling, and all that extra moisture can irritate baby's sensitive skin. Gently wipe baby's face with a soft cloth or bib to help prevent this. Applying a product like petroleum jelly to create a protective barrier helps too.
As discussed above, increased drooling is one of the most common ways to tell baby is teething. To prevent wet, soggy clothing and skin irritation, try using soft bibs like popular cotton bandanna bibs or basic terry-cloth ones. Just remember to remove bibs before baby's naptime or bedtime for safety.
3. Decreased sleeping
Teething is one of many issues that can cause babies (and their tired parents) to lose sleep at night. Unfortunately, teeth movement through the bone and gum can actually be more active at night. Remind yourself that this is just a phase, and be prepared for baby to need a little extra soothing for a few nights.
4. Decreased appetite
It's no surprise that teething symptoms may affect a child's appetite. Teething can cause uncomfortable pressure for nursing or bottle-fed infants. However, some infants may actually crave the comfort of milk or formula more when teething. If you're using breast milk, consider storing a little extra to have on hand during teething just in case. Keep an eye on baby's intake, but don't stress if it's slightly higher or lower for a few days. For children who eat solid food, it's understandable that sore gums may discourage a child at mealtime for a few days. On the other hand, chewing safe foods like teething wafers comforts some babies. Chilled baby food can also offer irritated gums some relief.
With the disrupted sleeping and eating patterns, sore gums, and irritated skin that teething can bring, it's no wonder that some babies may be extra fussy during this time. While extra crying might not do much for your bad mood, keep in mind that it's just baby's way of trying to communicate. The first tooth, which is most often one of the bottom middle teeth, and molars, which are larger back teeth, are often the most uncomfortable. Try distracting baby from the discomfort by going out for a walk, or introduce a safe teething toy. Of course, you can also talk to your pediatrician about how to safely use an infant pain reliever if necessary.
When teething, some children love chewing on anything and everything to help soothe their sore gums. Biting helps create counterpressure to the uncomfortable pressure caused by the movement of the tooth. Plus, babies love exploring objects with their mouths anyway. You can help your baby by providing safe objects for them to happily gnaw like wet washcloths, teething rings, or soft toys. If you're still nursing, rest assured that you don't have to stop just because your baby's teeth are emerging. You and your child will adjust as those pearly whites continue to come in over time.
7. Ear pulling and cheek rubbing
Teething can be confusing for babies. The nerves in the gums, cheek, jaw, and ear are all connected, so sometimes teething pain can be transferred to other parts of your child's face. If you notice your child tugging on an ear or rubbing their cheek or jaw, this is a telltale sign that baby is teething. However, children who have an ear infection also often pull on their ear, so check with a pediatrician if this symptom persists for more than a few days.
8. Other symptoms (fever and diarrhea)
Though it's common to hear that teething can cause fever and diarrhea, these symptoms are actually often the sign of another illness. Because teething causes inflammation, it may sometimes cause a low-grade fever. However, if the fever is 101 degrees or higher, or if baby is showing any other signs of illness, it's best to check with your pediatrician to rule out any other issues. Regarding diarrhea, the excessive drool teething causes may lead to some looser bowel movements in some cases. However, if more than two of baby's bowel movements are runny, call your pediatrician to make sure there's not another cause. Keep in mind that antibiotics can also affect a baby's bowel movements.
To soothe your teething infant, try the following:
- Appropriate teething toys like bumpy rings and rattles
- Washcloths dipped in cool water
- Safe teething wafers or chilled — not frozen — baby food
- Pediatrician-approved pain relievers
- Extra snuggles
What to skip:
- Amber teething necklaces, which haven't been shown to work
- Numbing agents, which can affect baby's oxygen levels
- Rubbing alcohol on baby's gums, since this can be toxic and just causes more irritation
Teething can be rough on babies and parents. Try to remember that it's only a phase, and seeing your baby's beautiful, toothy smile will make it all worthwhile.