Teething FAQ's for the Sleep Deprived Momma
Teething. The very word rips my mind from a place of peace into the dark world of crying babies. All babies go through it. Not all handle it gracefully. Of my three children, not a single one of them teethed gently. They each cried and gnawed their way through until, finally, the teeth emerged. Two of my three are passed the teething stage, while my youngest is now in the throes of biting agony. However, teething with my third hasn’t been as hard on me as it was with my first. I have learned a lot over the last few years about teething and how to help mom and baby get enough rest in this trying time. As a first-time mom, I typed millions of teething questions into Google – can I share with you a compilation of the answers?
1. When does teething start?
The truth is, this answer varies. Each baby is unique and may start teething sooner or later. Each of my children began experiencing teething pain at three months old. They certainly didn’t start cutting teeth at three months, though. Most babies begin experiencing teething pain between three and five months of age, even though the teeth may come many months later.
2. How do I know if my baby is experiencing teething pain?
Like I tell my big kids, baby doesn’t have any words, so she can’t just say, “Mom, my mouth really hurts today.” Instead, she is super fussy. You may notice baby grabbing and tugging on her ears – which is often baby attempting to massage her aching jaw. All three of mine were ear-tugging teethers.
Another way to know if baby is experiencing teething pain is to do what I call “the finger test.” Baby screams, mouth wide open, refusing her pacifier, refusing her bottle, refusing all comfort. I gently rub the first knuckle of my finger along her gums and wait for a reaction. If she starts sucking frantically, she is probably hungry and maybe going through a growth spurt. If she bites, gumming your knuckle to a pulp - you guessed it! She is teething!
*PRO TIP: I use my knuckle for the “finger test” because fingers have finger nails. I am terrified of accidently scratching the roof of my baby’s mouth if she sucks hard on my finger. Using a knuckle gives her something substantial to chew on, without the risk of hurting her.
Teething produces A LOT of drool. A LOT. I cannot emphasize this enough. I tried everything to keep their skin dry: bibs, frequent clothing changes, more bibs, more changes of clothes, bandana bibs, silicone bibs, burp cloths, I even tied dish towels around like a bib (supervised, of course) to try drying up the Nile pouring from my baby’s mouth. Baby usually learns to swallow her drool around six months old, until then, you will probably have to treat the dreaded drool rash. After I dry baby off, I smear Vaseline around her mouth and on her chest – the areas most affected. All this drool can also produce extra spit-up and extra loose stools (if your baby eats solids).
Finally, the most obvious method to know if baby is experiencing teething pain: she chews ON EVERYTHING. She chews her fingers, she gnaws her fists. She gums her toys, her toes, her sleeves. You name it – it goes in the mouth.
Overall, teething pain is fairly easy to spot, but sometimes the symptoms are more subtle. Fussy baby that spits up a lot and chews on everything and is at least three months old? You got a teether!
3. How soon will baby actually get teeth?
Once again, each baby grows teeth at a different rate. My first born began teething around three months old, but she didn’t cut her first teeth until she was almost nine months old. Granted, she was the last one in our baby group to cut her teeth. But it isn’t uncommon for baby to cut their teeth even later. My second cut his first teeth around six months old. My third hasn’t cut his yet, so we will see. The short answer? Most babies begin cutting around six months but can cut teeth earlier or later.
4. How can I ease my baby’s teething pain?
I have seen SO MANY teething products on the market. Personally, I prefer to go the most natural route, and only calling on Tylenol for the worst times.
PRO TIP: The first teeth and the molars are the most painful for baby.
I swear by the amber teething necklace and by a natural teething tablet. I have purchased a Powell’s Owls teething necklace for each of my children and also give them away as baby gifts. These don’t eliminate all the teething pain, but seem to alleviate the vast majority of day-to-day discomfort from teething. I suggest removing the necklace and letting baby wear it around her ankle under her sleeper or sock if you want to keep it on while she sleeps.
I also like the Hyland’s Oral Pain Relief tablets. I call these little guys in when baby is having a particularly difficult time with teething pain. Dissolving one tablet in her mouth usually calms her and returns peace to our home. I like that they are natural and gentle.
Finally, on particularly bad days – like when she is cutting a tooth, not just experiencing teething pain – I will use Baby Tylenol. You will need to check with your pediatrician regarding the dosage for your baby. My children tend to be big for their age, so my doctor is fine with them having a small amount when needed.
5. How long does the teething phase last?
In general, your baby will be through the worst of the teething phase by the time she is twelve- eighteen months. She will possibly have another bout when she cuts her two-year molars.
Watching my baby suffer with teething pain breaks my heart. I try to give her a little extra mommy time and be extra patient with her fussiness – after all, she is in pain. And as much as I love a gummy baby smile, the little toothy smiles are just as cute! Don’t forget to check out my post on helping baby sleep and follow my Facebook page to see each new post!