Inside: It’s normal for teething to have your child in a less-than-desirable mood. But if you find teething is sending your family through the wringer, do these 17 things right away to learn how to soothe a teething baby and bring some peace back to your life.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of dealing with sleepless nights, rashes, eczema, drool, fevers, diarrhea, crankiness (the baby too), and being a little human’s on-demand feeding machine.
…all while trying to keep a very fussy baby happy.
Teething has taken its toll on this family, and we’re all ready for a break.
And then it happened.
…at 11:55 on a Tuesday night, we found ourselves in the one place no parent ever wants to be. The emergency room.
Keeping a way too overtired baby who has a fever of 104.9 happy while sitting in a hospital waiting room is by no stretch of the imagination my definition of fun.
Adding an ear infection to the middle of our chaotic three weeks was even less fun.
By this point, our house was beyond the state of “messy” and everyone was beyond the state of exhaustion.
With a week’s worth of dirty and clean laundry scattering the floors and couches, a dishwasher that I was afraid to open because I couldn’t remember if it had gotten turned on, or if dirty dishes had been sitting in there for a week, and a sink that was overflowing with plates, bowls, and sippy cups, I felt paralyzed.
Exhaustion, weakness, and hopelessness clung to my body like a leech.
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An Unfortunate Side Effect of a Teething Baby
With a baby who refused to leave my body balanced on my hip, I’d grab a blanket and attempt to put it away. Folding laundry with a squirmy mess-maker in one hand isn’t a fun assignment, so attempting to bring some order to our house felt like a waste of time.
I was couch-bound all day and if I moved or attempted to put my son down for even a moment, he was having none of it.
Trying to ignore the mess, I would distract myself with enjoying the baby snuggles and even online shopping for the best teething toy (if you’re curious, this is it). But all this didn’t take away from the fact that all I had spent the past week doing was being a little human’s on-demand feeding machine and our life was all out of sorts.
The moment my husband walked through the door every evening I handed him our very uncontent baby and mentally checked out while trying to hurry and make dinner.
Then every evening like clockwork our son would very obviously let us know that he was ready for bed, and our dinner would be left on our plates to get cold while we conducted his bedtime routine and tried to get him to sleep. More nights than not, I wouldn’t be able to put him down without him waking. On the other nights, it would be at least an hour before I was able to sneak out of his room and pray he doesn’t open his eyes.
By this time, we were both so exhausted that we’d shovel down the rest of dinner, remotely clean up the dishes, and then drag our weary bodies into bed… only to be woken up in an hour or two.
Something Needed to Change
Even though I was loving all the newfound baby snuggles I was getting from my usually anti-snuggler baby, weariness consumed my body like a virus. My eyes were tired, my muscles were tired, my soul was parched. Everything inside of me screamed, “LET ME SLEEP”, but yet again I would muster up the energy needed to tend to my poor baby’s cries.
Spending everyday being a 24/7 feeding machine and rocking, singing, and walking with a very uncomfortable baby was turning me into a less-than-desirable human being.
And all this happened for one measly tooth.
I was ready to catch the next flight to Mexico for a 3-week siesta. (God knows I needed it.)
It had to be possible to do something to ease my son’s discomfort and help him feel more like himself again.
And even though studies show that teething lasts for 2 years but only causes pain and discomfort around the time that the tooth breaks through the gum, if each time a tooth broke through his gums was going to wreak havoc on him for a week straight, I knew we couldn’t go through that for 19 more teeth.
The 3 T’s of Teething
I was desperate to find something to make teething easier on everyone, so I came up with the 3 T’s the Teething.
The 3 T’s of Teething worked to calm my son, ease his discomfort, and keep him relaxed. (And it’s also how I stayed sane.)
Anything cold or chilled is the best way to reduce inflammation and offer some comfort to a teething baby. Things like frozen teething toys, chilled spatulas, and frozen washcloths are some of the best cold teething remedies.
Applying pressure in the form of placing a clean finger on the baby’s gum will ease some of the discomfort they feel thanks to their new erupting teeth.
Chamomile tea is one of the most commonly-used natural teething remedies. A few ways to use chamomile tea for teething is to brew a cup of tea and soak a washcloth in the tea, wring it out, and freeze it. Then, once it’s cool and stiff let your baby chew on it. Another way to incorporate chamomile tea is to brew a cup of chamomile tea and pour it into ice cube trays then freeze it. Once frozen, pop an ice cube into a mesh feeder and let your baby chew and suck all he wants.
Chamomile tea works to relax the baby, and the coolness of the washcloth and/or ice cubes soothe sore gums.
If you get nothing else out of this entire article, at least remember The 3 T’s of Teething: Temperature, keep teething toys and washcloths cold for your baby to chew on. Touch the area and massage it to relieve pressure. Frozen Chamomile Tea offers a comforting sensation and helps baby relax.
Two More Important Things To Help You Survive Life With a Teething Baby
Teething is hard work. Some babies will have an easier time with teething, while for others it will be rougher. Regardless, there’s likely going to be some discomfort, lack of sleep, and increased fussiness happening when your baby is teething.
Two important truths that helped me out when I was exhausted, drained, and felt like I had nothing left to give, were these:
1. This is all new for baby
Everything is new to a baby at this point. I often found myself forgetting that my son was confused and didn’t know why he was in pain. All he knew was yesterday he was happy, relaxed, and enjoying life, and today he felt awful, his mouth hurt, and he didn’t know what was going on.
My son couldn’t comprehend why he wasn’t feeling good, all he knew was that he wasn’t. Realizing this helped me be more patient, offer him what he needed, and to be okay doing nothing for a week other than being his security and comforter.
In a world that’s filled with all kinds of new sensations, sometimes babies just need their parents to snuggle into to feel safe.
2. This too shall pass
I know it, you know it, we all know it. If you’re a mom, you’ve definitely heard someone at one point or another say, “don’t worry, this too shall pass”. And they’re right.
The teething stage is definitely not fun. But it won’t last forever.
These extra baby snuggles you’re getting from your baby? They’ll be gone before you know it (and then your baby will be off to college and you’ll pinch yourself because you could swear just yesterday they were a cranky teething infant).
The late nights and midnight wakings where all your baby wants is to know you’re there for them? They won’t always need that.
Your baby won’t always need you like they need you right now.
Once I finally realized how quickly this time goes by, regardless of how exhausted and totally drained I was, I mustered up enough ability to be the support that my son needed.
I had to realize that this wasn’t about me.
My baby being cranky all the time? It wasn’t because of me. My good sleeper suddenly deciding sleep is for the weak? It wasn’t my fault.
Learning this allowed me to give up my selfish feelings of:
I’m so tired.
Ugh. Why is he crying again?!
Will things ever go back to normal?
Why is this happening to me?
So, mama, when you spot the first signs that your baby is teething, stock up on groceries in the house, put on your comfy pants, and brew an extra-large cup of coffee with an espresso shot, because life is about to get crazy.
Then before you know it, teething will be over and you’ll have a big kid with a mouthful of pearly whites.
Signs of Teething
The very first step I took after getting worn down by a teething baby was learning the early signs of teething so that next time around, I could be more prepared.
Here are the first teething signs and what you need to know…
1. Those teething symptoms may not be from teething after all
Some signs of teething are due to teething, like:
- Flushed cheeks
- Increased chewing/Biting
However, if your child has more severe symptoms like a high fever or flu-like symptoms while teething, studies have been done that show the underlying cause of these symptoms usually isn’t due to teething.
When a baby teethes, a wound is made in the gum as the new tooth pushes through, and since mouths are a breeding ground for bacteria – especially a teething baby’s mouth, who puts everything in his mouth – it’s believed that bacteria can enter the baby’s body and cause an illness, which is why your baby may be showing more severe “teething” symptoms (which aren’t so much teething symptoms as they are just symptoms of being sick). In this case, you’ll always want to get baby checked out by a doctor.
“Teething can cause drooling and irritability, but that’s it. The reason people think teething causes fever, diarrhea and other symptoms is because sometimes babies develop a lot of viral illnesses at that time, so it’s just a coincidence. But teething doesn’t cause a true fever.” – Today’s Parent
2. Ear pulling
In our case, our son’s tugging at his ears while teething was due to an ear infection (which was also the reason why he had such a high fever, not from teething).
But in a lot of teething baby’s cases, ear pulling is a normal part of the process. As the teeth grow in, nerves from the back teeth branch out to the ear, which can cause your baby to feel like the pain is in his ear, which would explain the ear-tugging.
3. Decreased appetite
A decreased appetite and/or a baby who only wants to breastfeed or bottle-feed are all common signs of teething.
The discomfort and pain a baby feels when teething will often cause them to lose their appetite, but commonly they’ll still want to suck on something due to the relieving of pressure it offers.
As long as your baby is still gaining weight properly and getting the nutrition they need, it is okay to let their solid food intake suffer for a few days while they focus on growing those teeth, as long as they are drinking plenty of breastmilk or formula.
During the teething period, you can expect your baby to be short-tempered, increasingly fussy, and quickly frustrated.
The discomfort they’re feeling in their mouth isn’t only wearing on you, as the parent, but it may be wearing on your baby more than you realize.
During this time offer extra snuggles, sing with them, let them stay in their jammies all day, and do things you know they like to try and help them feel better.
Teething can cause a rash around baby’s mouth, on their chin, cheeks, and neck. These rashes are usually due to the excess saliva your baby is producing while teething. The saliva can irritate the skin and cause a rash to break out, and it can also dry up the skin around the mouth.
To help ease the discomfort of being constantly damp with drool, these bandana bibs will catch the drool and eliminate it from getting on your baby, which should help with the teething rash.
6. Restless sleep
If you know what it’s like to be in constant discomfort, you know that sleeping can be difficult.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics… mentions that the pain from teething may be enough to wake baby from sleep. Beyond that, parents who end up changing their baby’s bedtime routine in response to irritability may make the problem worse. They suggest using some at-home methods to keep baby comfortable, but to keep the normal bedtime routine for consistency and better sleep.” – Healthline Parenthood
Teething could be the reason why your baby who once slept through the night is now waking 5 times in five hours, but it’s important to look at the other signs and symptoms your baby has as well, because ear infections and other illnesses, which are common during teething, could be the underlying cause for your baby’s inability to sleep.
7. Swollen gums
Teething babies will often have red, swollen gums that are tender and full of pressure. The reason why babies want to shove everything into their mouth, even more so now that they’re teething, is to try and relieve some of the pressure discomfort on their gums.
If you try to put a finger in your baby’s mouth to feel their brand new tooth, one of two things may happen:
- They’ll chomp down. The second anything enters their mouth, their first response is most likely going to be to bite. Watch your fingers though, brand new baby teeth can be extremely sharp.
- They won’t let you. Don’t take it to heart if your little one doesn’t let you shove a finger in their mouth. While most of the time they want stuff to chew on, sometimes their gums will be so tender they don’t want anything in their mouth.
The Best Tips for How to Soothe a Teething Baby
Now that you know the signs and symptoms of teething to be watching out for, so you can get your comfy pants on and reruns of Friends ready to go before the real pain of teething erupts, here are the best ways to soothe a teething baby.
1. Put a spatula in the freezer
One of my son’s favorite teething toys wasn’t such a teething toy after all. As I was baking one day and my son was fussing at my feet, I decided to give him a spatula to play with. Before long that thing ended up in his mouth and he went to town on it.
So, I decided to put it into the freezer for a few minutes to cool it down and see if he still wanted to chew on it. He did.
To this day, a plain baking spatula (like this one) is still his favorite teething toy.
Some days I even put a bit of plain yogurt on the end of the spatula, place it in the freezer then let him chew and suck on it. The yogurt is a tasty treat and the spatula is the perfect consistency of softness with enough resistance to offer relief from sore gums.
2. Freeze a cloth
Dampen a clean cloth and put it into the freezer until it’s cool and starting to stiffen but not completely frozen (you don’t want it so cold that it hurts your baby’s hands). Offer it to your baby to chew on, suck on, and play with.
The coolness of the cloth will provide relief for sore gums, and the texture of the cloth is nice and soft for their sensitive mouths.
3. Frozen food in a mesh feeder
Frozen fruit is one of the best teething remedies for babies, as long as it’s given in a mesh feeder. You don’t want to give baby just the fruit. Their new teeth may not look like much, but they are sharp enough to chip chunks off of fruit, which they could end up choking on.
The mesh feeders allow your baby to gnaw away to their heart’s desire, without chunks of food getting through the mesh.
A few fruits and vegetables that are good to freeze for teething are: bananas, strawberries, carrots, apples, and mangos.
4. Cold pacifier or spoon
If your baby uses a binkie, put it in the freezer for a few minutes to cool it down, then offer it to her to suck on. If your baby doesn’t use a binke, you could place a plastic or wooden spoon in the freezer for a couple minutes until it is cool, but not too cold, and let her suck and gnaw on it.
5. Solid teething toy in the fridge
We kept these solid teething toys in our fridge long before our son was teething, just to be prepared.
After doing some research on teething toys, it is suggested not to use teething toys like these ones because a baby’s sharp teeth could puncture a hole in the teether and the possibly harmful fluids (though usually the fluid is just distilled water) inside could get swallowed by your child.
It is now being suggested to use solid teething toys to avoid the possibility of your baby biting through the toy and ingesting harmful chemicals. I love this one because I can attach it to my son’s sleeve so he can’t throw it on the floor.
6. Raw ginger root
Ginger root is one of those foods that is good for just about anything, including teething. Raw ginger root (unfortunately, not this stuff) is a natural pain reliever and inflammation reducer, which makes it a really good natural teething remedy.
All you need to do is peel a chunk of ginger root and rub it on your baby’s gums for a couple minutes.
This banana toothbrush is one of the more popular teething toys because it does a number of things, including:
- Teaches the importance of brushing teeth. It’s a teether, but it’s also a toothbrush.
- It’s a safe teether. With no liquid inside, you don’t have to worry about your baby biting so hard they puncture a hole in it.
- Easy to hold. It’s got banana “peels” on either side of the toothbrush, making it easy-to-grab and easy-to-hold.
- Soft and flexible.
8. Frozen bottle
Fill one of your baby’s bottles with water and place it in the freezer, upside down so the nipple is filled with water. Once it’s frozen, let your baby suck, gnaw, and chew on the nipple.
9. A bath
This doesn’t take the pain away so much as acts as a distraction to your baby. Bathtime is a change of scenery and comes with new toys to play with, which will help your baby relax and play with their mind on something other than sore gums.
10. Gum massage
Wash your hands and place a finger inside your baby’s mouth gently rubbing the upper and lower gums and allowing your baby to chew on your finger – as long as no teeth have broken through the gums yet.
The pressure will be relieving for most babies, but some babies will find this uncomfortable, so experiment to find what your baby likes.
11. Continue with their bedtime routine
You’ll be experiencing some changes during teething, like more cuddles, more breast or bottle feeding, and less housework as you attempt to soothe an uncomfortable baby.
But the one thing that shouldn’t change is your baby’s bedtime routine. The discomfort of teething can cause sleep disruptions, so do your best to keep your baby’s regular bedtime routine consistent to try and help them get the best sleep possible while teething.
>> Don’t have a bedtime routine yet? This is the one routine that works for EVERY baby.
12. Put a bandana bib on your babe
Drool comes with the territory of teething, and drool can cause a couple problems on its own, like:
- Dried out skin
Having your baby wear a bandana bib will keep the drool off their neck (which is a common place for drool-induced rashes to break out) and clothes and is a quick way to continually wipe drool off their mouth and chin throughout the day.
This way if your baby drools too much, it doesn’t have to be a whole wardrobe change – just a bib switch.
13. Beef Jerky
I was skeptical about this one, but everything about it makes sense. Beef jerky is chewy, leathery, and tough, which makes it the perfect teething toy for babies.
Who would’ve guessed?
Of course, watch your baby carefully while they gnaw on the jerky, and buy a brand that is low sodium so it doesn’t pose a health risk to your child. (This is a good brand.)
14. Teething mitt
This is a glove that your baby can wear and chew on to her heart’s content. It’s the perfect choice if your baby is still too young to master the hand-eye coordination and can’t quite figure out how to get that pesky Sophie to her mouth.
Just strap the teething mitt to your baby’s hand and let her chew away. (Plus, it also doubles as a fun, crinkly toy.)
15. Do what they like
At the end of the day, teething is uncomfortable, painful, and just plain annoying. Do extra of the things your baby likes to try and keep them as relaxed as possible. Forget about chores for a few days and focus on singing to your baby, rocking with them in the rocking chair, and being their on-demand feeding/comforting device.
Don’t worry, it’ll all be over before you know it.
16. Chamomile tea
You can either use plain chamomile tea, or a chamomile essential oil to offer teething comfort to your baby. Brew a cup of tea and soak a washcloth in it. Wring the cloth out and freeze it just until it becomes stiff, then let your child chew and suck on the cloth.
The chamomile works to relax the child while the coolness of the cloth will offer comfort to sore gums.
17. Change the scenery
When my baby is fussy, I tend to stay home. There’s no joy in pushing a screaming baby around the block only to have neighbors cock their heads and wonder what’s wrong with my poor child.
Going into public with a cranky baby makes my cheeks flush and embarrassment overwhelm me (why? I don’t know. It shouldn’t.), so I tend to lay low until all is well. Heck, I didn’t even go grocery shopping by myself with my newborn until he was a couple months old.
But, I’ve found that being cooped up for a week straight with a fussy baby really tends to stretch my patience, so going somewhere to change the scenery is vital. Even if that just means going for a 10-minute drive.
Not only is changing the scenery important for me, it’s also important for my baby. It gives home something new to look at and it helps take his mind off of his throbbing gums.
It’s a win-win situation, and it forces me to get over my mommy-panic-attacks when my son starts crying in public.
Common Questions About Teething + Answers for You
After teething grabbed ahold of our lives and rocked the household, I was desperate for answers.
Here we’ll go over some of the most common concerns and questions about teething, like:
- How long does teething fussiness last?
- What helps a teething baby sleep?
- How to breastfeed a teething baby
- What natural remedy for teething is the best one?
- How painful is teething?
- What are the first signs of teething?
- Does teething cause a fever?
- When does teething start and end?
How long does teething fussiness last?
I know what it’s like to be at the end of your rope, barely hanging on by a thread.
And then the baby that you just put down… wakes up.
*Ting* the rope snaps.
Teething is a long, exhausting process, so it’s natural to wonder how long do babies teethe for before a tooth breaks through.
Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast answer, each baby differs from the next. But, usually, a baby’s teething fussiness will last about 3 – 7 days, usually these days will be the days leading up to a tooth pushing breaking the gum.
3 – 7 days of fussiness for 20 different teeth isn’t fun. So be sure to get yourself familiar with all the teething tips and teething symptoms to watch out for that we go over above.
What helps a teething baby sleep?
The best thing you can do for your baby is accommodate their needs and keep everything as normal and familiar as possible.
Now is not the time to take your teething baby to the zoo to watch the penguin show. Let your baby rest, let them cuddle, and let them be as comfortable as possible. While new environments and changing up the scenery is a good way to distract a teething baby, you don’t want to cause baby overstimulation.
On top of keeping things calm and cool in your baby’s life, be sure to continue with their daily and bedtime routines as normal to help your teething baby get the best sleep possible.
How to breastfeed a teething baby
The good news is, as long as baby is breastfeeding the right way and has a good latch, he can’t bite you.
But, if the seal breaks and they lose their latch, they could accidentally bite down in an attempt to secure the nipple from slipping out of their mouth.
When breastfeeding a teething baby, watch for when they get full. Biting usually won’t occur when they’re drinking and often happens when they are full and not interested in drinking anymore. Take your baby off the breast as soon as you start to see signs that they’re full.
Another way to avoid a teething baby from biting when breastfeeding is to give their sore gums some relief before feeding them. Rub their gums with raw ginger root, let them chew on a teething toy, or give them a hunk of beef jerky to gnaw on. After their gums have gotten some relief, start the feeding session.
What natural remedy for teething is the best one?
There are countless natural remedies for teething and the best one will vary from baby to baby.
The way to find the best teething remedy is to experiment and find what your baby likes. Maybe your baby finds relief in sucking on a frozen washcloth.
Or, maybe gnawing on Sophie is your child’s cup of tea.
Find what they like, then let them do it until they’re content. My top pick for natural teething remedies is using plain chamomile tea and freezing it in ice cube trays, then sticking the frozen cubes into a mesh feeder and letting baby chew away.
How painful is teething?
Yes teething hurts, but the pain is something every baby learns to work through (with the help of natural teething remedies and some non-natural remedies like infant acetaminophen). When a baby is teething their gums are filled with pressure as the tooth works its way up and eventually erupts through the tissue.
What are the first signs of teething?
We went over a few early common signs of teething above, but here are some more:
- Extra drool (but not excessive)
- A need to bite everything
- Rash around the mouth/on the neck
- Flushed cheeks
- Increased fussiness/crying
- Slightly elevated temperature (but not a fever)
- Pulling at the ear
- Loss of appetite
- Red, swollen gums
- Difficulty sleeping
Does teething cause a fever?
Many parents are convinced that teething caused their child to get a fever. However, we’ve learned from all the studies conducted that while teething can increase a baby’s body temperature slightly, it won’t cause a fever.
If your child has a fever, diarrhea, or a runny nose, it’s likely not caused by teething. People believe that the cause of a fever or other signs of illness is from the increased amount of things a baby puts in his or her mouth while teething.
Teething can raise your baby’s body temperature, but only slightly. Any fever over 100.4 F is a sign that your child is probably sick.
When does teething start and end?
Teething can start as early as 3 months, though you won’t typically see your baby’s first tooth until closer to 6 months of age. Anywhere from 6 – 12 months is considered “normal” teething time frame for baby’s first teeth to show up.
How to Soothe a Teething Baby… Your Turn
What are YOUR best tips for surviving life with and how to soothe a teething baby? Share them in a comment below!