The teething process can be a very painful stage for babies. Here are the key symptoms of teething, plus a number of simple, natural teething remedies and therapies to soothe your baby’s discomfort.
The moment your baby starts making a fuss or looking slightly pink around the cheeks, everyone assumes teething is the problem and will happily offer advice. Sometimes what worked for a friend or family member’s child is helpful. Sometimes it’s well-meaning but not-so-great advice.
Here we’re covering tried and true natural teething remedies and why they work.
What Is Teething?
Babies are born with a full set of teeth waiting just below the gum line. Simply put, “teething” is the stage when those teeth start to make their way through the gum tissue. The medical term for this process is Odontiasis.
Causes and Symptoms of Teething
Most babies start teething between 4 to 7 months and will continue until around age 3. While teething is a perfectly normal and natural part of your baby’s development, it can be a distressing time for both of you, as many babies find teething painful, or at least a discomfort.
Although it’s not always easy to tell, the usual teething symptoms include:
- Drooling – more than usual
- Swollen, tender gums
- Rubbing their cheek or pulling their ear
- Red cheeks or mild fever (less than 101 F)
- Disturbed sleep patterns, including difficulty getting to sleep
- A desire to chew on objects even more than usual
- Irritability or crankiness
- Rashes around the mouth or neck
Baby Teething Schedule
Baby teeth typically start erupting around the six-month mark, but each child is different. Holistic dentist Dr. Mark Burhenne shares this look at the average ages when baby teeth appear:
- 3-6 months: Your baby may start to show the earliest symptoms of teething, including swollen, tender gums, and fussiness
- 6-12 months: This is the average age when baby’s front teeth appear. Because these teeth have a sharp edge and cut through the gums more easily, they tend to appear without much trouble.
- 12-22 months: This is the average age baby’s first molars and canine teeth appear. Erupting molars are often significantly more painful than front or canine teeth because they have a flat, wide surface as opposed to a sharp edge. Molar eruption can even cause bleeding in some children.
- 22-33 months: This is the average age when baby’s second molars appear. Like first molars, these can be especially painful.
Are Teething Gels Safe?
Baby teething gels that contain the topical anesthetic ingredient benzocaine are not considered safe. These products can cause methemoglobinemia, a rare and sometimes fatal disorder in which the oxygen that’s carried through the blood to the tissues drops to dangerously low levels.
Babies will swallow at least some of anything applied to their gums. And these medications can numb their throats and create a risk of choking. The FDA advises parents not to use benzocaine teething gels on children younger than two years of age.
Natural Teething Remedies
Here are a number of tried-and-tested home remedies for teething babies. See which ones work for you and your baby:
Give your baby almost-frozen foods in a mesh feeder
Offer fruit or veggies (bananas, apples, or carrots) in a mesh feeder. You could also freeze breast milk or diluted chamomile tea in ice-cube trays and then place in the mesh feeder.
Make sure they’re not still completely frozen when you offer them to baby. Fully frozen foods or teething toys cause frostbite if they touch the gums or lips directly.
Offer your baby a clean finger to gnaw on
This is one of the best and oldest natural teething remedies for easing the discomfort of teething – the pressure of chomping away at your finger helps relieve the pressure of the tooth pushing its way through the gum. It’s also soothing to have a parent close by.
Try the washcloth trick, with a twist
Place a piece of clean cloth in the freezer for a couple of hours, dipped first in either water or chamomile tea (which has the added bonus of helping to soothe and relax baby). Let it thaw just enough to alleviate any chance of frostbite and let baby suck on it.
Rub ginger on baby’s gums
A natural anti inflammatory, ginger can help relieve teething pain by soothing the nerve endings in the gums. For the strongest effect, rub a slice of peeled ginger onto baby’s gums for 2-3 minutes.
Chamomilla is recommended for babies who become irritable and make a fuss when teething, while Pulsatilla is suggested if your baby becomes clingy. (Seek the advice of a trained homeopath before giving a homeopathic remedy to your infant). You can also dilute Rescue Remedy (or other natural flower remedies) in cooled boiled water and rub them gently onto the gums to soothe the pain.
Offer nontoxic teething toys
A safe silicone teether like the Nuby Teeth-eez can bring relief with multiple teething surfaces. It’s made from food grade silicone and is easy for baby to hold.
Try facial massage
Massaging is a natural teething remedy that can help relieve teething pain and ease ear and headaches that are often caused by teething.
This video shows you exactly how to perform a baby teething relief massage at home to relax your baby’s jaw, face, and head… addressing the discomfort caused by teething problems.
Breastfeeding moms can help
One the best natural teething remedies is for mom to drink chamomile tea or ingest other natural flower remedies. When a nursing mother drinks these, the herb and flower benefits are passed on to baby and can help soothe teething pains.
Are Baltic Amber Teething Necklaces Safe?
When worn on the skin, baltic amber releases healing oils that can help calm a baby and may help relieve pain. However, we all know that bead bracelets and necklaces can break.
Dr. Mark Burhenne explains, “While amber bracelets and necklaces have become a popular, toxin-free alternative to teething creams, these objects can become dangerous. If a piece of the jewelry breaks off in baby’s mouth it can cause choking, and necklaces can cause strangulation. As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies don’t wear jewelry at all.”
Natural Teething Treatments to Avoid
Research any treatment (over the counter or old wives tale and anything in between) before trying it with your baby. Even some products described as teethers or teething aids aren’t safe choices, including ones:
- Filled with liquid that can tear and spill
- Made of breakable material, like plastic, that can possibly lead to choking
- That are frozen solid — these can be too hard on a baby’s mouth
Another reason to be aware of the material used to make the teethers: Some can be made from harmful substances, like lead. Look for a teething ring made from natural rubber.
Which natural teething remedies have worked for your baby?
Tell us in the comments below or on social media. Baby teething remedies that are natural and generally plastic free are best for growing babies and toddlers.