Many babies begin teething around the same time that they begin eating their first foods - anywhere between 6 months and their first birthday will likely see the first tooth pop through. Typically this starts with the front top and bottom teeth (central incisors), followed by the lateral incisors right next door. After that usually come the first set of molars molars (10-14 months), canine teeth (usually 1-2 years), and then molars again (2-3 years). So, it’s a long journey for your little one - and may sometimes feel like a long one for you too!
As with everything, all babies follow their own developmental path. Some are toothy well before 6 months, some after they turn one. Some experience great discomfort and some are relatively unphased by it all!
Signs & symptoms of teething
The symptoms very widely from baby to baby. You may even find your little one shows a different symptom for every tooth that comes through!
THE DROOL. So much drool. This is where soft bandana-style bibs come in handy. Wee man would often soak the front of his shirt with dribble without them - we would change them up to six times a day at one point!
GRIZZLY BEHAVIOUR AND POOR SLEEP. Your sweet little baby may become very irritable during daytime and - to the pain of parents everywhere - throughout the night. They feel unsettled and uncomfortable, and they let you know about it.
ROSY CHEEKS. Baby may look red and flushed, on one or both sides of their face. The rosy area may be warmer than the rest of their face.
SORE GUMS. Baby’s gums may get quite sore, and if you peep inside their mouth you may even see a reddened, irritated area where the tooth is coming through.
NEED TO CHEW. Baby will want to gnaw on just about everything - from their fist to your car keys. Give them teething toys, access to a teething necklace, and/or foods which are hard enough to satisfy the urge but gentle on their sore gums.
A LOW FEVER. Baby may have a slight fever from teething. Do check that this isn’t a symptom of another illness.
NAPPY RASH. Parents often report that babies develop a nappy rash and a sore bottom around teething time, although some argue that this is unrelated to teething. This may be caused by lots of saliva working its way into their digestive systems and causing runny poos. Either way, checking nappies often to keep baby’s bottom dry and clean is your best defence! Metanium was a real hero for wee man during this time. He'd never had nappy rash until a molar was trying to make its way through!
LACK OF APPETITE. You may find your babe doesn’t have much interest in eating during heavy teething moments - and that’s ok. Keep offering foods gentle on their gums, and be sure to offer as much of mum’s milk (or formula) as they’d like, to provide them with nutrition while they are feeling poorly. Read on for some tips on what to feed during these times.
Teething babies can be picky customers when it comes to food.
First, it’s important to keep offering food even if they are not feeling up to eating. Keep up with regular milk feeds on demand, and supplement with solids as you would normally do. If baby leaves the meal on the tray, that’s ok - try again at the next meal. You may even find if you offer up these treats, they may come to see meal time as a relief from some of the icky feelings of teething!
Foods to offer:
Cold foods: Think smoothies made with frozen fruits, cold yoghurt, cold hummus, etc. You could even freeze a banana on a stick and let baby gnaw on the cool fruit until they gum it into mush! The cool sensation can be a blessing for hot and bothered gums.
Foods to suck: Sucking motions can give some temporary relief. We used to put cold chunks of watermelon flesh into a mesh feeder that wee man could suck on and it seemed to really help him. Rice cakes also went over a real treat as they would essentially dissolve in his mouth. We topped them with mashed avocado, hummus and other purees we had stashed in the freezer.
Hard foods: Some babies get relief from applying pressure on their gums while eating. As with frozen foods above, you could also try making some home-made teething biscuits (avoid the store bought varieties as they often contain sugar).
Soft, mushy foods: Some babies prefer not to chew or gnaw at all while teething. You could offer a pre-loaded spoon with a thick soup or puree that your baby can feed themselves, or go for softer foods like avocado slices which don’t require much chewing at all.
What to avoid:
If your baby has sore inflamed gums, citrus and other acidic foods can sting.
You likely already avoid them, but take extra care not to offer salty or spicy foods as they may also cause irritation.
It can be tough to watch your little one in pain, but know that this stage - as with all others! - will indeed pass. Provide comfort, cuddles and encouragement and your baby will come through it with a beautiful toothy smile 😃