Helping your baby through ‘teething’
Babies are all very individual and while some will sail through teething without too many concerns, others will find cutting their first teeth a sore, upsetting and even painful experience. Baby massage has been found to be helpful in soothing babies who are teething; there are also many products available designed to soothe sore gums. Many new parents will seek advice from other parents; however, it can be the case that what works for one baby may not necessarily give the same level of relief to another. Your health visitor, GP and local pharmacist will be able to offer you advice and guidance.
What are the common signs and symptoms of teething?
- Disturbed sleep (eg increased night-time waking)
- Increased salivation (dribbling)
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Rash and flushed cheeks
- Raised temperature.
Products that have been specifically designed to help ease sore and painful gums come in various forms – teething rings (to bite on) and teething gels, powders and granules to apply topically (ie directly onto the gums), as well as, medicines that are specifically designed to offer pain relief to young babies.
Babies who are teething like to bite on something hard, so buying a couple of teething rings can be a good investment. If you keep these in the fridge, they can offer additional soothing relief and it means that while one is in use, the other is on standby. Gently massaging your baby’s gums with a clean fingertip can also be soothing for them.
Most baby teething gels contain a mild pain killer (analgesic) which when gently rubbed into the gums will temporarily numb (anaesthetise) and soothe the pain in that area. Some gels contain additional antiseptic ingredients which help to protect against infection; this is particularly good, where the skin of the gums is broken and primary (milk) teeth are beginning to emerge.
It is important that you only apply teething gels that are designed specifically for use with young babies and that you only apply small amounts at a time, so that too much gel doesn’t pose a choking risk. It is also always best to apply teething gel after a feed rather than before; this is because they can have a numbing effect which can interrupt feeding; particularly where the baby is being breastfed and the nipple and skin around the nipple (areola) become numbed.
Your health visitor, local pharmacist and GP will be able to advise you on the different gels available. It is very important that you always follow the product instructions for use. Very rarely, a baby will develop an allergic reaction to some teething gels, so always be mindful when you apply any teething gel for the first time. Contact your health professional immediately if you have any concerns.
Teething granules and powders
Some parents prefer to use homeopathic remedies for managing their babies sore gums; these tend to come as teething granules or powders that are applied directly onto the baby’s gums. It is important that teething granules and powders are obtained from reputable homeopathic retailers and you need to be mindful that some preparations contain different forms of sugar, including lactose. These sugars can contribute to tooth decay, so granules and powders should be used sparingly particularly where some of your baby’s teeth have already broken through the gum.
Pain-relieving medicines – eg Infant Paracetamol and Ibuprofen
If your baby is struggling with sore gums and appears to be in pain, you might wish to try using an infant Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, such as Calpol and Nurofen for children. Babies who are teething sometimes also show signs of ear infections and other viral infections such as, coughs and colds. If your baby looks flushed, is rubbing their ear or cries when feeding, which can be suggestive of an ear infection; develops a temperature, loses their appetite or just seems generally out of sorts, always speak with your GP. They can check your baby over and will be able to suggest pain relieving medicines that are appropriate for your baby’s age. Some pain-relieving medicines can be used from two months of age. Nurofen for children can be given to babies aged three to six months of age weighing more than 5kg. It is important to always follow the instructions for use on the label; you should never exceed the stated dose.