This month my third child reached a milestone. Her first tooth appeared. Third time around I am more prepared for teething. Third time around I know what to expect. Not everyone has the benefit of past experience when it comes to teething so I thought I would share some of the practical things I have learnt along the way.
Every tooth is different
Not every teething experience is the same.
Some babies never bat an eye lid, and show absolutely no signs they are teething. One day they have no teeth, then the next, you notice a pearly white has sprouted from their gum. Mums of these kids can often be a bit smug when it comes to teething. I confess to being one of these mums at the start.
Some babies struggle with every single tooth, they are miserable for a few days leading up to it, and usually sleep poorly on the nights the teeth actually cut. These kids have red cheeks, chew everything in sight and are just plain irritable. Mums of these kids wish all their child's teeth would arrive on one day so that it could be all over and done with. I was this mum with mu second when her first few teeth arrived.
Some babies are a mixed bag. Sometimes they just magically appear then other times they appear to be quite painful. Mums of these kids find it hard to know if teething is the reason for their munchkins grumbles or if other things are at play. Mixed bag kids can be hard as like the famous line from Forrest Gump "you never know, what you're going to get'. It turns out that ultimately my kids have been mixed bag, or should I say 'box of chocolates' kids. I suspect this is probably the case for the majority of babies. So if you think teething is a breeze, I hope it remains that way for you. If it doesn't and your placid poppet becomes irrationally irritable with a future teething experience, then rest assured you are not alone!
Case and point: My kids
Kiddliwink One: Breezed through the first stages of teething, his first 8 just arrived no issues. His first set of molars no problems. Canines however were a disaster, he was grumpy, red cheeked, off his food and slept poorly until they came through. I was sleep deprived, grumpy and a bit more arse-holey than I typically like to be.
Kiddliwink Two: The complete opposite to the first. Struggled with the first four, showed obvious signs of teething, red cheeks, swollen gums, chewed everything and woke beside herself on the nights they actually cut. She is currently getting her molars and canines at the same time and you wouldn't even be able to tell.
Kiddiwink Three: Her first tooth has just arrived. She has shown absolutely no signs. Apart from one night of absolutely terrible sleep. I had no idea what the problem was until the next morning I noticed a tooth had broken through. Then I felt terrible as I hadn't even considered teething as the reason she was awake in the middle of the night.
There are hares and there are tortoises
Below is a chart showing usual times when teeth can make their appearance.
As with everything the range of normal is quite large and even then there can be kids who can sit outside the 'usual' range. Some kids are hares when it comes to getting teeth and some kids are tortoises.
Case and point: My kids
My first two kiddlwinks fell into the slow and steady wins the race camp.
Kid 1: No teeth until 10mths old (He had all of them by the time he was 2.5yrs though).
Kid 2: Is proving to be an absolute tortoise. First tooth at 14 months. She will be 2 years old in a weeks time, and up until a few weeks ago still only had four teeth. She is catching up now, with a mouth full of erupting teeth.
Kid 3: Her first tooth arrived at 6 months, and as of yesterday number 2 is here as well. So a hare compared to the others, but right on schedule compared to the chart.
I know a munchkin who cut their first tooth at 2 months and even one who had a tooth at birth.
If you have any concerns about your child's teething then ask a Healthcare Professional. In NZ there is a free public dental service until your baby's 18th birthday. If you have any concerns about your baby/childs teeth (or lack of them) then this is a good place to start. Just call 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583).
One thing I do know, whether you have a hare or tortoise, getting teeth changes a kids smile. So make sure you have some great pics of your baby's gummy grin as it doesn't last forever! A smile with teeth is also adorable, just different, so snap away as your childs smile changes over their first few years.
I think it can be painful
As I mentioned above not every teething experience is the same. There are differences from baby to baby and from tooth to tooth. Some kids will breeze through, others, I honestly do believe find it quite painful. Let me put a qualification on this though. I do believe teething can be painful for some kids, for some teeth. However, honestly now that I know what I do about young kids. If your munchkin is out of sorts and has been out of sorts for a long period of time. It is probably not teeth solely causing the issue. Babies and toddlers get out of sorts for all sorts of reasons. Being a baby and toddler is tough going. So many milestones and concepts to wrap their little heads around. So yes I believe it can be painful, and yes I believe it can upset sleep. A few day/weeks here and there, But not for weeks on end.
Case and point: My kids
My eldest was a late teether but an early talker. When his canines arrived at around 2yrs of age, not only did he display symptoms, swollen gums, red cheeks, drooling and restless nights. He could also tell me. He would tell me his teeth were sore. He would refuse to eat crunchy foods like apple and carrot sticks as 'they hurt'.
My middle child is a dream sleeper. Honestly she looks at a bed and falls asleep. When her first few teeth arrived she would wake beside herself and would take hours to resettle. This would last for a few days each time a tooth erupted. She was clearly finding teething painful.
Easing the pain
During the day I believe there are quite a few things you can try to help a baby/child deal with sore gums/teeth. Below are my 5 everyday foods that can ease the pain, or at least distract from it.
5 Regular foods to ease the pain, or at least distract from it
Amazing straight out of the fridge. Loved by kids. Don't cut the rind off, it is the perfect thing to gnaw on.
Either as rings or sticks, cold cucumber and teething kids you can't go wrong
Not exactly the most nutritious cracker out there, but so great for gummy sharks to suck, gnaw and generally just muck about with. They have the added benefit of being quite tidy, so a great option to give to an irritable kid in a pram, when you need to buy yourself a few more minutes grace before the grumbling really kicks in. There are quite a few varieties now; Original, Rice, Corn, Wholegrain to name a few. If you have an allergy kid, be mindful as they don't all contain the same ingredients. Some have added Milk or Soy where others don't. So check the label.
4. Frozen Blueberries
One of my favourite foods to come out of a packet. Kids love them, and they are the perfect distraction from teething. Be warned they are messy and can stain, so make sure you have a bib handy, or at least don't serve them when your munchkin is wearing their best outfit.
Lastly, but by no means least, good old, run of the mill ice. The only problem with ice is putting it in a form that is easy for your poppet to manage (particularly if they are teething at quite a young age). I use two different ways.
One is a fairly standard tried and tested method: Wet a muslin, Wring it out, Roll it up and freeze. Pure bliss for babies.
The second method, I like to think I was the first to create. I like to think it is a My Kids Lick The Bowl original idea. I suspect though that some other practical mum has been there and done that before me. But, in case they haven't, or at least in case you haven't come across them before, look below for instructions on making the ultimate Teething Pop. So practical in its's simplicity yet so clever in its originality. Or maybe not, either way they definitely work and babies love them, even grumpy babies with sore teeth.
If these things don't work and my child remains in obvious discomfort then I am a believer in pain relief. I know not everyone is, but I am. Mums will have different comfort levels in regards to when they will consider pain relief for illness and teething. When it comes to pain relief in children I live by this philosophy.
A Pharmacist or Doctor will be able to give you expert advice when it comes to pain medications for your children. They should be your first point of call if you have any concerns.
Teething and Solids
Babies do not need teeth to start solids. Jeepers, if I had waited for my second child to have teeth before I started solids she would have been 14 months old!
Not having teeth shouldn't greatly affect the type of food you offer. You will be amazed at what a 'gummy shark' can manage, so don't use not having teeth as a reason for not moving kids through different food textures or starting them on finger foods. Be sensible though. A child with no molars will struggle with very hard foods like carrot sticks or nuts, as they will have no way of grinding them up. So sometimes an alternative is needed. Cucumber sticks are easier to manage than carrot, or lightly steam the carrot until their molars come in. Use nut butters for snack as an alternative to nuts.
Teething and Breastfeeding
A baby clamping down on your nipple with just gums is painful enough. A baby clamping down on your nipple with teeth can make you scream bloody murder! Due to my first two kiddlywinks being late teethers I don't have a huge amount of experience. But a couple of practical tips I would suggest if you have a bub determined to chomp through your nipples:
Feed bub when genuinely hungry
I find cheeky bubs don't tend to bite down when they are hungry, it is something they do when they have full tummies and are just experimenting.
- If bub is not actively feeding and is just mucking about (I am sure you know what I mean) then pop them off the boob before they have a chance to bite.
- If bub does bite you, pop them down i.e. feed is over! Re-offer the boob in 20-30 minutes, if they take it they were still hungry, if they don't then they weren't hungry and the bite was a painful game. If they bite again, pop them down and repeat as above.
It's usually a phase
For most it is a phase and if you stop the feed when they bite, they should stop doing it after a little while and you can go on with your breastfeeding journey. Or at least that is the theory!
So to sum up. Teething happens to every child. Eventually every baby will cut 20 pearly whites. Your bub may not be bothered at all, or it could be a bit of a troublesome time. Do what you need to do to get through. Whether that be by making my incredibly original but simply brilliant teething pops or by giving more traditional pain relief. The good news, is typically after a maximum of 3 years teething will be done and dusted.