If you’re a parent, you’ve probably seen your baby’s face get red and swollen during the first couple of months of life. This is called teething, and it can be painful for the baby. It’s normal for a baby to start teething at around 6 months of age, but most babies don’t have any pain or discomfort from it until they are between 9-12 months old.
Teething is when a baby’s teeth start coming in, usually around 6 months of age. Teething can be painful for a baby, and most babies experience some degree of pain when they’re teething. It can last anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks. The pain that babies experience during teething is often described as a “grinding” sensation, but it can also feel like a “screaming” or “burning” feeling. Babies who are experiencing pain from teething should be given special care to make sure that they don’t hurt themselves.
Babies who are having trouble with their teeth tend to have swollen faces and jaws during the first few months of life. This is called gingivitis and it’s caused by the plaque on your baby’s teeth getting trapped between the gum and tooth surface (gingiva). If this happens, your baby will experience pain while chewing or biting down on food. They might also notice a change in their sleep patterns and have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Babies who are teething may also experience other changes in their behavior, also known as teething symptoms sometimes begin weeks or even months before a tooth actually shows up, so keeping a record of when symptoms appear can help you tell when the baby is actually close to sprouting a new tooth.
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1. Teething rash
One common sign of teething is redness or a rash around your baby’s mouth or chin. Teething often leads to more drooling, and all that extra moisture can irritate a baby’s sensitive skin. Gently wipe your baby’s face with a soft cloth or bib to help prevent this. Applying a product like petroleum jelly to create a protective barrier helps too.
As discussed above, increased drooling is one of the most common ways to tell if a baby is teething. To prevent wet, soggy clothing and skin irritation, try using soft bibs like popular cotton bandanna bibs or basic terry-cloth ones. Just remember to remove bibs before your baby’s naptime or bedtime for safety.
3. Decreased sleeping
Teething is one of many issues that can cause babies (and their tired parents) to lose sleep at night. Unfortunately, teeth movement through the bone and gum can actually be more active at night. Remind yourself that this is just a phase, and be prepared for your baby to need a little extra soothing for a few nights.
4. Decreased appetite
It’s no surprise that teething symptoms may affect a child’s appetite. Teething can cause uncomfortable pressure for nursing or bottle-fed infants. However, some infants may actually crave the comfort of milk or formula more when teething. If you’re using breast milk, consider storing a little extra to have on hand during teething just in case.
Keep an eye on your baby’s intake, but don’t stress if it’s slightly higher or lower for a few days. For children who eat solid food, It’s understandable that sore gums may discourage a child at mealtime for a few days. On the other hand, chewing safe foods like teething wafers comforts some babies. Chilled baby food can also offer irritated gums some relief.
With the disrupted sleeping and eating patterns, sore gums, and irritated skin that teething can bring, it’s no wonder that some babies may be extra fussy during this time. While extra crying might not do much for your mood, keep in mind that it’s just the baby’s way of trying to communicate.
The first tooth, which is most often one of the bottom middle teeth, and molars, which are larger back teeth, are often the most uncomfortable. Try distracting your baby from the discomfort by going out for a walk or introducing a safe teething toy. Of course, you can also talk to your pediatrician about how to safely use an infant pain reliever if necessary.
When teething, some children love chewing on anything and everything to help soothe their sore gums. Biting helps create counterpressure to the uncomfortable pressure caused by the movement of the tooth. Plus, babies love exploring objects with their mouths anyway.
You can help your baby by providing safe objects for them to happily gnaw like wet washcloths, teething rings, or soft toys. If you’re still nursing, rest assured that you don’t have to stop just because your baby’s teeth are emerging. You and your child will adjust as those pearly whites continue to come in over time.
7. Ear pulling and cheek rubbing
Teething can be confusing for babies. The nerves in the gums, cheek, jaw and ear are all connected, so sometimes teething pain can be transferred to other parts of your child’s face. If you notice your child tugging on an ear or rubbing their cheek or jaw, this is a telltale sign that your baby is teething.
However, children who have an ear infection also often pull on their ear, so check with a pediatrician if this symptom persists for more than a few days.