I’m convinced that nobody tells you the bad parts about teething because they’re afraid if they mention it, then you won’t have kids and the human race will cease to exist. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. Teething is HELL. Sleepless, whiny, screaming hell.
The only way I know to minimize the collateral damage (aka my sleep) is to be on alert for the signs of teething at all times and be prepared to combat it. If I miss the signs, I end up waiting too long to do anything about it, and by then we’re in the whirling vortex of terror.
Signs of teething:
Every kid is different, and some kids will be more affected by teething than others. The signs and symptoms of teething can vary from baby to baby and tooth to tooth. Here are the signs we’ve noticed with our baby for her first two teeth.
Chewing on her hands
Vicki loves to chew on things, but she now reserves her hands for when her mouth hurts. Otherwise she’ll just chew on toys, books, me… you know, regular stuff.
This is a huge indicator for us. While she will drool when she’s eating, if she’s drooling at other times, it’s usually due to her teeth. Excessive drool can lead to a red rash around the mouth, known as a teething rash, which can be cleared up easily with a little balm.
Vicki doesn’t really cry a lot. She whines, fusses, makes noise, but she isn’t much of a crier. When she’s teething, she screams. Full out, top of her lungs, screaming like a banshee. It’s a very obvious cue that something is up.
Not sleeping & frequent waking
We have had a few miserable nights where Vicki will fall asleep with one of us in the rocking chair, then wake up and wail the moment she’s in the crib. Rinse and repeat. After the first time this happened (affectionately referred to as The Night From Hell), she popped out her first tooth & we had a lightbulb moment. In her 9 months of life, the only night worse than that one was her first night out of the womb. Our rule of thumb is that when this happens, it’s her teeth.
When she’s teething (or really, any time she’s not feeling well), Vicki gets really clingy. She wants to be held all the time. And don’t you dare leave the room. I don’t know if this is a result of not sleeping well or the pain she’s going through, but she’s like a little leech, clinging to me for dear life.
Relieving Teething Pain
The number one priority is to make your baby feel better so you can a) all get some sleep and b) maintain your sanity. We’ve tried a couple of techniques to help with the pain, with varied success.
am was one of the most reluctant people to give medicine to my baby. I didn’t take so much as a Tylenol when I was pregnant with her. However, I have come around when it comes to teething. Once we have established that it is, in fact, her teeth that is making her ornery, I do not hesitate to give her a dose of Motrin.* It allows her to get a decent chunk of sleep (3-4 hours) before waking up screaming again. After a recommendation on relieving teething pain, we switched from using Tylenol to Motrin and have never looked back. Tylenol did nothing to relieve her pain or help her sleep.
In our experience, Baby Orajel was also ineffective and all it did was make her drool smell like medicine. We tried the Baby Orajel Natural, in part due to the FDA warning against the use of Benzocaine.
*As always, follow your doctor’s orders and package information for all medication use. Please note that Motrin is not recommended for use in infants younger than 6 months.
Our freezer has been stocked with various teething toys since my baby shower. When Vicki is awake and active, she is much less bothered by the teething pain, so we usually don’t need to give her any medicine. She does like to chew on things, though, so we give her a teething toy or a cool, wet washcloth, to gnaw on for a little while & it seems to help.
Amber teething necklace
At my Mom’s Group, they suggested getting an amber teething necklace. This thing is awesome. I would say it’s just a placebo effect except for the fact that my 9 month old has no idea what it’s supposed to do.
“Amber is a natural analgesic and when worn on the skin, it releases healing oils that helps babies and young children to stay calm and more relaxed throughout teething.” Source.
My husband thought it was a bunch of baloney until I forgot to put her necklace back on after her bath one night and Vicki was a miserable bear all night. Now he’s a believer, too.
Get sleep however you can
Teething pain leads to lack of sleep Lack of sleep leads to over-tiredness. Over-tiredness leads to a cranky baby. So now you have an overtired, cranky baby with a sore mouth. Anyone who has had braces (so… everyone born from the eighties on) knows just how awful it is when your teeth are bothering you. Imagine having pain like that without understanding why, PLUS operating on 5 hours of sleep. Now you understand why sleep is even more important to a teething baby.
The solution is simple: get that baby to sleep in any way possible. If they will sleep in the car seat, take a nice, long drive. If they will only sleep while you’re wearing them, strap on the carrier and get ready to go. I have resorted to sleeping sitting up in the rocking chair with a travel pillow around my neck. We have also co-slept on the nights where nothing else was working. Be safe, but do what is necessary to get everyone a little sleep. Now is not the time to sleep train.
Distract your baby
In our experience, teething is the worst at nighttime. The daily activities were enough to keep Vicki from feeling or caring about the pain. Listen to your baby. Playing and interacting throughout the day may be enough to distract them from the pain, and it has the added benefit of tiring them out in preparation for sleep.
The good news is that teething is just one more thing that each baby will go through and will soon be a thing of the past. Years from now it will seem like it wasn’t a big deal at all as we as parents are faced with much bigger problems. Just keep on going. This, too, shall pass. After all, a human only has 20 baby teeth. Two down, eighteen to go!