What exactly does teething refer to?
Teething refers to the period of time when your little one’s teeth begin to emerge through the gums.
When will my baby start teething?
While there is no precise age for this, most babies will start teething anywhere between the fourth and seventh month of their first year of life. Some may begin as early as three months (“early teethers”) and that is okay as this looks different for different babies.
NB: Some babies are born with a condition known as “natal teeth”, but this is a rare event with 1 occurrence in about 3000 births. Natal teeth are usually loose and are removed before the newborn is discharged from hospital. This is important as it reduces the chance of choking.
How do I know my baby is teething?
The signs of teething, just like when it starts, differ from baby to baby. They may, however, include any combination of the following symptoms:
- Baby often puts their fingers or objects in their mouth to ease the discomfort. Sometimes they bite onto surfaces too.
- Gum tenderness at the place where the teeth will emerge.
- Some babies will experience irritability and fussiness too, in part due to the discomfort of teething.
- Excessive drooling. This may also be accompanied by a facial rash around the chin area.
- In some instances, babies will experience a slight increase in their body temperature (usually below 38.3 degrees. Please note that temperatures higher than 38.3 require medical checkup to rule out other health issues).
- Sometimes teething will be accompanied by unexplained changes in feeding/breastfeeding/ sleeping routines and your baby may have a low appetite.
Equally important, we need to mention that teething is NOT to be associated with:
- Sharp increase in temperature (more than 38.3 degrees as mentioned above)
- Loose stool (We’ve heard this common myth, usually attributed to the fact that teething babies put objects in their mouths to ease the discomfort).
- Rashes that occur all over the body
- Nasal congestion
- Pus or bleeding of the gums
What is the first set of teeth to appear?
The central incisors of the lower jaw are the first to erupt.
How do I ease my baby’s discomfort during teething?
Babies who are teething get some relief when some pressure is applied on the gums. Because the gums are still very tender, this should be done gently and carefully. You may rub baby’s gums with your finger- cleaned of course. Alternatively, wet a clean washcloth and let your baby bite on it to soothe the discomfort.
Some parents will find it helpful to use a cold/frozen washcloth for this purpose. This is particularly helpful just before breastfeeding to help reduce the baby’s likelihood of biting on your nipple. Be careful, however, that this is done in regulation to prevent overexposure of the gums to low temperatures.
Teething aids are often marketed as an effective way to ease teething discomfort. Some of them are not safe choices, especially if they have liquids that can easily spill, or are made from breakable material which is hazardous as it can cause the baby to choke.
The same can be said about teething medication supposedly used to eliminate teething pain. Research shows that such medication typically washes away with the drooling, and in some cases, may make swallowing difficult for your baby.
Teething can be a little difficult at the onset, but as time goes by, you and your baby learn how to manage as their little teeth pop