Babies cry and run high temperatures for many different reasons, so how do you know if their cries or ‘not-very-happy’ mood is because of teething? Lisa Clegg, author of The Blissful Baby Expert, and Essex Baby blogger describes the symptoms of teething.
Pain and crying are just one symptom of teething. There are various other signs that suggest your baby could be teething:
Chewing hands or fists
One or both cheeks may be red and hot to touch
Looser poos than normal
Sore red bottom
Pulling at her ears
Decreased appetite – refusing to drink her milk or eat solids
Generally whingy or unhappy
Unexplained bouts of screaming hysterically, which despite all a parent’s best efforts, cannot be relieved
Not sleeping well. Whinging or moaning in her sleep or waking up screaming
If your baby is showing at least three of the above signs then you can say with a fair amount of certainty that it is likely to be teething pain that is the problem. Many parents will notice a few more unusual signs every time their baby is about to cut a tooth, e.g., they always develop a cold, but the above points are the more common signs that are normal in the majority of babies.
If your baby seems to be in pain but doesn’t show any of the above symptoms as well, then I would recommend that you talk to your GP for more advice.
A baby who is teething will not self-soothe or calm herself down until the pain has stopped. If it happens during the night she will wake repeatedly crying. She may settle initially with a cuddle if it is just mild teething pain, but will likely be unsettled and wake on and off all through the night. With more severe pain she will be almost hysterical, and crying even when comforted. Most adults will have experienced toothache or pain when wisdom teeth are having a ‘rumble’ for a few days and trying to push through the gums. It can even put you off eating because your mouth is so sore – but at least we understand what is going on and can self-medicate accordingly. A baby has no idea what is happening and the only way to let their parent know is to cry.
Unfortunately, teething is one of those things that goes on for months, sometimes without any results. Symptoms can begin from the age of eight to ten weeks, although some babies have been known to be born with teeth or get a couple very early on! For the majority, teeth can take a very long time to appear. They rumble in the gums gradually pushing their way up before ‘erupting’ (aptly named by dentists), and ‘cutting’ through the gum so that you can finally feel the sharp tip and see it. It’s normal for a baby to suffer with teething pain for two to three days and show the various signs above, and then be fine again for a few weeks.
Babies vary at the age and order in which teeth erupt in their mouth. Here is a diagram to give you a rough idea of when to expect things.
However, please do not panic if your baby doesn’t fit in with ‘the norms’ above. None of my three children have conformed to this diagram, and the same goes for many other babies. It is just a rough guide.
There are various gels, liquids, powders and teething products on the market, as well as necklaces containing particular ingredients, all claiming to be the best to help with teething pain. In my experience, after trying a number of different products with my own three children, the babies I’ve worked with and chatting to other mums, I have found the most helpful and soothing product to be a teething liquid called Anbesol. It’s also sold in gel form too, but I’ve found that like other gels it slips off the gums and around the mouth as you are attempting to apply it. This means that you don’t really get enough of it on to the gums to relieve the pain. The liquid is much more effective because you can apply it directly along your baby’s top and bottom gums using a clean fingertip. It contains an antiseptic ingredient as well as an anaesthetic so it brings instant relief. In using this product I have noticed that it has worked to relieve the pain, whereas if I had been using something else that wasn’t as effective, I would have had to resort to giving infant Paracetamol or Nurofen to relieve the pain.
Although it is perfectly safe to use products like baby Calpol and Nurofen for pain once your baby is over 8–12 weeks, they will lose the benefits they bring in relieving pain if used too frequently, just like any medicine does.
The Anbesol liquid is so good that if you find that it isn’t working on relieving the pain and your baby continues to be distressed, then Calpol or Nurofen is your final option. I personally find Calpol good for relieving mild temperatures and mild teething pain. However, when the pain is very severe, only Nurofen would work on my babies. It takes 20 minutes to get to work and after that they are pain free and a much happier baby. Once you have eliminated her pain, then you can attempt to get her to calm down and settle back to sleep (if at night).
(If you are following any advice on the EssexBaby website related to health and wellbeing – for example advice from other mums or bloggers about weaning, childcare or medical treatments – we always advise you to discuss these with your GP or health care provider first as Essex Baby Limited will not be held responsible for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any inaccuracy or error within its website pages.)