Saturday, January 16, 2010


After watching the way my daughter has been acting the last month, I realize how miserable teething must be for babies.

She’s always been a mellow, easy-going baby. In fact, the only times she has ever really cried are when she is hungry or when she is tired. Even then, her cries were pretty quiet, and short-lived. In addition to being easy-going, she slept through the night early on. I felt pretty lucky.

I still feel lucky, because I love her dearly, but for the last month, she has been a much different baby. More often than not, she is fussy. She still rarely full-out cries; it’s more like a quiet, steady whine. Also, sadly, long stretches of sleep no longer exist. She is waking up at least three times a night to nurse, more for comfort than out of necessity. What is causing this change? Her teeth are on the move.

I’ve wondered how I should deal with this. I know that there are many remedies out there. These include medicine that goes directly on the gums to numb them, teething tablets to ease the pain, and cold toys for her to chew on. I’m always hesitant to give medicine unless absolutely necessary, but I also don’t like my baby to be in pain. I’ve tried several solutions, and would like to share which ones worked best for my daughter.

The most effective method of easing her pain is letting her chew on frozen wash cloths. When I first heard the idea of putting wet wash cloths in the freezer, then letting my child chew on them, I thought the coldness might be too severe. I compared it to sucking on an ice cube and not being allowed to spit it out. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the cold isn’t very intense at all. I’m not sure why, but the frozen wash cloths stay a nice, moderate temperature – cold enough to relieve the pain, not so cold that they hurt. Another nice perk is that they freeze pretty quickly. It takes maybe an hour for them to be ready. At any rate, I hold them up to my daughter’s mouth, and she chews and sucks happily on them until they thaw.

The competition for the next most effective method of teething relief resulted in a tie.

The first are those nifty liquid-filled chew toys. Most of the packages these toys arrive in warn, “Do not freeze,” but I freeze them anyways. They are pretty cold at first, but they thaw quickly, so I’m not too worried that they will hurt her.

The second member of the tie is something I like to think I invented, although I’m sure other mothers have tried similar remedies. I take a Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder, open it up, insert an ice cube or ice chips where the food normally goes, close it, and give it to my daughter. She chews and sucks on the ice, and there is no danger of her swallowing any of it. I’m sure she ends up drinking some of the melted water, but I’m okay with that.

Coming in at last place in ending teething discomfort, we also have a tie. The two methods are the numbing gum medicine and the natural teething tablets. Although not as effective as the first, second, and third place methods, they do seem to lessen the pain. They don’t often stop my baby from fussing, but her fussing is less intense, and she can be more easily calmed. On occasion, she has fallen asleep directly after I’ve given her one of these two remedies. As far as I can tell, one doesn’t work better than the other for her.

As I said before, I am hesitant to give medicine unless absolutely necessary. Don’t be fooled, however, into thinking that my bias led me to give the numbing medicine and teething tablets the lowest rating. For awhile, those two remedies were the only solution we were using for her teething pain. It wasn’t until I realized they weren’t working very well for us that I started seeking out other ideas.

Now that we’ve discovered some successful strategies, we have a much happier baby. I’m not able to get as much done around the house, because I spend a good amount of time with my daughter on my lap, holding something cold in her mouth. Some days I feel trapped, but I remind myself that these days will pass quickly.

I am mentally sending an extra dose of patience to all of you mothers whose babies are also teething. I hope, like me, that you are also able to take a step back and realize that it is okay to slow down, that these phases are only temporary. I also hope that some of these ideas can make your life easier, and your baby happier. Good luck!

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