Lets face it, teething can be terrible for both baby and mama. Luckily for us it doesn’t have to be. With so many great resources at our fingertips we can find a multitude of ways to ease babies pain and help ease our minds. (And just as importantly, get some sleep!)
A generation ago, the solution was easy. Most parents gave their kids some Tylenol and a pacifier and called it a day. Now that we are in the information age, there is a lot more awareness on the dangers of over the counter medications. Especially on small developing bodies.
According to a report put out by the FDA
“Summarizing data from five different surveillance systems, there were an estimated 56,000 emergency room visits, 26,000 hospitalizations, and 458 deaths related to acetaminophen associated overdoses per year during the 1990-1998 period.”
The report continues to state that the reasons for the deaths and injuries were due mostly to overdosing, both accidental and intentional. Regaurdless, Tylenol is hard on the liver.
For me, there are just too many risks and toxicities associated with over the counter pain meds. (FYI: Ibuprofen can irritate the stomach so much that it can cause it to bleed.) Plain and simple, its just not worth giving to our children, especially for something like teething.
That doesn’t mean you have to let your child suffer needlessly though. There are many natural alternatives.
The typical signs of teething include:
- Mild fevers
- Excessive drooling
- Unusual fussiness
- Sudden night disturbances
- Ear tugging
- Red and swollen gums
- Sudden biting (especially noticeable while breastfeeding)
- Painful mouth (you can assume they have this one, even if they can’t verbally tell you)
Not all children display all the symptoms. If they have a few of these together, especially the drooling and urge to bite, then they are probably teething. Babies can also display symptoms for a couple of months before their teeth actually pop up. During teething all you can really do is help your baby with the symptoms they are experiencing.
The Natural Remedies
Baltic amber works to reduce pain by releasing a substance called succinic acid after its been warmed up by the skin. It works on baby when they wear them. Sometimes there is a misconception the babies are suppose to chew on them, but this is not the case, they are meant to be worn.
I was skeptical at first, but a coworker had given me one her baby wasn’t using. I put it on my newly teething baby, but didn’t notice much of a difference at first. After a couple days I took it off during bath time and didn’t bother putting it back on. My baby was up all night screaming and I couldn’t figure out why, he got fussy at night but this was out of the normal for him. Then my husband rolled over and simply stated “you need to put that necklace back on.” It was a duhh moment for me. It’s been a year and a half, and I haven’t taken it off since. My second just started his teething journey and now sports his very own amber necklace.
If you do get on for your baby make sure you get an actual Baltic amber necklace. There are some companies selling glass, resin and even plastic and advertising as Baltic Amber Necklaces. This is the one I just bought for my baby a couple of weeks ago, and I love it. Its “baby safe” meaning that each bead it tied and knotted individually so if it did break you don’t have 30 choking hazards all over the place, plus an easy break away clasp.
There are warnings not to let baby sleep in it, but I’ve let my babies sleep in them with no problems. Some moms wrap the necklace around their ankle. Use your mommy instincts and assess what’s safe and reasonable for you and your babies.
Chamomile is a nervine (meaning it calms the nerves) and the herb I turn too most for our baby and toddler woes. It works as an anti-inflammatory, which means it’ll reduce the swelling that is causing the teething pain. I buy dried chamomile flowers in bulk from bulk herb store. Its so much cheaper this way. As much as we use chamomile in my house, wed never be able to afford enough tea bags to keep up. If your not really into the loose leaf tea thing yet then you can use tea bags too.
As a tea
When baby is fussy you can brew a cup of chamomile and stick it in the fridge. Then dip wash clothes in the cold liquid and let baby suck on it. I just keep dipping the cloth back in every few minuets so they get a decent amount of relief. The cold and chamomile will work together to reduce the swelling of the gums.
If your breastfeeding the best way to get baby safe herbs to baby is through breastmilk! This means drinking large amounts of tea your self, but chamomile is such a lovely herb I definitely don’t mind drinking a big pot of it myself through out the day. (A good way to keep mama calm during the teething season as well.)
As a tincture
You could also try a chamomile tincture. Meagan at growingupherbal.com has a great article on using chamomile tincture for your baby and teething. After reading her article I bought the tincture she recommended and it worked great. I have been using tinctures since!
Just like with the tea, if you are breastfeeding then you could take the tincture yourself several times a day to amp up the calming effects of breastmilk.
This is a great treat for a teething baby. Chamomile popsicles are perfect for the older baby. Younger babies who are exclusively breastfeeding are not suppose to have a lot of extra water. More water intake, means less milk intake and less of those oh so important calories at this stage. I have given my popsicles made of mostly breast milk and a little bit of concentrated chamomile tea. I basically made a really strong mini cup of tea and mixed it with the breast milk and poured it into a baby pop mold like this one. It works by easing the pain and distracting them with something new and fun.
*If you add catnip with the chamomile it will create a synergistic effect and will probably work even better. I use both in my kids bedtime tea. If you’ve never introduced herbs to baby, I suggest starting with one at a time though. Then you can be sure if baby gets a rash or has a reaction, you’ll know the cause.
Wooden teethers like this are great chew toy for babies. The hard surface puts pressure on the gums and stops the pain while they bite down. You also don’t have to worry about any nasty chemicals or toxins that lurk in many of the plastic ones. Heck, you can really find just about anything for him to chew on. My baby’s favorite teether is daddys thumb. He’s happiest sitting on dads lap chomping away.
If you’re breastfeeding, feed the baby. Even if your little one is on a good feeding schedule, let him comfort nurse. This is sorta my go to solution for a lot of things baby related. But oh. my. gosh. it works wonders for nearly all their troubles. The sucking motion helps decrease the pain. If your not breastfeeding a pacifier may help in this instance. My babies never would take a pacifier for longer than a minuet.
Love and Support
This is probably the most important thing you can give your little one. Patience, cuddles and overall emotional support will help your baby most. Very few things are as therapeutic as the tender touch of a loved one.
Things not to try
Sophie the giraffe.
I had heard the word. Sophie the giraffe was the teething toy that helped many babies through their trouble. I was at target after being up all night with my fussy teething baby and in the usual desperate mommy fashion I saw the giraffe. I couldn’t believe the price tag. 25 bucks for THAT. But I grabbed it anyway. I was willing to try anything to help my little man get some relief. That’s not the problem though. The problem is that these things have a major flaw. Drool get stuck in them and over time mold takes over. Seriously. So gross. I found this out after my in-laws Chihuahua ate his face off. (I comforted myself by rationalizing the mold must have grew after he stopped playing with it, right?
Hylands teething tablets
These have actually been recalled, but you can still find them for sale on various sites on the internet. They have been attributed to several infant deaths and injuries due to inconsistent amounts of belladonna. A potentially toxic plant that has some big side effects. A prime example how all natural, isn’t always safe.
According to this article by the FDA the main ingredient in most over the counter teething gels is benzocaine. It can cause a rare, but deadly condition called methemoglobinemia, where the blood cannot carry oxygen properly, potentially causing death. There have only been 29 reports of the condition associated with the gels, but it makes me wonder if some SIDS deaths could be attributed to this as well.
Through it all just keep in mind…
There is a lot of advice out there. Most importantly use your momma instincts and common sense.
Lastly I’m going to leave you with this…
In her book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health (which is one of my current favorites right now) Rosemary Gladstar states
“The teething process is natural, like many of the other cycles we’ll go through in a lifetime. It marks the child’s first experience of “biting in,” her ability to deal with the stress of life, to call on her own powers as well as the support of family and friends.”