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The eruption of an infant’s teeth can cause pain and discomfort. Here are some tips for teething children to help relieve their discomfort.

We are all born with teeth. The unfortunate aspect, for everyone (except the breastfeeding mother), is that these teeth lie just below the surface of the gums and emerge at unpredictable intervals, from birth (although around four to six months is the norm) through to adulthood, when wisdom teeth finally push through.

Most of the time parents can’t miss a teething baby, although the extremes of discomfort can vary widely – some drool excessively, others may tug at their ears (leading you to suspect an ear infection, which if the agitation continues should not be ruled out). The eruption of molars may be preceded by swelling along the gum line.

Read more about soothing a sick baby.

Comparing your teething child to another is futile – it’s an “unquantifiable” equation. Sister Liesel Turnbull at the Bedfordview Mother and Baby Centre says there’s no scientific evidence available to tell us why some babies and toddlers sail through teething while others seem to suffer terribly. Turnbull says that the disrupted sleep caused by teething is a huge thing, as it can disturb the whole family. “It stands to reason,” she says, “that even as adults, pain feels so much worse when everything is dark and quiet, and we are all alone. So it must be much more intense for little ones.”

When I ask Dr Murray Rushmere, a Cape Town-based GP practising functional medicine, about supposed secondary teething symptoms, such as runny tummies and fevers, he says: “It is important to be aware that teething may temporarily compromise the immune system, so you may be looking at a secondary complicating illness, such as an ear infection.”

He adds that parents should be aware that it may take a little longer for children to recover from whatever they have while still teething.

Read our post on the pros and cons of giving baby a dummy.

Teething Tips

Here’s what to do with too much drool:
  • Keep on a cotton absorbent bib or you will be changing shirts all day.
  • When your baby sleeps try putting an old-style cloth nappy under his mouth – to prevent the pillow soaking through and to keep the area as dry as possible.
Ideas for natural relief for the teething toddler:
  • Freeze a face cloth and give it to your toddler to chew on.
  • Ask the pharmacist for a homeopathic powder to rub on the gums.
  • Try an amber necklace (some people swear by them).
  • Freeze large chunks of fruit for your baby to suck on. Thick slices of banana or celery work well (they must be large enough so your baby won’t choke).
  • Fill a dummy with water and pop it in the freezer for an hour and give it to your baby to suck on.

Donna Cobban