Teething: A Parent’s Guide to Soothing a Distressed Baby

Covering everything from the stages of teeth eruption, signs, toys and remedies, teething foods, teething rashes, and even baby tooth care, you will have everything you need to prepare for your little one’s teething journey.

What Is Teething?

When Do Babies Start Teething?

Your baby’s first tooth will usually appear in pairs at around 6 months old, starting with the bottom two incisors followed by the top two. 

This timing can vary with some babies getting their first tooth as early as 3 months and some as late as 14 months. 

NOTE: By 3 years of age, all of the primary teeth should be present and correct with the permanent teeth starting to appear between the ages of 4-6 years.

When do babies start teething

Teething Signs

The most common symptoms you will notice when baby is teething are:

Teething Signs Infographic

1. Drooling & Teething Rash

The most obvious sign that your baby is starting to teeth is when you notice they are drooling excessively. 

You will be surprised by how much drool your baby can actually produce at this time! 

To prevent a teething rash from developing on the chin or neck:

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2. Red Cheek And Ear Pulling

A teething baby may have a red or flushed cheek if they are rubbing at their face to try and distract from their discomfort. 

Nerves in the ears and cheek also share the same pathways as the gums…

Therefore, pain from getting a new tooth can present itself in these areas, with your baby rubbing at their face and pulling their ears. 

TOP TIP: An ear infection can also cause your baby to pull at their ears, so always check with your doctor to make sure there is nothing else amiss if they are pulling at their ears excessively.

3. Sleep Disturbances

Teething babies will often find it hard to settle and may wake more often at night. 

This is usually short-lived and your baby should settle back into their normal sleep pattern once the tooth has come through. 

However, to avoid sleep regression I would not recommend night feeding any more than usual in order to comfort your little one. Instead, offer comfort with a gentle tummy rub.

4. Excessive Chewing And Biting

Young babies are always putting things in their mouth anyway…

But you may notice them gnawing or biting on toys and their own fists and fingers more furiously when a tooth is about to put in an appearance.

Provide toys with lots of texture and the ability to cool down to soothe sensitive gums:

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5. Swollen Gums

Swollen gums are often the most definitive way to determine if your little one has a new tooth coming or not. 

By putting your finger in your baby’s mouth and passing it over the gums you should also be able to feel the emergent teeth just below the surface.

6. Irritability And Crying 

The discomfort experienced when a new tooth is emerging will probably mean that your baby will be more irritable than usual and this can present itself in short bursts throughout the day, or for longer periods of time until the tooth appears. 

The first teeth usually hurt the most as your little one will not have experienced this type of discomfort before. 

And chances are that future teeth will not cause such a big teething tantrum…

With the exception of the molars as anyone who has experienced a wisdom tooth coming through will understand!

7. Changes To Eating Habits

Their tender gums may lead to your baby wanting to suck more on the bottle or breast due to a spoon being too uncomfortable.

For others, it may appear that they are more hungry than usual as the pressure on their gums from eating soothes the discomfort. 

Either way, you are likely to see a change but try to resist the urge to return to night feeding to ease your little one’s discomfort at night.

Teething Remedies 

Here are my favourite teething remedies that I always come back to time and time again:

  1. Offer cold foods or toys.
  2. Provide a warm cloth to soothe aching gums
  3. Invest in high-quality teething toys
  4. Give baby a gum massage
  5. Give baby a warm bath to help distract them
  6. Offering plenty of cuddles and comfort is a brilliant nonpharmacological remedy.
  7. Use a mesh feeder to give baby frozen foods
  8. Make popsicles from breastmilk, formula or fruit juice.
  9. Invest in a wearable teething glove for babies who are too small to coordinate a teething ring.
  10. Freeze a teat bottle for baby to chew on.
  11. Make teething biscuits.
  12. Offer a chilled spoon (only if baby is over 6 months old)
  13. Give baby a facial massage.
  14. Make homemade baby ice cream – mix 1 can of organic pears, 6 scoops of baby formula and 1/2 cup of organic rice blended together and frozen in an ice cube tray.
  15. If your baby is over 3 months old, you can give them baby-safe paracetamol or ibuprofen.

NOTE: Always follow guidance from a medical professional when administering medication to your children.

What Teething Treatments To Avoid

When baby is teething, their discomfort can be hard for us to witness. However, despite our best intentions, I would avoid the following to attempt to relieve their pain:

  1. Teething Gels. The use of numbing teething gel to ease the pain is really not necessary and there is a proven element of risk in doing so. The amount of relief baby teething gel can give is so minimal that it really is not worth the risk and most medical professionals will advise finding safer alternatives to relieving your baby’s emerging tooth pain.
  2. Teething Necklaces. I would also steer clear of teething necklaces and amber necklaces as they pose a serious choking hazard and with so many other teething toy options available, they are an unnecessary risk.

Teething Toys

For a comprehensive list of my favourite teething toys for babies of all ages and stages – check out this post.

What Food Can I Give My Teething Baby?

Teething and weaning often coincide so you may find that just when you were happily progressing with getting your little one onto solids, they start to reject certain foods or lose interest in food altogether… 

So what foods are best for teething babies and what can you do to make eating more pleasurable and soothing?

Here is a list of some great foods to offer your baby:

Soft Foods 

Your teething baby may prefer soft foods that don’t hurt their swollen gums such as:

  1. Mashed potato or sweet potato
  2. Minced meat (beef or chicken)
  3. Hummus
  4. Mashed banana
  5. Scrambled eggs
  6. Soft buttered toast without crusts
  7. Mashed avocado
  8. Rice cakes
  9. Veg and fruit purees
  10. Yoghurt
  11. Fromage frais
  12. Custard
  13. Cheese sauces

Hard Foods 

Some babies prefer hard foods that they can chomp down on to relieve teething pain and discomfort.  

A great option is to give baby a rusk or biscuit.

However, try to avoid store-bought ones as they can be very high in sugar.

Have a go at making your own!

There are plenty of lovely, healthy homemade teething biscuit recipes to choose from that keep well in a Tupperware for quick and convenient comfort. 

One of my favourite rusk recipes is from the lovely Stacey at My Kids Lick The Bowl.

Chilled Foods

As I mentioned earlier, it is a great idea to offer your teething baby fruit and veg that have been chilled.

  1. Chilled watermelon
  2. Cold cucumber sticks
  3. Frozen banana
  4. Homemade organic fruit juice popsicles (simply freeze some organic fruit juice)
  5. Frozen fruit purees
  6. Breast milk or formula popsicles

REMEMBER: Using a mesh feeder is a great and safe way to offer chilled or frozen foods to a younger baby.

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Foods To Avoid Whilst Teething

Foods that cause gum aggravation should be avoided when baby is teething. This includes:

  1. Salty and spicy foods.
  2. Acidic foods such as tomatoes and lemon juice.
  3. Frozen foods straight from the freezer. Frozen foods are amazing at soothing sore gums… However, they should always be taken out of the freezer for a few minutes before giving them to your baby to avoid freezer burn.

How To Care For Baby’s New Teeth

Once your baby has a tooth, use a small, soft infant toothbrush with a very small amount of infant toothpaste to clean your baby’s teeth twice a day.

However, if your baby is not keen on a toothbrush… then gently clean the tooth with a muslin cloth. 

Make toothbrushing fun by singing a song, making it a game or brushing your own teeth at the same time. 

REMEMBER: You will need to supervise teeth brushing until your child is 6 or 7 years old.

When Should I Take My Baby To The Dentist?

It is advisable to take your baby to the dentist for the first time when they are around 12 months old. 

Taking them with you when you visit the dentist prior to this will show them that this is just a normal part of life and make them more prepared for when they go for a check-up.

NOTE: Teeth decay in young children is a growing problem so it is very important that you encourage healthy dental and eating habits from early on. 

When To See A Doctor About Teething

Normally, you would not need to consult a doctor over an emerging tooth…

But if your little one has any of the following symptoms while teething then you should get them checked out by a medical professional to rule out any other underlying condition:

Frequently Asked Questions About Teething

Looking for more information about teething? Find answers to the most common questions here.

How Long Does Teething Last For?

Although it might feel like longer, on average your little one should only be out of sorts for about 8 days when teething. This is 4 days before the tooth breaks through, the day the tooth pops through and 3 days after. 

Is Getting A New Tooth Painful?

Yes. Cutting teeth can be very painful as baby’s gums swell and become tender. However, the amount of pain and discomfort that each child experiences will vary greatly.

What Are The First Signs Of Teething?

The first signs of teething include swollen gums, flushed cheeks, irritability and changes in oral habits such as chewing and feeding.

Do Pacifiers Help With Teething?

Yes, pacifiers or dummies can definitely help with easing the pain from incoming front teeth. The desire to suck for comfort can be beneficial and if you put the pacifier in the fridge first that can often offer great relief. However, pacifiers can cause rashes around baby’s mouth. So use them with care.

How Can I Make My Teething Baby Happy?

The most important thing is that you offer them as much comfort as possible. Soothing a teething baby can be very hard for any parent so don’t feel guilty that you can’t stop your baby from feeling uncomfortable. Accept that your little one is in some degree of discomfort and offer them any of the solutions I have detailed in this post. 

What Are The Best Ways To Soothe My Baby’s Painful Gums?

There are many ways to soothe your baby’s gums from offering cool foods, appropriate teething toys or mild pain relief. However, you may need to try a few before you find one that works for your baby.

Is My Baby Teething At 3 Months?

Yes, it is possible for your 3-month-old to be teething. The time at which a baby starts to teeth is always variable – some will start early and some will be late bloomers. 

What Does Teething Rash Look Like?

Here are a few teething rash pictures to help you visualise what a rash caused by erupting teeth and excess drool can appear as:

Teething Rash Images

Does Teething Trigger A Sleep Regression?

Sadly, teething and sleep regressions go hand in hand. This is because baby gets used to the extra comfort offered to help them sleep at night which stops once their tooth has emerged.

To avoid or recover from a sleep regression, you need to do the following:

Does Baby Teething Pain Get Worse At Night?

Baby teething pain can seem to get worse at night purely because your baby has fewer distractions than during the day. 

During the day, you can keep them occupied with playing, singing, going for a walk, massaging their gums and offering them chilled teething rings or other toys to ease their discomfort…

However, babies are just like adults in that we are all more aware of pain at night time when we have less to take our mind off the discomfort it causes and we are tired.

How To Soothe A Teething Baby At Night

There is no easy way to answer how to soothe a teething baby at night. It really is a case of trying out different options. 

However, try not to fall back on increasing the nighttime feeding to ease your baby’s discomfort and distress, but rather try comforting and patting to resettle your baby. 

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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