Somewhere between three and twelve months, your baby's teeth will make their grand, grumpy entrance. Here's how to read the signs of teething, and ease your baby's discomfort.
Just when the days of colic and ceaseless crying seemed to be behind you; when your baby was maybe, just maybe, sleeping through the night; when she was starting to settle into a regular routine…here comes the tooth fairy to throw you both for a loop!
When does teething begin? Although your baby's first tooth can appear anywhere between three and 12 months, sometime in the seventh month is the average time of arrival. Surprisingly, though, teething symptoms can appear as much as two to three months before that first tiny tooth does. Symptoms and severity vary greatly from one baby to the next, but you may observe one or all of the following:
Drooling. You might find that your baby's shirts are suddenly soggy. Fasten on a bib to keep her more comfortable (and cleaner), and gently wipe her chin throughout the day to stave off chapping (if that doesn't work, ask your doctor about a mild moisturizer such as Aquaphor or even Lansinoh nipple cream). Pooling saliva may also cause a slight cough or even trigger the gag reflex. If she's otherwise healthy, you can safely ignore both.Gnawing. She's not trying to be naughty. Little nips at your fingers, breast (ouch!), or her spoon help relieve the pressure she feels from under her gums.Crying. Some babies breeze through teething with nary a whimper, while others suffer from a good deal of pain — which they feel compelled to share with you in the form of whining or crying. Talk to your doctor about when to administer pain relievers such as infant acetaminophen or ibuprofen.Fasting. Since sucking movements can worsen teething pressure or pain, your baby may refuse to nurse or eat, or may nurse briefly and then turn away. Keep at it, and call your pediatrician if the strike lasts more than a few days.Waking. Especially when she's working on cutting that very first tooth, your baby may fuss during the night as well as during the day, so be prepared for a little extra crib-side duty for a while. Doctors disagree on whether diarrhea and fever may also be signs of teething (though most moms who've been through it will tell you they are). Even if you think you can chalk up these conditions to an about-to-arrive tooth, mention them to your doctor if they last more than a couple of days.
Regardless of the symptoms your baby exhibits, you'll be desperate to give her some teething relief. Counterpressure often feels good on the gums, so offer her something hard to chew on — extra points if it's icy cold, which provides a numbing sensation. Try a frozen washcloth; a nubby teething ring or toy; or a biscuit (always supervise her). Or offer cold drinks or food. You can also try rubbing her gums firmly with your (clean) finger — she might not appreciate this at first, but will after the pressure begins to ease her throbbing, sore gums.