As you wonder why your sleeping angel turns nightwaker, you hear the telltale ping against the spoon or feel the cutting edge. Actually babies don’t “cut teeth,” nor do teeth “erupt.” Teeth slowly slide and twist their way through gum tissue. But sharp teeth pushing through sensitive gums do hurt, and babies protest.
During teething time, expect the saliva faucet to be on. In addition, listen for the young announcer’s voice to sputter. Many of the following aggravations stem from this excessive drool.
Sensitive skin and excessive saliva don’t sit well together, especially when the skin is rubbing against a drool-soaked bed sheet. Expect a red, raised, irritating rash around baby’s lips and chin. Place a drool-absorbing cotton diaper under baby’s chin or a towel under the sheet while baby sleeps. Gently wipe excess drool off the skin with lukewarm water and pat (don’t rub) dry. Lubricate with a mild emollient such as Soothe and Heal by Lansinoh.
Not only does the face react to excess saliva, so does the bottom. Expect loose stools and a mild diaper rash during peak teething time. This temporary nuisance self-clears as each teething burst subsides. Apply a barrier ointment to baby’s bottom.
Fever and irritability
The inflammation caused by hard teeth pushing through soft tissue may produce a low fever (101 degrees F / 38.3 degrees C) and the disposition of someone who hurts. Give baby acetaminophen as needed. (See for the appropriate dosage.)
The budding teether longs for something or someone to gnaw on. Teeth marks on crib rails and clicking gums on silver spoons are telltale signs of sore gums. Babies may also nibble on your knuckles, arms, fingers, and sometimes the breast that feeds them. Offer something cool and hard. Gum-soothing favorites are a cool spoon, popsicle, frozen bagel, teething ring, and a favorite Sears’ family teether—a chicken leg bone stripped of the tiny bone slivers. Try cold teething biscuits for another melt-in-the-mouth teether. We do not recommend commercial gum-numbing substances because it is difficult to learn their exact contents and find research that validates their safety.
Growing teeth don’t rest at night; neither do teething babies and their parents. A previously steady sleeper may frequently awaken during peak teething times and may have difficulty resettling into the preteething sleep schedule. Offer a dose of acetaminophen before bedtime or, if baby is in severe pain, a one-time double dose. Repeat the dose four hours later if needed.
Refusing to feed
This is the most variable of all teething concerns. Some teethers never miss a meal, others accelerate their nursing for comfort, and a few may pass up even their most trusted human pacifier. Offer cool, mushy foods—for example, applesauce and frozen fruit juice slush. Put these on a cool spoon to make a real hit.