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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Taking the Bite Out of Teething

Most babies cut their first tooth between the ages of 4 and 7 months. Some babies breeze through the experience with not even a whimper to announce the new teeth. But others - well, let's just say others let us know with every ounce of their lung power. It can be a frustrating time for parents who want to ease that discomfort as quickly as possible. I told you in an earlier entry about teething tablets (see "When Teething Becomes a Pain..."), but it's two teeth later in my baby experience, so I have a few more ideas for you.

Fortunately, my son is between teeth right now. Although I can feel those little bumps on the top gums, there's no sign they're imminent. The bottom two look great, and silence has prevailed (as best as an 8-month-old can muster) once again. But he still has the great desire to chew, and the drooling is excessive to say the least.

There have been a lot of studies surrounding those baby teething rings with the funky smell. You know the ones - they are usually a clear soft plastic with colorful figures on them. The verdict is not clearly out as to whether or not these are safe, so we've decided to steer clear of them. But there are some nice alternatives to try.

The first one is the carrot. Yes, the carrot. (This requires some close supervision, because as baby sprouts some teeth, he or she can scrape little bits off.) What I recommend is to peel a nice organic carrot and cut it in half. Give the fatter end as the teething toy. This has been such a success in our house that if my son needs a diaper change or is even getting fed his lunch, he often refuses to let go of it! We keep a dish in the fridge so it's chilled. It really seems to ease the discomfort. (If you are using organic carrots, beware of giving them to a baby wearing white - the beta carotene content seems to be higher in these; even I experience orange hands after peeling some.)

A second idea is a small amount of chamomile tea. If a teething baby seems to be having difficulty sitting still, is restless and won't sleep because of teething, this works quite well. I prepare it weak and give my son no more than an ounce in a cup or a bottle. Not everyone feels confident giving their baby tea, but as far as herbs go, chamomile is definitely on the mild side. Just don't overdo it - it does have constipating properties if too much is taken. On the upside of chamomile, it has mild cleansing properties that will eliminate the bacteria from baby's mouth - another cause of teething pain, according to my dentist.

And speaking of my dentist, he recommends giving baby a cool damp washcloth to chew on (also closely supervised) to help remove bacteria from gums. Or you can cleanse the gums yourself by gently rubbing them with the cloth, but actually chewing the cloth seems to be more enjoyable; and it sops up an awful lot of drool!

Teething is tough on parents and babies alike, but keep in mind - there are moments of peace between the new teeth! They won't just sprout one after the other without letting up, and usually the first few teeth are the toughest to get through. Once those are out, they're so cute and pearly, you may not even mind the chomp marks on your furniture!

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