Ask: How to keep a teething baby on track?

Posted by Pam Diamond on June 18, 2013 

Pam Diamond is a postpartum doula who works with new parents in the Triangle.

Q. Now that my baby is sleeping so well at night, what should I do when she starts teething?

A. Many of my clients worry that teething is going to disrupt the healthy sleep habits they’ve established with their little ones. My experience, however, is that some babies are barely bothered by it -- other than some extra drooling and having their hands in their mouth constantly -- while others may need a little more help when cutting teeth.

You might be interested first off to see the order in which your baby’s teeth will erupt. Check out this chart I posted on my pinterest page that shows it.

Like all of us, babies have different pain tolerances. I mean really, did you read a couple of weeks ago about the woman training for a marathon who thought she had injured herself but was actually in labor? Besides that I looked like I was packing a torpedo, I could not have mistaken my labor pains for an exercise injury. But I digress.

As always, I say watch your baby. If she is in the age range for teething -- roughly 5 months to 2.5 years or so -- you might see that she aggressively gnaws on anything available, is drooling like a faucet, has a chin rash and/or has a clear runny nose. None of these mean she is in pain necessarily but will help to determine whether she is teething. If she is uncomfortable while teething, she might be extra fussy during the day even though she is getting adequate sleep, or you might see her tugging at her ears, or she may want to nurse more frequently than usual.

If you suspect she is in pain, there are many options you can try before resorting to medication. If you’re open to alternative treatments, many parents swear by amber teething necklaces. Amber is fossilized tree resin. The necklaces are strung with beads of amber, so use common sense if you choose to put a beaded necklace on your baby. Other parents have found essential oils rubbed on the gums or jawline to be effective pain relievers. One recommendation is to mix 1 drop of chamomile or lavender (I like food grade essential oils) with a tablespoon of a carrier oil (olive or almond for example) and rub it on the baby’s jawline. Another natural option is one teaspoon of clove oil with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and, after mixing, apply directly to infant's gums with a clean finger.

I like frozen washcloths. Wet and roll clean washcloths and freeze. Offer them to baby as a teething toy for quick relief. I did frozen bagels with my children, but I should warn you, they are MESSY.

If alternative remedies are not relieving your baby’s discomfort, talk to your pediatrician about pain management. Many will recommend ibuprofen, especially at bedtime.

Throughout it all, keep to good sleep routines. Don’t assume you shouldn’t bother with getting your baby to sleep while teething or you may be waiting until she is close to three to get started on establishing healthy habits. If you already have good sleep habits in place, there may be bumps in the road that require extra attention, more frequent nursing sessions and pain management, but a well-rested baby will handle the discomfort of teething far better than an overtired one.


Pam Diamond is a parent coach, postpartum doula, baby sleep consultant and owner of First Daze & Nightzzz, LLC. Pam’s goal is to help parents and babies get off to the best possible start. She helps families fix what’s not working and enjoy what is. She lives in Cary with her husband and two teenage children. You can learn more about Pam on her website: First Daze & Nightzzz, or email her at pdiamond@firstdaze.com.

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