How To Soothe a Teething Baby
Every parent understands that anxiety you feel when your baby is up crying in the middle of the night. Are they sick? Is this an emergency or can it wait until morning? Teething is a very common reason that babies feel pain at night. Here’s what you need to know about how to soothe a teething baby.
- Written By
- Dr. Anjuli Gans
Understand The Teething Timeline
Teething is a long process - it can last anywhere from 5-30 months old. Though every teething baby is different, it is rare for babies to start before 5 months old. And many babies take longer - some babies don’t get their first teeth until after they are a year old. Most babies start teething around 5 to 7 months old. In addition, some things that may look like teething may actually be a part of normal development - for example, around 4 months old, many babies start putting their hands in their mouth (gross motor development) and drooling (as their salivary glands mature).
The pain from a new tooth should only truly last 24-74 hours before it breaks through - once the tooth pops through the gum, your child should feel relief.
Look For These Signs of Teething
The only way to know for sure that your baby is teething is to look in their mouth for red, raised bumps along the gumline or a small white bump below the gum surface. Some other clues include:
• Irritability. Babies can be irritable - their gums hurt! The gum swelling is part of an inflammatory response. Your little one might be fussier or more clingy than usual.
• Mildly Elevated Temperatures. As part of the inflammatory response, babies can have a mildly high temperature (usually no more than 99.5F).
• Changes in Feeding. Some babies don’t feed as much (or bite/chew more when feeding) when they are teething.
• Drooling. Many babies drool more when teething.
• Loose Stools. Because many babies drool when teething, they can swallow the extra saliva and have looser stools for a bit.
Keep Home Treatments to Soothe a Teething Baby Ready
Having some home remedies on hand will help you feel much more prepared when you’re in the moment trying to sooth a teething baby. Here are some treatments that you can try at home for teething pain.
• Gum Massage. Use a clean finger and apply gentle pressure.
• Washcloth Trick. Knot a washcloth on one or both ends. Dip knot in breastmilk, formula, or water. Put in a Ziploc bag in the fridge for no more than 15-20 minutes. Give to baby (or attach to a pacifier clip). This is soothing like a teether but is more moldable + can into hard to reach areas.
• Teethers. Chille d teethers or silicone straws can provide a lot of comfort.
• More Frequent Feeding. The rhythmic motion of feeding (breastfeeding or bottle feeding) can be comforting to some babies.
• Children’s Tylenol or Children’s Ibuprofen As Needed. Talk with your pediatrician about your child’s dose for these medications.
Make A Plan With Your Pediatrician
At your 4 or 6 month old check up, talk with your pediatrician about teething and come up with a plan together. They can examine your baby to see if they notice any signs on their exam. You can also review home treatments and tips on how to soothe a teething baby, your child’s medicine dosage, and when to call the after-hours line.
Know When To Seek Medical Help
While teething can cause many different symptoms, there are some things that you should not attribute to teething alone. It’s important to seek medical help if you notice that your baby has a true fever (greater than 100.4F) for more than a few days, is refusing feeds entirely, has vomiting or diarrhea, or is inconsolable despite your efforts at home. Your pediatrician can help to guide you on next steps.
Know that you are the best parent for your baby, even when it feels hard and scary in the middle of the night. Try these tips on how to soothe a teething baby, talk with your care team, and trust that you know what your child needs. This information will help you feel prepared and calm during your child’s health moments.
DR. ANJULI GANS
Anjuli Srivastava Gans, MD, is founder of Resilient Rascals and an attending physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. As a leading expert on early childhood health + development, she hopes to bridge the gap between parents’ instincts and practical medical care that they can use at home. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children. For more advice from Dr. Gans check out her tips on traveling with kids or coughs and colds.