Teething! Why Are You Such a Pain!

When it came to teething, I had no idea what to expect because my son seemed to have all the symptoms as early as three months. The advice came pouring in with different remedies and interesting debates. I was quite sure that the drooling, finger chewing and runny nose were all good indicators that the pearly whites would pop out soon. The wait lasted six months and the sight of those first two cute teeth was both a relief and surprise as my son showed very little discomfort. But that was just the start and everytime my son settled into a routine, the vicious teething cycle would begin, turning some of our best and beautiful moments into the worst. 
Teething left me feeling helpless especially when I could do nothing but guess, hold and comfort my baby during those many sleepless, cranky nights. Teething toys provided momentary relief and once the effect wore off, it was back to rocking, soothing and a desperate wish that those darn teeth would magically appear quickly.

So how can you really tell if your baby is fussy because of teething troubles? 
The truth about teething is that the symptoms can be very confusing and different for each child. While the signs to look for are drooling, trouble sleeping, chewing everything within reach and a general fussiness, these are always present as early as two months. It's also common to mistake a cold, fever or diarrhea to be a sure sign of teething. In my case, my son had a mild fever and uncontrollable stools when the bigger and sharper (canines) erupted. This made everyone certain that the fever and watery stools were indeed caused by the teeth as they cut and pushed their way out of his tiny little gums. However, our doctor explained that there was no relation or evidence to prove that these were connected and attributed the diarrhea to viruses, possibly from the many things my son tried to chew on or put in his mouth. This seemed like a very valid explanation rather than blindly blaming every illness on teething and thinking it would last until the teeth made their appearance.
The first tooth can erupt as early as three months and from then it's quite a wait (almost 2 years) for the rest of them to slowly emerge. From my experience, I can tell you that after the first few teeth erupt, it gets better and less traumatic. You learn to identify a certain crankiness that your baby will display when teething, you'll figure out different strategies to ease the pain and you'll be able to approach this phase in a calm manner. 
The only mistake I made was to assume that since the first teeth hardly caused any discomfort that the rest would be a breeze. But they came at a time we least expected, when we were travelling and very unprepared. It also helps to be aware that pain associated with teething usually begins a week or two before the tooth actually erupts. I remember using my finger to feel along the gums for any sign of the erupting tooth and the sight of the small white monster emerging through the gums was the happiest feeling I can't quite explain. 
Keeping my experience in mind, here are some remedies that were helpful in soothing and comforting my very cranky baby who unfortunately had four teeth erupt at the same time.

  • Teething rings and toys were a relief and good distraction. I often chilled the teethers in the fridge (not in the freezer). But a word of caution with the liquid filled teethers: they can develop cracks, have to be constantly washed and used under supervision to prevent choking. It might take a while to find one that your child will love best so have a couple handy. Apart from the liquid teethers, my son loved a rubber giraffe that made squeaky noises when he chewed on it. 
  • An easier alternative instead of a teether, is a washcloth that can be stored in the fridge. When I misplaced the teether (yes, it can happen! ) I used this instead and my little one enjoyed chomping and chewing on the cold piece of cloth.
  • Massaging the gums gently before sleep worked wonders. It was the easiest remedy during the night and actually helped him wake less often. Ensure that your fingers are always clean. You can keep a bottle of water and bowl by your bed to rinse your fingers before and after.
  • As my son grew older, solids like cold yogurt and finger foods like bread sticks or carrots were helpful and provided some relief. It's important to always supervise any finger foods that you offer your child as some foods can cause choking.
  • Remember to always consult your doctor before you offer any pain medication and in case you're unsure of any symptoms that your child might have during teething.

As parents, it's especially sad and painful to hear out babies cry and not know the cause of their pain. With the last set of molars, my son was actually able to tell me "It hurts Mamma!!" while he pointed and poked his fingers deep in his mouth. It made me wish that I could bear the pain for him and imagine how hard it must have been when he couldn't express himself as a baby. 
If you're a parent going through the teething phase, I certainly wish I could hug you and wave your child's pain away. You might be spending sleepless nights while you struggle to comfort your baby - please be patient and be strong this too shall pass and the sight of your child smiling with a mouthful of teeth will make it well worth the struggle.
Thanks for taking the time to read and do share your experiences.