Ask A Mum: How do I help my teething baby?

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Written by Tricia Wanjala for MumsVillage

Q: My 4 month-old is constantly crying and irritable. He is always drooling and trying to chew on stuff. I am told he is teething. How can I help ease the discomfort?

A: Nasinyari Karuga, mother of one, answers:

Teething is a very normal process, but it can cause tremendous discomfort for your baby. Many parents get flustered because teething can result in constant crying, irritability, and sometimes even diarrhea and fever. Strangely enough, some babies experience no discomfort at all. No two children are alike, and it no-one knows what causes some to experience less discomfort than their peers. Once teething begins, it continues almost uninterrupted for two years, and children continue to have milk teeth until they are ten or eleven years old.

How do you know if your baby is teething? The most obvious sign is excessive drooling and dribbling. Other symptoms might include possible nappy rash, irritability, white patches on gums and occasionally a drop of blood when the tooth appears. At the onset of teething, your baby will suddenly want to chew on everything. Breastfed babies who are teething may bite their mothers while feeding. This is a natural reaction to having sore gums, and it will stop with time if you simply react naturally –yelp with pain and take him off the breast, saying “No,” in a firm voice.

In general, when does teething begin? The first teeth emerge anytime within the first year. Some babies are born with a tooth or two and yet others still have zero teeth by the end of their first year. According to the childcare book, What to expect in the first year, by Sandee Hathaway et al, an average range for the first teeth is between three and six months. Dr Carol Cooper, author of Baby & Child Book agrees that on average, by six months the first tooth has appeared. Either way, parents must resist the tendency to compare one child with another, because they all go through these milestones at different times, even if they may be siblings. If you have any doubts about the timing, just check with your pediatrician, who will reassure you that your baby is fine. Some parents are relieved by the seeming delay because for some babies, cutting their first teeth can be horrendous. Some suffer so much discomfort that they refuse to breastfeed or bottle-feed. This is because the sucking motion exacerbates the pain and irritation they experience. If your baby goes through this, give milk through a cup or a teaspoon until they are able to suck normally. If your baby experiences diarrhea it is vital to seek medical attention, as dehydration can be life threatening for infants. Experts disagree on what pain-relievers to give for teething. Some doctors recommend paracetamol for babies older than six months. Others caution against giving pain relievers as these can be damaging to the liver. Teething powders are available in supermarkets and chemists. For those who prefer natural remedies, the homeopathic alternative chamomile is helpful for teething pain. In all cases, medication should only be a last resort.

Here are some practical ways to relieve sore and tender gums caused by teething:

– Give your baby a clean, chilled teething ring

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