Teething Woes: Tools to Soothe Teething Pain

The mother of one of my patients, who herself is a doctor (a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases), walked into my office the other day saying: “I’ve just realized that I have been killing my child.” 


What could make this mother fear for the health of her 6-month-old child, despite the excellent care of two well-trained pediatricians (his mother and me, if I may be so presumptuous)?  A gaggle of well-meaning but very opinionated mothers at a baby shower. Here are the things that my friend realized she was doing wrong.  Terribly wrong.

  1. She had been using conventional formula.  In fact, she did not even know that there was organic formula!
  2. She had used baby wipes on her son’s bottom from the minute he was born.  She learned that this habit might be suspect when a seasoned mother gave a pack of 20 small washcloths to the mom-to-be, saying “Since you can’t use baby wipes until babies are two months old, you’ll need a lot of these!”  Who knew?
  3. She had just bought several teething rings (on sale!) at Target.  “But didn’t you hear that those have been recalled?”  “What if he bites them and then the liquid comes out and he swallows it!  It causes cancer.  Or some kind of infection.  Anyway, it’s toxic!” Apparently, every good mother knows that teething babies are supposed to have–you guessed it–a teething giraffe. Silly her.

When my friend came to me asking for advice about these other mothers’ recommendations, what did I suggest?  No more baby showers.

In reality, however, there is no way of avoiding bits (gobs,really) of parenting advice.  So, in the face of conflicting information about how to care for babies, my real advice is to do a little research, use your intuition, and trust yourself.  And ask an expert (your pediatrician) if you still have concerns.

To start, here’s the lowdown on safely relieving pain and suffering during teething.  Posts about choosing formula and soothing your baby’s bum are forthcoming.

While certain teething rings have been recalled, many types of teething rings are safe and effective for soothing teething pain. 

What not to use: Several years ago a teething ring was recalled due to bacteria in the liquid inside the teething ring, which could be harmful if the ring is punctured and the liquid swallowed.   Other types of teething rings have been recalled because of a risk for choking or aspiration because part or all of the ring can fit into the infant’s mouth.  Another concern about teething rings is that many contain potentially hazardous chemical called diisononyl phthalate, which could potentially leech out of the plastic while children chew. At very high levels, this chemical is feared to cause liver or kidney damage or cancer. Some manufacturers have stopped using phthalates and several stores have voluntarily agreed to avoid carrying teething products that contain this chemical.    

Nervous? Don’t be. There are several good and safe methods to soothe babies’ teething pain.

What is safe? Latex or silicone chewable toys work well and appear to be safe.  Safemama.com has a helpful list of teethers that are free of the plastics that we suspect are harmful for babies.  And the Consumer Product Safety Commission website is a great place to check for recalls.  

And then there is my favorite, the teething giraffe. The expression “born with a silver spoon in his mouth” refers to the common practice for well-off parents in the nineteenth century to use a silver spoon to help relieve the discomfort of teething.  These days, it appears, silver spoons have been replaced. Manufactured by hand and with love in the French Alps, Sophie la Girafe, is a sure way to soothe your baby’s teething woes while avoiding cooties and toxic chemicals. 

Tips for Parents:

Thanks to this website for these tips for using teething rings. As for the giraffe, you’re on your own. Safe travels.  

  • It is preferable to use a teething ring instead of teething biscuits or cookies.
  • Cool liquid filled rings in the refrigerator but never freeze them: the liquid may expand causing the plastic to crack or burst.
  • Never boil teething rings or put them in the dishwasher (unless the manufacturer instructions indicate that they are dishwasher safe).
  • Dispose of a liquid filled ring if it leaks, or if a ring is damaged in any way.
  • Your baby’s teething ring is your baby’s teething ring; this is not a time to teach the principal of sharing.
  • Do not tie the teething ring to the baby with a string or cord. They could inadvertently strangle themselves.
  • Do not use a teething ring made of several parts. Small pieces can break off and cause the baby to choke.
  • Thoroughly wash teething rings after each use. Never boil teething rings or put them in the dishwasher (unless the manufacturer instructions say it is dishwasher safe).

In a pinch, however, there are several tried old tricks that require neither trips to France nor to Target:

  • Freeze a moist washcloth or a banana and let your little one suck away—the cold works very well for soothing swollen gums.
  • An occasional dose of a mild pain reliever like infant acetaminophen (Tylenol) can get you through the roughest nights. Try not to use it every night for weeks, though: weeks of nighttime crying cannot be blamed on teething. Talk to your pediatrician!   
 

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1 Comment

Filed under General Commentary, Newborns and Infants

One response to “Teething Woes: Tools to Soothe Teething Pain

  1. Pingback: Drool Factory: Is My Baby Teething? « Dr. Kim, MD

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