Teething is most common in a 5 or 6-month-old baby, but it can start as early as 3 months or as late as a first birthday.
You can first expect to see the lower front teeth (central incisors) followed by the upper front teeth. Next are the upper and lower teeth at either side of the central incisors, followed by the upper and lower molars. The canines are next, with the last set of molars usually arriving by 2 years old.
Teeth can come through the gums at odd angles and there may be gaps between them, but any spaces usually disappear after all 20 babies (primary) teeth have broken through by which time they should all be straight.
Baby teething can be painful and some babies get distressed, red-faced and cranky. Although others do sail through the process seemingly unaffected.
Most parents notice that the arrival of baby teeth is accompanied by at least one symptom such as a slight rise in temperature, irritability, problems sleeping, facial flushing or rashes, drooling, ear rubbing or a loss of appetite.
Parents must be careful not to blame baby teething for other illnesses or changes in behaviour that occur with their 6-month-old baby. If a baby has a fever or diarrhoea or is especially irritable, it may not be baby teething. See your GP so illness or infection can be ruled out. Ear infections are sometimes mistaken for teething symptoms.
While pressing on the baby’s gums appears to relieve the discomfort, the action of sucking causes blood to rush to the swollen areas, making them more sensitive. So some babies may temporarily reject the breast while teething.
Giving your baby something cool to bite on can relieve the pressure and ease the pain. Or try the following:
Rub a clean finger or a cold spoon over your baby’s gums to temporarily numb them.
Give baby a teething ring. Solid silicone-based or rubber teething rings are best. Liquid-filled ones can leak and cannot be sterilised.
Your baby may enjoy chewing on hard non-sweetened rusks, breadsticks or oven-hardened bread. Frozen bread, or bagels, will give a cool chew, but don’t leave baby unattended with it.
Fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, such as cucumber or frozen bananas can feel soothing on the gums.
Chilled water in a bottle or a feeding cup or cold apple pure or plain yoghurt may be soothing.
Always be careful when you give food for her to chew on that she can’t bite off lumps which she could choke on. Avoid carrots for example.
Teething gels usually contain a local anaesthetic plus antiseptic, which combine to ease the pain and prevent infection. A small amount has a numbing effect for about 20 minutes, but teething gel should not be applied more than six times a day and never before a breastfeed as it can numb your baby’s tongue impeding her ability to suck.