How to Soothe Your Teething Baby

If your baby's gums are red and swollen and she's drooling or crying more than usual, there's a good chance she's teething. Although it can differ from child to child, most children will start teething around six months old, as new teeth start pushing their way through the gums. Usually the two bottom teeth (lower central incisors) are the first to appear, with the two top teeth (upper central incisors) following soon thereafter. And while the process can be painful, there are steps you can take to soothe your baby's sore gums and make her more comfortable.

What to Try and What to Avoid

These safem simple tips can help ease your baby's discomfort:

  • Rub your baby's gums. Use a clean finger, moistened gauze pad, or damp washcloth to massage your baby's gums.
  • Use a teething ring. For best results, try one made of firm rubber. The liquid-filled variety may break under the pressure of your baby's chewing. If she longs for a bottle, fill it with water instead of formula, milk or juice, which may cause tooth decay from the sugar in these products. And don't freeze the teething ring. It can hurt babies' gums.
  • Dry the drool. While excessive drooling is part of the normal process of teething, it can cause the skin on your baby's face to become irritated. Keeping a clean cloth handy to try your baby's chin will help. Also, try having your baby sleep on an absorbent sheet.
  • Try OTC pain medications. There are several over-the-counter remedies that are effective in easing teething pain, including acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol), ibuprofen (e.g. Advil, Motrin. But don't give your baby products that contain aspirin. Check with your doctor to determine which may be best for her.
  • Avoid OTC teething medications. Teething medications that can be rubbed directly onto a baby's gums may be washed away by your baby's saliva and too much of the medication may numb your baby's throat, which can cause swallowing problems and gagging. And earlier this year, the FDA issued a warning about benzocaine, a local anesthetic and the active ingredient in some OTC teething medications, such as Anbesol and Baby Orajel.  Benzocaine has been linked to a rare but serious medical condition called methemoglobinemia, which lowers the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream and in the most severe cases can result in death. The FDA is advising parents not to use products with benzocaine on children under the age of two without the advice of their doctor.
  • Don't use honey. Honey on a pacifier can cause botulism in infants. Avoid giving honey to babies under one year old.

If your baby develops a fever or diarrhea or seems particularly uncomfortable, be sure to call your pediatrician.