Teething is a significant milestone in a baby’s life, and it often comes with a range of symptoms that can affect breastfed infants differently. As a parent, it is essential to understand the signs of teething in breastfed babies to provide appropriate care and support during this period. In this article, we will explore the various indicators of teething discomfort in breastfed infants and discuss helpful tips for alleviating their discomfort.
Teething refers to the process of primary teeth erupting through a baby’s gums, typically occurring between the ages of six months and three years. While every baby experiences teething differently, there are common signs and symptoms that can indicate the onset of this developmental milestone. Breastfed babies may exhibit specific signs that can be attributed to teething, and recognizing these indications is crucial for parents to provide comfort and relief.
What is Teething?
Teething is a natural process in which a baby’s teeth gradually emerge through the gums. The eruption of teeth starts with the lower front teeth, known as the central incisors, followed by the upper front teeth. Over time, other teeth, such as canines, molars, and premolars, will also appear. The teething process can cause discomfort and irritability in babies, leading to various observable signs.
Teething Process in Breastfed Babies
Average Age of Teething
The average age for teething to begin in breastfed babies is around six to nine months, although it can vary from one infant to another. Some babies may start teething as early as three months, while others may not experience it until their first birthday.
Order of Tooth Eruption
The order in which teeth erupt can also differ between babies, but it generally follows a predictable pattern. The central incisors are usually the first to emerge, followed by the lateral incisors, first molars, canines, and second molars. By the age of three, most children have a full set of primary teeth.
While each baby may experience teething differently, there are several common symptoms associated with this stage. These include mild gum discomfort, increased drooling, irritability, and a tendency to chew on objects. Some babies may also develop a low-grade fever or experience disrupted sleep patterns during the teething process.
Signs of Teething in Breastfed Babies
Breastfed babies may exhibit specific signs and symptoms that indicate the onset of teething discomfort. It is important for parents to be aware of these indications to provide appropriate care and support. The following are some common signs of teething in breastfed infants:
1. Increased Drooling
During teething, babies tend to drool more than usual. Excessive drooling can lead to skin irritation around the mouth, chin, and neck area. To prevent discomfort and rashes, caregivers should keep the baby’s face dry and clean.
2. Gum Swelling and Sensitivity
As teeth start pushing through the gums, the surrounding tissues may become swollen and sensitive. Babies may experience discomfort or pain when pressure is applied to their gums, such as during breastfeeding or when biting on teething toys.
3. Irritability and Restlessness
Teething can make babies feel more irritable and restless than usual. They may become fussier, cry more frequently, and have difficulty calming down. Offering comfort and reassurance can help soothe their distress.
4. Frequent Night Waking
Teething discomfort often disrupts a baby’s sleep patterns, leading to more frequent night waking. If your breastfed baby is waking up more often during the night, teething could be a contributing factor.
5. Excessive Biting and Chewing
To relieve the pressure and discomfort in their gums, teething infants may bite or chew on anything within their reach. This behavior provides counter-pressure that can temporarily alleviate their discomfort.
6. Changes in Feeding Patterns
Breastfed babies going through teething may exhibit changes in their feeding patterns. Some infants may nurse more frequently to seek comfort, while others may experience decreased appetite due to gum sensitivity.
7. Facial Rash or Redness
Constant drooling during teething can cause a facial rash or redness around the mouth and chin area. Applying a gentle barrier cream can help protect the baby’s skin and prevent irritation.
8. Ear Pulling
Teething discomfort can sometimes radiate to the ears, leading to babies pulling or tugging at their ears. However, it is important to rule out any other ear-related issues, as not all ear pulling is directly related to teething.
9. Mild Fever
Teething can occasionally cause a mild increase in body temperature, resulting in a low-grade fever. However, if the fever exceeds 100.4°F (38°C), it may indicate an unrelated illness, and medical attention should be sought.
10. Disrupted Sleep Patterns
Teething discomfort can disrupt a baby’s sleep patterns, making it challenging for them to settle down and stay asleep. Providing a soothing environment and comforting routines can help promote better sleep.
11. Increased Thumb Sucking
Teething babies may seek additional comfort by sucking their thumbs more frequently. Thumb sucking provides a soothing sensation and can temporarily relieve gum discomfort.
12. Unusual Stool Patterns
Some breastfed babies may experience changes in their stool patterns during teething. Their bowel movements may become looser or more frequent, but these changes are typically temporary and should not cause concern.
13. Elevated Body Temperature
Teething can sometimes cause a slight elevation in a baby’s body temperature. However, it is important to differentiate between teething-related temperature changes and signs of illness.
14. Unsettled Behavior
Babies in the teething stage may display more unsettled behavior, such as increased fussiness, clinginess, or difficulty being soothed. Providing extra comfort, gentle rocking, and cuddling can help ease their discomfort.
15. Nasal Congestion and Runny Nose
Some breastfed babies may experience mild nasal congestion or a runny nose during teething. However, if nasal symptoms worsen or are accompanied by severe congestion, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional.
It is important to note that not all breastfed babies will exhibit all these signs of teething, and some infants may experience teething discomfort more intensely than others. Each baby is unique, and their teething journey may vary.
Tips for Relieving Teething Discomfort
When your breastfed baby is experiencing teething discomfort, there are several strategies you can try to provide relief. Here are some helpful tips:
1. Gentle Gum Massage
Using a clean finger or a soft, damp cloth, gently massage your baby’s gums to provide temporary relief from teething pain. The gentle pressure can help soothe swollen gums.
2. Teething Toys and Teethers
Offering safe and age-appropriate teething toys and teethers can give your baby something to chew on, providing counter-pressure to alleviate discomfort. Look for BPA-free and non-toxic options.
3. Chilled Washcloth or Teething Ring
Dampen a clean washcloth and place it in the refrigerator for a short while. The cold washcloth can provide relief when your baby chews or sucks on it. Similarly, a chilled teething ring can offer soothing relief.
4. Breastfeeding Comfort
Breastfeeding can provide comfort and reassurance to teething babies. Ensure a comfortable feeding position and be mindful of their sensitive gums. If necessary, try adjusting your breastfeeding routine to accommodate their discomfort.
5. Cold Foods or Drinks
Introducing cold foods or beverages can help numb the gums temporarily. Offer chilled fruits or yogurt (if your baby has started solids) or chilled breast milk in a sippy cup.
6. Over-the-Counter Remedies
Consult with your pediatrician about safe over-the-counter teething remedies, such as teething gels or pain relievers suitable for infants. Follow the recommended dosage and guidelines provided by the healthcare professional.
Remember to always supervise your baby during teething and avoid using remedies that contain harmful substances or have not been approved for use with infants.
When to Consult a Pediatrician
While teething is a natural process, there are instances where it may be necessary to consult a pediatrician. Consider reaching out to your healthcare provider if:
- Your baby’s teething symptoms are severe and causing significant distress.
- Your baby develops a high fever (above 100.4°F or 38°C) unrelated to teething.
- Your baby shows signs of dehydration, such as decreased urination or dry mouth.
- Your baby’s gum or mouth area appears infected or there are other concerning symptoms.
A healthcare professional can assess your baby’s condition and provide appropriate guidance and recommendations.
Recognizing the signs of teething in breastfed babies is vital for parents to provide the necessary support and comfort during this developmental stage. Increased drooling, gum swelling, irritability, changes in feeding patterns, and excessive biting and chewing are common indicators. By understanding these signs and following helpful tips for relieving teething discomfort, parents can ensure their breastfed infants navigate the teething process with minimal discomfort.