Even if your child doesn’t already have a Sophie the Giraffe teether, you’ve probably seen it on a shower registry, or seen other babies gnawing at the plastic long-necked toy with fervor. Although my boys each had their own, presumably to help with teething, neither one was all that into it. Instead, they were happier gnawing on a chilled banana or, better yet, my fingers. When it comes to teething, every child is different, and while a chilled teething toy might soothe one child, another might just prefer his pacifier. For the most part, you have to do whatever works, but there are a handful of teething treatments that are actually dangerous for your baby. Here, we outline the gum soothers that do the trick, and those you should stay away from.
What DOES work:
1. Massaging the gums
Think caveman babies had teething toys? Not likely. The reality is that sometimes the best answer is the simplest one. “Try just massaging your baby’s gums with a finger dipped in cold water,” suggests Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital and The Everett Clinic, and author of Mama Doc Medicine.
2. Frozen washcloth
Dr. Swanson also recommends wetting a washcloth, and chilling it in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes, then using that to rub your baby’s gums. Your baby may even guide your finger to where it hurts.
3. Teething toys
When your fingers aren’t available, a good teething toy always comes in handy. Opt for silicone or latex toys, or even a pacifier, when in need. You could even pop them in the fridge for that cool, soothing feeling. Your baby might like the plush teething toys that are designed to be chilled, but avoid wooden ones as there is a chance they can breakdown and splinter, according to Dr. Swanson.
4. Cold foods
Speaking of that cool, soothing feeling, chilled foods like ice cream or Popsicles can also ease your baby’s pain, says Robert Delarosa, DDS, a Baton-Rouge-based pediatric dentist and the former president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. If you’re trying to avoid sugar, you could make your own Popsicle with pureed frozen fruit. You could also give your little one a cold banana or chilled berries; but, avoid potential choking hazards, such as a frozen bagel or waffle.
5. A pain reliever
If nothing seems to work and your baby is hurting, you can always give them a bit of medicine. “If a baby is 6 months old or younger, I recommend acetaminophen for teething, but for babies older than that, you can use ibuprofen as well,” says Dr. Swanson. “Those are the only pain relievers I recommend for teething babies.”
6. Teething necklaces for mom
You may have seen a baby furiously chewing on Mama’s necklace and thought, “Oh no, poor jewelry!” Some Mamas might just be letting baby gnaw on their accessories, but there are actually silicone chew strands that babies love. As long as that’s their purpose, and they’re made of silicone (not stone), experts say they’re safe for babies. It’s like having a portable teething toy that she won’t keep dropping on the ground.
What DOESN’T work:
1. Topical gels
When your child is in agony, you would do anything to numb his pain, but those topical anesthetics for the gums are a mistake. “First of all, they only only work on superficial skin, not the area below the gum where the teeth are moving and causing the discomfort,” says Dr. Swanson. “Not only that, but they can numb the back of the baby’s throat setting him up for difficulty swallowing or choking-like behavior.”
2. Teething tablets
Several years ago, the FDA recalled homeopathic Hyland’s Teething Tablets because they were concerned about the amount of belladonna in them, a toxic substance to children if consumed in excess. “Homeopathic supplements and medications are unregulated, so it’s hard to know exactly what it’s in them, and in what quantity,” warns Dr. Swanson. “I’ve always recommended against using teething tablets because of safety concerns, and because there’s no known benefit that make the dangers worth it.”
3. Teething necklaces for baby
You may have seen babies wearing Baltic amber necklaces that look like just a string of orange beads. Many moms swear by them, the theory being that body heat releases a small amount of succinic acid, which is thought to have a soothing effect on the gums. Unfortunately though, they can be dangerous: There is the risk of baby choking on a bead, or strangulation by the necklace itself. Since the benefits are murky, Dr. Swanson warns that it’s not worth it!
4. Liquid-filled teething toys
Skip plastic teething rings with liquid inside since there is a risk of the baby cutting through it. Also, they tend to contain BPA’s which aren’t healthy for baby.