2nd April 2018

Teething: frequently asked questions (especially at 4.13am)

Are amber beads total woo? Why does he suddenly have green poo? When will this hell end? Isabel Mohan investigates. 

How do I know if my baby is definitely teething?

It’s a tricky one. There’s always a chance that your baby is just a terrible person. But generally, if they’re between one minute and 78 years old, and exhibiting more than two or three of the following symptoms, they’re probably teething.

  • Waterfall of saliva pouring from their gobs (my little drooler is rarely seen without a Funky Giraffe dribble bib)
  • Massive red cheeks that totally clash with their outfit
  • An unsightly runny nose (said dribble bibs double up as seriously grim snotty hankies in our house)
  • Uniquely disgusting poo (yes, even worse than usual)
  • Disrupted sleep (as opposed to the 12 unbroken hours of blissed-out slumber we all normally get, right?)
  • Constant, seemingly irrational whinging (probably them AND you)
  • Shoving anything they can get their chubby little hands on into their mouths, including their chubby hands themselves
  • And yet, rejecting actual food. You know, the thing they’re supposed to put in their mouth.

But don’t be thinking all this means your baby’s going to get some cute little peggies soon. That would be too easy. This nonsense takes months. My little boy has always enjoyed putting inanimate objects into his mouth (phone chargers, takeaway fliers, the cat), had a visible tooth bud at two months and started sporadically acting like a prize arsehole at around four months, but didn’t get any actual teeth until he was almost 11 months old. Then he got four in a fortnight. Fun times. They do look cute though.

What are these amber bead thingies?

Noticed that a lot of one year olds look like they’ve just got back from a gap year backpacking around South East Asia? Well, those beaded necklaces you see so many red-faced little terrors wearing aren’t just a fashion statement, they’re teething aids. Maybe.

There are two types of mother: those who believe in the powers of amber to provide pain relief to their drooling beast, and those who are just too embarrassed to look like they believe in the powers of amber to provide pain relief to their drooling beast.

In theory, the succinic acid in the amber acts as a natural painkiller, absorbed by their lovely warm skin and sending some sort of happy hippy zippy zaps towards their teeth. In practice, this is scientifically impossible. Plus, they’re not actually very safe: choking hazard, strangulation hazard, all that jazz. But hey, if it gets you through the day, proceed with caution.

So, what does help then?

Moaning about it to your mum friends on mush helps. Oh, you mean what helps the baby? Pfft. I’ve tried Bonjela, Calpol, Nurofen, those powders that make you feel like you’re doing recreational drugs with your baby… but the main thing that helps is letting him sleep in our bed and bite my boobs.

Why did ten different friends give me a rubber giraffe when the baby was born?

Sophie la Girafe is a popular overpriced teething aid. Like a middle-class dog toy. I once heard a mum in the vaccination clinic repeatedly offer Sophie to her child in an exaggerated French accent entirely without irony. “Finlay, would you like to play with Soh-fee lah jeeeeghraf now?”. Finlay did have red cheeks, but it may have been the humiliation.

Why is teething worse at night?

Because everything is worse at night.

Does teething really cause an upset tummy?

Some people say there is no evidence of this. These people are liars. My little boy ends up swallowing so much drool when he’s acutely teething that he violently vomits, as well as doing weird, explosive, mucussy poos. Every time it happens I go “oh no, he is terribly ill, maybe it’s gastroenteritis or an allergic reaction even though he seems otherwise perfectly fine” and then, every time, a tooth appears within the next couple of days and the flow of grossness abruptly stops.

So, beware, if you too are #blessed with a spewy teether, it’s back to those newborn habits of carrying 17 muslins, three changes of clothes (for you and them), a range of carpet cleaning implements and an apologetic face.

When should I start brushing their teeth?

It’s good to form this habit early, plus baby toothbrushes are dead cute. So, once a tooth or two has broken through, try and start brushing (using the teeniest smear of baby toothpaste – I usually just dab the bristles in the top of the tube) once or twice a day. Do yours at the same time because your baby has an unsophisticated sense of humour and will find it flipping hilarious.

At 13 months, my baby now loves his toothbrush more than he loves me.

When will this hell end?

No idea, I’m still in it. But, generally, it slows down a bit once the first few are through, although I hear bad things about toddlers and molars.

And then, in a few years, those teeth, those evil teeth that caused so much pain, will only go and fall out and cost the tooth fairy* ACTUAL MONEY. What a bloody waste of time and energy all that was.

* you. You’re the tooth fairy. As if you didn’t have enough roles already.


@mushmums @isabel_m_rene


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