Your baby’s first teeth (known as milk or deciduous teeth) normally develop while they are growing in the womb. These teeth will usually start to emerge through the gums when your baby is six to nine months old, however this can start from as early as two months (quite rare) or even after twelve months. This process is known as teething can be quite painful and distressing for babies.
Symptoms of Teething
Interestingly when teeth emerge through the gums they do not cut through the flesh, instead, special chemicals are released within the body that cause some cells in the gums to die and separate, allowing the teeth to come through. The pain is caused by movement within the developing jaw bone, as teeth start to make their way through the gums. Some babies do not experience any pain during teething, while others are more severely affected.
- A raised temperature (but not a fever, which is a temperature of 38C or above)
- Reddened cheeks
- Reddened gums.
- Excessive dribbling (this may cause a red rash to develop on their chin)
- Poor appetite (your baby may not want to eat as a result of the pain in their gums)
- Chewing or biting (fingers, toys, objects, your breast whilst feeding!)
- Restlessness and irritability
- Night waking
Some people attribute a wide range of symptoms to teething, such as diarrhoea and fever. However, there is no research to prove this, and it is important to be aware that not all symptoms are the result of teething.
- baby’s bottom front teeth usually come through first (incisors) from 6-9 months
- followed by their top front teeth (central incisors) from 8-10 months
- and then the top and bottom incisors either side (lateral incisors) from 9-13 months
- the first molars (back teeth) then start to come through at approximately 12-14 months of age
- followed by the canines (next to the lateral incisors) at 16-18 months,
- and finally, the second molars at 18-30 months.
Your child will normally have a full set of first teeth by the time they are two-and-a-half to three years of age.
Ideas to help relieve the pain of teething
Gum massage – using a clean finger gently massage your baby’s sore gums
Flannel soaked in water, wrung out and then kept in either the fridge or freezer (can be soaked in breast milk)
Cold spoon kept in the fridge
Chilled foods such as yogurt, chilled fruit or frozen mashed banana
Chilled teething ring
Wearing teething jewellery
Pain relief medicine
Chilled unsweetened drinks (they love chewing on the cup too)
Comforting your baby or distracting them
Breastfeeding your baby
Breastfeeding and Biting
One question we get asked a lot at Baby College is will my baby bite when they get their teeth and what do I do if my baby bites me whilst I am feeding?
While feeding, assuming the latch is good, any teeth are tucked away under the tongue, and nowhere near the nipple. Most of the time you won’t be aware of a change when teeth make an appearance. Sometimes the top ones *can* chafe when the teeth are new, usually a bit of tweaking positioning and attachment / breast shaping can sort it.
However, in much the same way as they’ll bite down on anything while teething, sometimes when babies are at the breast but not actively feeding, they do take a nip. It is usually at the end of a feed when the milk has slowed and they’re getting bored, and many mums find they can get clever at spotting when it might be time to break the latch slightly before the danger point!
Breastmilk contains a slight analgesic, and the action of feeding can help teething pain, as well as being soothing generally. It is normal for babies to suckle endlessly, especially at night, while they’re teething, and you can look into safe co-sleeping options around these times if you haven’t already. But if biting is a big problem then you might want to look at other options for relieving your baby’s discomfort.
If a baby does bite, many mothers find it sends a clear signal to end that feed there and then and say a firm “no”. Other verbal instructions like “wide mouth” , and “gentle” can also help. There are other ideas in the articles below. If a mother screams it can cause nursing strike and become even more stressful.
It must be stressed that teething pain comes and goes and this is not forever. And once the teeth are through, any biting behaviour usually passes quickly.