There are a lot of “firsts” that call for celebration, including your baby’s first steps or first words. Sharing these moments can strengthen your bond as a family by creating unforgettable memories. When it comes to your child’s first set of teeth, however, the fanfare consists of more pain, crying, and screaming than you might like. It’s the first milestone in your child’s oral health, and it’s the toughest one to work through.
Some signs that your little one is teething include them refusing food, experiencing difficulty going to sleep, general irritability, swollen gums, and excessive drooling. In this chaos, your maternal instinct is to make your child as comfortable as possible — but it can be difficult to find the right teether to help them through this time. However, with the right approach, you can ensure the proper development of their first set of teeth. Here are some tips to guide you through this stage of your baby’s development.
Finding the Right Teether
An important first step to helping your child through this period is getting them a teether. Teethers are designed to allow babies to bite down on a safe surface, providing them comfort and distraction from the pain and irritation caused by teething. As any parent knows, however, there are a ton of options. They come in many shapes and sizes, from teething necklaces to rubber toys. Which is right for your child?
Generally speaking, you should avoid buying any teethers with small pieces that may be abrasive to your baby’s sensitive gums. Many types include elements that are designed to further distract your child, such as noise-making crinkle material or rattling parts. It’s important that the teether you choose is durable, so these components can’t become a choking hazard.
Teethers come in a variety of materials, each with their own pros and cons:
- Fabric: Teethers made of fabric are great for sensitive gums, so fabric teethers are a safe choice — but they obviously can get drenched with drool, which can become unhygienic, leading to early tooth decay. Given that most fabric teethers can only be washed by hand, they can be a bigger hassle than you might want to deal with.
- Rubber/Silicone: Rubber and silicone toys and rings are a common option in most retailers. Depending on the exact firmness of the material, they may be too firm for especially inflamed gums. Cooling these in the fridge can help provide extra relief. These are soft, pliable, and easy to clean.
- Wood: Wooden teethers can stimulate your child with pleasant textures and odors. The material is also naturally anti-bacterial; bacteria cannot multiply on wooden surfaces, making such teethers naturally more hygienic. For a great example, check out some natural wood teethers by Finn + Emma.
- Water- and Gel-Filled Teethers: While these share many similarities with rubber and plastic teethers, these are designed to “give” more when bitten, which can be soothing to inflamed gums. They can also be cooled. Durability can be an issue, depending on the brand and model.
- Plastic: It is generally advisable to avoid hard plastic with BPAs. Not only is the hard surface problematic for teething mouths, studies have linked BPA to many health risks. If you do decide to buy a plastic teether, check the packaging for the presence of any potentially hazardous material.
Some common practices can ensure proper tooth development and prevent any complications from prolonging your child’s discomfort. Keep the following tips in mind regarding your baby’s teether:
- Don’t let your child use a teether without supervision.
- If a teether is damaged, throw it out. Small or loose pieces can present choking hazards, and chipped surfaces can damage your baby’s gums.
- Frequently clean teethers with warm water and soap. Some can be placed in the dishwasher. If traveling, bring baby-friendly cleaning wipes and use them as needed.
- Keep the teether dry when not in use to prevent the growth of mold. Not only can mold lurk behind your walls, it can grow inside rubber teethers, and some molds can pose a serious health risk.
You should now be able to make an informed decision about your baby’s first teether. Which suits the needs of your child? Are there specific teethers you’d suggest other parents try? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!