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Expert Q&A

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How can I soothe a teething baby's gums?

Asked by Andie, Hayden, Idaho

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What is the most reliable and safe product to soothe a teething baby's gums?

Expert Bio Picture

Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert Answer:

When a baby is teething, remember that there are some natural remedies you can try first to reduce the discomfort. Gently massage the gums with a small washcloth; this action may help soothe the sore spots while also soaking up any excess drool. Children may also feel better if they gnaw on chilled, but not frozen, teething rings or safe toys made of rubber, unpainted wood or cotton terrycloth. Some parents allow their children to chew on teething biscuits (beware, some of these can be messy), frozen waffles or cool firm slices of fruit. Just be sure your child is sitting up while eating and under adult supervision at all times to avoid choking. Finally, you can also try other drug-free methods of making your child feel better, such as rocking, holding, singing, offering a pacifier, or distracting him with a toy.

If you're looking for a product to help with more significant discomfort, over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen given in the appropriate dose for a child's weight can take the edge off of teething pain. It is a good idea to talk with your baby's doctor before using numbing gels or homeopathic remedies. Numbing products are best used by putting a small amount only on the sore area of the gum. If a baby gets too much, the throat can become numb and it may cause problems with swallowing. Finally, although past generations of parents have used brandy or whiskey to soothe teething pain, no amount of alcohol is thought to be safe for infants so resist any urges you may have to follow in that tradition.

Remember that the symptoms of teething may mimic that of mouth sores or other infections so check with your pediatrician if your baby's pain lasts longer than a few days or if he has other symptoms such as fever, extreme fussiness or poor eating.

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