The Tooth Gremlin (Eight Tips for Surviving Teething)

Just as the tooth fairy takes away baby teeth, a nasty, hurtful little gremlin delivers them. My friend’s older sister introduced me to the term “tooth gremlin” and I think it’s very apt. Little Birdie (LB) doesn’t teeth well. When her first tooth came through, she made a mewing sound, similar to guinea pig, for about three days prior and then all hell broke loose for two days. So, when the mewing sound started again, I was ready for a couple of days of hell as the second tooth came through.

This time, I knew another tooth was coming, because all the signs were there. She bit me a couple of times during feeding, she started dribbling a bit more and I could feel a lump where the tooth was coming through. However, I thought I had dodged the gremlin this time, because there was no mewing. How wrong I was.

LB has been waking a little earlier each day this week and today it was just before five o’clock. I tried putting her back down after her feed, but she wasn’t having a bar of it. So, we launched off into our feed, play, sleep routine, ready to go for a nap just before seven in the morning. That seems a ridiculously early time to go for a nap, but it seems that is how a baby’s world works.

Sure enough, by half-past-six, LB was showing tired signs and was really quite grumpy. I changed her nappy, put her in her sleeping bag, read her a story, and gave her a hug and a kiss. That’s when I decided to act on a hunch and I put some teething gel on the spot where the new tooth was starting to break through just prior to putting her in the cot. LB seemed bemused by the gel as I put her in the cot, sang her “Twinkle, Twinkle” and wished her sweet dreams. However, that wasn’t the end of it.

After twenty minutes, I confirmed my hunch was right. LB wasn’t settling, even though she was clearly tired. I decided to abandon the comfort settling. I went in, picked her up, gave her some Panadol, a big hug and a rock in the rocking chair for a few minutes, then I put her back in the cot, sang “Twinkle, Twinkle” and wished her sweet dreams, before leaving the room. For once, I had a win. Within five minutes LB was asleep and slept for a further hour-and-a-half.

This teething thing is no biggie, right? Wrong.

We enjoyed a nice morning but after a couple of hours, I could see that LB was getting tired. It seemed ridiculous to be going for a second nap at half-past-ten in the morning, but LB was grizzling, yawning and rubbing her eyes. So, I went into my routine – nappy, sleeping bag, story, cuddle, twinkle – but it just wouldn’t work. I started the comfort settling techniques that I learnt at sleep school but that didn’t work either. After half an hour, I tried a cuddle and a rock in the rocking chair again. No luck. Poor LB screamed for another half an hour before she finally went to sleep. To her credit, she slept for two hours, giving me a chance to wash, sort and iron some clothes, then write this blog post. However, I really feel for her. Teething must really hurt, because it has such a profound affect on LB’s behavior. As I was doing the washing, I began to think of my “Top Tips for Surviving Teething”. I will list them below.

Eight Tips for Surviving Teething

  1. Be kind to yourself when your baby is teething. They call it a teething gremlin for a reason. In reality, nothing you do will help much, so comfort your bubby so they don’t feel alone while they suffer. You are not being a bad mother if your baby is hard to settle, they are just uncomfortable and letting you know they need extra comfort.
  2. Don’t believe everything you read. Some Internet sites that give information about teething infer that it’s not really a problem and that the unsettled behavior babies experience is all in their parent’s minds. Hogwash. You just have to look at LB to see she’s not happy when she’s cutting a tooth and as soon as the tooth is through, she’s happy again.
  3. Teething is like labour; everyone experiences it in a different way. This is actually a tip from a friend from mother’s group and I think it’s a great way of looking at it. It’s the reason why some bubs seem to turn up with teeth with a minimum of fuss, while others seem to suffer and suffer.
  4. There are two types of teething, chronic and acute. Chronic is a term that refers to the whole period of time from when the first to the last tooth appears. Acute refers to those periods when the tooth is cutting through the gum. The acute bit is the bit that really sucks.
  5. Do anything you can to make your baby feel better. It will make you feel less stressed. I keep a teething ring in the fridge and produce it when nothing else seems to work. LB sees it as a real treat to go to the fridge and get her “fishie”. It distracts her for a while when she’s upset. I also find going for a walk in the pram with a rusk to chew on is a good way to get through the late afternoon. If all else fails, I sing lots of nursery rhymes. I’ve also heard that babies like to chew on frozen cucumber when they are teething, but I haven’t tried it.
  6. Use teething gel, even though it’s virtually impossible to get it in the right spot. And yes – I use the one with alcohol in the list of ingredients. I used it myself when I had problems with my wisdom teeth years ago and it seemed to make a small difference. However, if you’re not comfortable with that, there are herbal versions available. I suspect teething gel is a placebo, but if it makes you feel better to be doing something proactive to help your bub, then it’s worth it and will make you feel less stressed. Babies are calmer if their mother is calm. Put it on before feeds if your baby won’t feed while teething. I put it on before naps because LB has trouble sleeping at the best of times, so I will do anything to make nap time less stressful.
  7. Be proactive with the painkillers. There are a few brands available and they’re all good. The one I use allows you to give a dose every six hours, so I try to get one in early in the morning, so LB can have two doses in a day.
  8. Don’t try to do anything when your baby is teething. Accept that the day is a right-off and go with it. It will ease your frustration.

As I finish this post, it occurs to me that teething is like labour for another reason. Although different people experience labour pain in different ways, there is one common element. Eventually, labour ends. This is also true of teething. Eventually the tooth comes through. It might be painful, but it’s not life threatening. Just as you get a lovely little newborn after your labour, babies get a shiny new tooth after teething. As the old saying goes, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Did you hear that Tooth Gremlin? I must admit, though, I am looking forward to a time when it’s the Tooth Fairy’s turn to visit instead! She’s much kinder than the gremlin.

2 thoughts on “The Tooth Gremlin (Eight Tips for Surviving Teething)

  1. One of my wisdom teeth erupted about the time my oldest began teething, so I could readily identify with her. The difference was my dentist immediately sent me to the oral surgeon to have my tooth removed, while Baby had to endure the days of having her teeth emerge out of her gums. The surgeon did recommend an excellent oral gel for my pain and the baby’s, so my daughter profited from my experience. Hope your LB feels better soon.

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