Find something for your little gnawer that’s cool to touch but tough to chew on—a wet washcloth chilled in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes, a frozen banana or berries if you’ve introduced solids, solid (not liquid-filled) teething rings chilled in the fridge or freezer (take them out before they are rock hard), a frozen bagel, your finger, or a “lovey”-type toy.
If Your Baby is Older than 6 to 9 Months:
Offer a slow-flow sippy cup of cool water to suck on and drink for comfort. Of note, plastic teething rings with liquids have been given a bad name in the past few years due to recalls— potential bacteria growing in liquid and the possibility of a baby cutting through the ring and into the liquid.
As many parents try to avoid plastics (due to presence of phthalates/BPA), use the washcloth method or a cotton sock rolled up tightly to gnaw on. Silicone and latex chewy toys may be a safer bet.
Let your baby gnaw on your fingers (if his or her teeth haven’t come through), or rub your baby’s gums with your clean fingers for comfort.
If you’re breastfeeding and your baby isn’t interested in a teething toy but more interested in chewing on your nipples (eeeeeek) or your arms, especially around the time of feeding, massage your baby’s gums with your fingers dipped in cool water prior to starting a feeding.
Clean teething toys, washcloths, or socks after each use. And know that it’s absolutely fine to let your baby chew all day if he or she enjoys it. Still, nothing about gnawing means pain.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, FAAP