Teething – The When, Why, and What

Teething, an innocuous word by the looks of it. In reality though, teething to some parents is as traumatic as the “second coming”. You laugh? Let the 5 or 6 month mark hit home and then let’s talk…

Every baby is different. Some are troopers: They barely cry when they’re “cutting teeth” – the phrase most commonly used when baby’s teeth cut through the gums. Some are lucky fish: They hardly experience any side effects of teething to the point that their parents are blissfully ignorant of the change until they see a new white stump in baby’s mouth. And then, there are the hell-raisers: The poor darlings that feel every moment of the transition and experience most, if not all, the side effects.

Whatever category your little one falls into it’s always best to be equipped with the knowledge to know how to handle any situation. Here are some general notes on teething, and how to survive it:

When to expect it – Teething is as the word suggests, a process in which your baby’s first teeth make an appearance. Babies have about 20 teeth that have to come through and the process can either seem slow or never ending. It helps to know that most babies start teething at the age of 6 months old, although it can occur earlier, say a month earlier. From this point you can expect a steady stream of new pearly whites as the months go by. Below is a chart that can help you predict when a new tooth is on its way:


Make no mistake though that mother nature has a way of stirring things up, and its not guaranteed that your baby will follow any set schedule.

Why is teething important – It’s your baby’s first tools to move from a liquid or mushy diet to real food. From a mum’s perspective, that means a future where you cook one meal for the entire family, and from baby’s perspective it means enjoying different textures and far more flavours. The range of nutrients are endless!

What happens during teething – A range of precursor symptoms usually occur and can range from:

  • Swollen gums,
  • Baby’s preoccupation with the inside of his/her mouth – often stuffing their fist or fingers in their mouth repeatedly,
  • Drooling – often to the point where their chin and the front of their tops are wet,
  • Flushed cheeks – which on its own need not be a sign of teething,
  • Refusal to take the bottle – this is not limited to teething but is one of many tell tale signs,
  • Jelly-like poo – the poo during teething can seem jelly-like and stringy,
  • A fever – sometimes this can be a sign of a cold or flu so consult your doctor if you’re unsure.

All of these will undoubtedly be accompanied with whimpering, crying and/or difficulty sleeping. As you can imagine, irritated or aching gums would be challenging for an adult let alone a baby that is new to these sensations. Sigh not fellow mothers! There are tonnes of potential solutions for your little bundle you just have to be sneakier than the human body to find relief.

Swollen gums? How about:

  • A pacifier that you put in the fridge till its cool enough to provide relief to your little one.
  • A water filled, firm but not hard, teething ring that you can put in the fridge to cool down.


Irritated gums? How about:

  • Teething gel – A gel that numbs the gums temporarily. Preferably one that your paediatrician recommends. I use Tee Jel that is easily available at stores. It’s important to gently rub it into the gums so that he/she gets the full benefit of the numbing effect.
  • A wet, cold face cloth – If your baby is able to hold the cloth to his mouth it will help relieve the “itchy” sensation that he/she suffers with.

Drooling? How about:

  • Some petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) on the chin to help prevent a rash from developing.
  • A bib – around his/her neck to prevent the drool from soaking his/her top and causing a rash.
  • Depending on the age of your baby, older baby’s enjoy teething biscuits. Biscuits that are firm and are made for teething babies to chew on. Teething biscuits also work well for irritated gums.

Refusal to take the bottle? How about:

  • Cooling your sterlised water, teats, and bottles for every feed. The move from lukewarm formula to cool formula can sometimes provide relief for babies. The heat from normal milk can stimulate the pain receptors in the gums so cooling the water and bottles helps them to suck on the bottle with greater ease.
  • Pain relief syrup for babies – Nurofen for babies is by far the best syrup for teething babies. From as little as 2.5 ml, your baby will go from aggravated and upset to calm and collected. It will help with feedings and your baby’s discomfort. Not only that, it comes with a easy to use dispenser for babies. Follow the instructions on the bottle and you will be home free! My paediatrician recommended it and it worked like a charm.

Jelly-like poo? How about a few deep breathes and some perspective! Babies often drool a river while teething. Drool that does not flow out the front gets absorbed into the body and expelled as waste so no stress. It’s just some drool wastage. What you may notice is that baby find pooing during this time uncomfortable. This is normal too, so long as she/he has enough liquids to make up for the liquids leaving the body as drool baby will fine.

A fever? How about some Nurofen as prescribed on the bottle or trusty Calpol! Follow your paediatrician’s recommendations and all will be well. If the fever persists and is higher than 38 degrees, then I suggest you take your little one to the doctor.

Teething occurs well into toddlerhood so if you’re with a hell-raiser you may want to stock up on all of the above, but remember to change baby’s diet as his oral tools develop. Mushy stuff should be complemented with rice cereal, and then fruit and yoghurt. The older your little one gets the more you can experiment with less mushy food and different flavours.

Like all transitions, teething can be difficult for both parents and baby, but with his/her new chompers comes baby’s first words and then talking. The pains of the journey are always outweighed by the joys!

Kamantha Müller

Kamantha Müller

Kamantha is a working mum, wife, PR specialist and proudly South African. She has three pet peeves - 1. Rudeness of any kind and under any circumstances; 2. Micro-managers; and 3. Arb Facebook posts - I don't care that you're drinking coffee at Tashas. As a first time mum she has lived through the ups and downs of motherhood only to come out the other end a wee bit wiser. For this reason, she wishes to share the reality of motherhood and how she would advise preparing for it. http://offyourocker-byebaby.com/

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