The Trials and Tribulations of Teething

Now that Little Poppet is on the eve of her six-month birthday, I thought I'd take some time and talk about the dreaded teething; specifically, what we use to soothe our little girl.  

Teething can be a very difficult time in your home.  In our home, there have already been so many tantrums, much crankiness, and rivers of tired tears.  Plus Little Poppet has been acting up too (da dun dun tsch!)  Seriously though, there are some little ones who seem to take teething in stride, while others are a living nightmare.  Little Poppet so far has been falling somewhere in between.  The three of us and our angry cat have almost fallen into a bit of a teething routine.  Little Poppet has a few great days all in a row where the drooling stops, the crankiness is curtailed, and the sleepless nights make way for sweet dreams.  Then there are usually two or three days in a row where she refuses to nurse properly, can't nap or sleep, is irritable, her cheeks turn pink, she drools like a Saint Bernard, and chews anything and everything in sight (including some of my tender body parts).  

There have been nights that Husband and I have both agreed were worse than those of her newborn stage.  At least in the newborn stage the sleepless nights weren't due to her discomfort, and we had new parents adrenaline running through our veins to keep us going. 

So, how do we deal?  Well, we have a small arsenal of chewable things for Little Poppet to keep her gums happy. 

1. frozen washcloth 2. Vulli So Pure rubber soother 3. Nuby IcyBite Teether Keys 4. Vulli Fan Fan the Fawn 5. Silicon toothbrush/teether 6. Vulli So Pure teething ring

The frozen washcloth is probably the most satisfying soother for Little Poppet.  I bet it feels just the right amount of scratchy to her.  I took some of those hundreds of baby washcloths that were gifted at the baby shower, tied two tight knots in each, wet them and froze them inside a ziplock bag.  I have about 8 in there, so that when the one she's using warms up, I can grab a new one.  Then the drooly washcloth can go into the hamper.  Though I see no problem with refreezing it if you want to. I usually let Little Poppet choose what she wants to use, and she often chews one and throws it to the side in favour of something different.  She seems to love the textured little nubbies on the rubber soother, the long finger-like flexible appendages of the fawn, and the hard texture of the teething ring. She's so far not too crazy about the IcyBite or the silicon brush.

And while we're on the topic of non-medicated ways of dealing with teething, let's take some time to dismiss discuss amber teething necklaces.  Do they work?  I'm fairly certain the healing properties of amber are comparable to... say... those presented by tying a doughnut around your neck.  I'm very skeptical of the claims that baltic amber has any analgesic effects--magical or otherwise.  More than likely these are made up, hyped up, and sold to desperate parents.  Then the myth is perpetuated through anecdotes by relieved parents who perceived either coincidental or placebo-induced positive results.  But I digress.  Even if amber was capable of relieving the pain of teething, I have two problems with using these necklaces on babies.  

The first being the very real choking and strangulation hazard.  I've heard the argument about the "individually knotted" beads that, when broken, don't allow the entire necklace to fall into a heap of beads and string.  I'm unsure as to why this solves the choking issue.  I've been told by our midwives and family doctor not to give anything with a diameter smaller than 4cm to Little Poppet, so unless those individual knotted beads are the size of a walnut it still presents a hazard.  The Canadian Pediatric Society says that if you can pass the object through an empty toilet paper roll, then it is a possible choking hazard.  And the strangulation issue is clear; it's a rope around a baby's neck.  'nuff said.  Though I've seen mums put the amber around baby's ankles and cover them with a sock, or only use it when they're being closely watched.  Sounds uncomfortable and inconvenient, but at least that seems to be a safer alternative.

The second issue I have is presented only in the instance where amber actually does work.  There's a lot we need to agree to believe for this to work, however.  We need to believe that succinic acid is present in the specific amber you bought.  Then we need to believe that it is released somehow from that amber.  Then we need to believe that the amount that is released is in such concentrations to be absorbed by skin and flow to the bloodstream.  And finally, we need to believe that succinic acid has analgesic effects. 

Phew!  Still with me?  "Screw you Occam and your stupid razor", right?  OK, so now that you're hypothetical believers, let's continue.  I've always been wary of fads.  And using terms like 'naturally occurring', 'all-natural' or 'used for centuries' holds little water with me.  Let's look at some other 'all natural' methods that have been used historically to treat the pain associated with teething: alcohol, opium, mercury powders, leaches and the practice of lancing, to name a few.  If succinic acid is released somehow from the amber and is absorbed by the baby into the skin and travels through the blood stream, I have issue with that.  It sounds like it would need to be at pretty significant concentrations in order to do this.  I don't feel comfortable with any untested analgesic chemical continuously leaching its way into my baby.  What is the dosage?  How many repeats?  See what I'm saying? 

At least acetaminophen has been studied, tested, and regulated.  So when Little Poppet is having a particularly awful time dealing with her sore chompers, we give her infant Tylenol.  Typically we give her only a half dose. "As little as gets the job done", as my dad always says.  It's easy to overdose on Tylenol, so we live by this rule of thumb.  A half dose is plenty to get her to fall asleep in comfort.  But we usually see if Little Poppet can deal with her discomfort first.  As I mentioned before, teething comes and goes every few days.  But it also comes and goes throughout the day.  Little Poppet will be cranky for 20 minutes at a time, and then fine for a few hours.  Or cranky for hours, and fine for a few minutes.  Or completely inconsolable and screaming in pain for... well I'm not sure how long because we usually give her Tylenol right away when she's like this.  We know the cry right away.

And the last method of dealing with her teething pain is one that I don't often hear mentioned, but it works often enough that I need to share.  It's distraction. Sounds weird, right?  But that's how our wonderful human brains deal with stimuli.  Our brains can only handle so much stimuli--whether it's pain stimulus or the stimulus of touch and feel books, or The Honey Trees singing Moon River.
So it can be distracted easily from the pain if you introduce additional stimuli.  Distraction is a very real pain reliever.  It's what got me through labour pain.   But this blog is just my two cents.  Do what works for you, what's right for your family.  However you decide to deal with teething pain and discomfort, I wish you the best of luck! 

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