How to Relieve Teething Pain

How to Relieve Teething Pain: A Review of 11 Options

Just when you think your baby is sleeping like a champ…teething hits! Your baby (or toddler) who was once perfect and happy is now just miserable all of the time. Of course you want to make your little one feel better, but the reality is that teething just plain old sucks and there’s not much we can do about it. Just know that it is a temporary phase in life, and while this sounds silly to say right now, just keep repeating to yourself,

This too shall pass.

The absolute best thing for teething is time. Time. Time will pass, teething will end, and eventually you will get your sweet happy child back. But in the meantime, here are a few options that might make things more bearable.

1. Nursing

Nursing and skin to skin contact has been scientifically proven to provide pain relief. Babies have a tendency to nurse more while teething (yes, all through the night too). This has always been my number one go to for pain relief when my little ones are teething. Now, when those two year molars have come in, and I’m not nursing anymore, well, that’s another story….

2. Cold or Frozen Washcloth

Whenever you tell ANYONE that your child is teething, the first thing they will tell you is to get a wet washcloth and let them chew on it. Every time I have a teething child, I am always excited to try this first and then immediately disappointed because it has never worked for me, but I do think it is a good place to start…especially for the front teeth. 🙂

3. Chamomile

I have actually never used this, but after a bit of research to update this article, I plan on trying it next time I encounter teething with a little one. Chamomile is safe for babies and has a calming effect that can help just about any fussy baby situation. You will want to brew a strong batch of tea (get some hereand then either soak the washcloth in it, add some to your baby’s bottle, or make a frozen popsicle out of it.

4. Amber Teething Necklace

I didn’t find out about amber teething necklaces until our third child, and now I swear by them! Every child is different and this may not work for everyone, but I have noticed a significant difference when using ours. The positive effect becomes most apparent when I think, “Oh, they’re sleeping fine now…time to take the necklace off,” and then BAM they are up in the night again! Amber teething necklaces are made from fossilized tree resin and exude succinic acid oil that has an analgesic effect similar to Ibuprofen. Read more about amber teething necklaces in my blog: Do Amber Teething Necklaces Really WorkJust keep in mind that it takes 24 hours for the pain relief to take effect.

5. Allspice Teething Necklace

I learned about allspice teething necklaces from my midwife and have had great success using them. They basically release tannins that strengthen the gums and help the teeth to break through the gums more quickly. This are particularly helpful when there’s a stubborn tooth that keeps teasing you by emerging a little bit, then going down, emerging a little bit more, creating pain and inflammation, then going back down, etc. Every time this has happened with our children and we put an allspice necklace on them, the stubborn tooth pops through within 48 hours. For more information, check out my blog: How to Make an Allspice Necklace That Will Help with Teething.

6. Clove Bud Oil

I am kind of hesitant to put this here because it is recommended that many (if not all) essential oils be avoided on children under 2 (and I have never personally never used this on a child under 2), but when my 2 year old was recently cutting his 2 year molars and NOTHING was seeming to help, I diluted equal parts olive oil and clove bud oil and applied it to his gums. (*This would be great for storage or you can buy a pre-made mixture here.) He didn’t like it at first, but within minutes he went from crazy screaming/crying to totally calm and happy. The eugenol in clove oil is a numbing agent as well as anti-inflammatory, but if used too often, the skin becomes more tolerant.

7. Teething Toys

During the day, I try to use as little “medication” as possible and instead try to help my babies find teething relief by chewing on things. They love chewing on my fingers, their fingers, or anything else that seems to be within reach, but there are a few toys that have worked really well too.

  • Sophie the Giraffe – Yes, it’s plastic and we do try to stay away from it most of the time, but this is phthalate and BPA free, so that’s good, and our little ones love this toy! This is my number one recommendation. 
  • Manhattan Toy Winkel – Don’t ask me why, but every single child we’ve had has loved chewing on and playing with this toy. We’ve had to buy several. It is BPA free.
  • Teething Ring – I like this basic teething ring because it’s easy for a baby to hold onto and they can chew anywhere. This one is BPA free.
  • Mesh Food Feeder – I personally have never used this, but I have heard so many people talk about it, that I just had to give it a mention. People like to put frozen bananas in them for babies to chew on to provide some relief. It seems like a great idea!

8. Orajel

Orajel basically works by numbing the gums. There’s a daytime version and a nighttime version that has a stronger potency. Sometimes, babies are totally bothered by the taste and the fact that it’s creating a different sensation, but once they get over the uncomfortableness of the application, they get a bit of pain relief, and sometimes that is just what they need to get back to sleep or to calm down. I try not to overuse this and only apply it when my little ones are really fussy and I can’t seem to console them any other way. If they are overtired and having trouble falling asleep or if they keep waking up because of the pain, I feel like these are both perfect times to use Orajel.

*Watch Out: The benzocaine gel can lead to a rare (but serious and sometimes fatal) condition called methemoglobinemia where the amount of oxygen in the blood stream is greatly reduced. 

9. What About Ibuprofen? (i.e. Motrin)

First of all, ibuprofen is just the generic name of Motrin (also called Advil). Chemically, they are all the same things.

Ibuprofen is only recommended for babies 6 months and older.  Ibuprofen works by limiting the body’s production of fatty acids called prostaglandins. This helps to reduce fevers, body aches, pain caused by prostaglandins, and inflammation. It is slightly more powerful and lasts longer than acetaminophen, and because of this, should only be taken every six to eight hours and no more than three times in a 24-hour period. It can irritate the stomach so it’s best if it’s taken with some kind of food.

You can check out this dosage chart to see the proper amount to give your child according to his or her weight. I know that some people try to avoid giving their babies any medication whatsoever and others give it at every little whimper. I used to be right in the middle and weigh out the amount of sleep we were getting, etc., but now I’m very very hesitant to give drugs for any reason and only do so on rare occasions.

*Watch Out: Ibuprofen (like any other drug) has a long list of potential side effects. Most commonly there is stomach bleeding, but there are many other possible allergic reactions as well. 

10. What About Acetaminophen? (i.e. Tylenol)

Like Ibuprofen (Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol) reduces fever, body aches, and pain, but not inflammation. It is milder on the digestive tract, so it doesn’t need to be taken with food. In large doses, however, it can be very toxic to the liver. Doctors recommend giving children the fewest doses needed to keep them comfortable. So at most, this would be every four to six hours, and no more than five times in a 24 hour period.

You can check out this dosage chart to see how much you should give your child according to his or her weight. We were once told by a pediatrician to alternate between ibuprofen and acetaminophen for pain relief, but after learning about the dangers of both, we’re not so sure about this anymore.

*Watch Out: A recent study (Sept. 2016) came out linking asthma and attention deficit disorders in babies born to women who used acetaminophen while pregnant leading some to draw the conclusion that without the mother’s detoxification systems, this drug would be even more damaging to an infant. This information has caused us to suspend all acetaminophen usage. (Source)

11. Arnica

Arnica is a homeopathic alternative to conventional pain medications (get some arnica teething tablets here). It eases swelling, soreness, and promotes healing by reducing swelling. I have personally never tried it for teething (although we have had success using the topical gel for bruising), but if you want to avoid ibuprofen and acetaminophen, this might be a good alternative.

In Conclusion

Whenever I have a child who is bothered by teething, I feel like my entire world pauses for a bit. Sleep regresses, I slip back into survival mode, we do what we can to get through the painful moments, and the days seems to stretch on into eternity. But then, as suddenly as it begins, the gradual release of pain gives me my child back and teething becomes but a vague memory.

As I update this article and prepare for baby #5, I am not looking forward to the phases of teething, but I know that I will reflect on this list and use my best judgement to provide my little guy with the relief that he (and I) may desperately need to get through some of the toughest moments. Having options, being informed, and having a plan can do wonders for the anxiety we feel as parents dealing with children who are in pain, so do your research, find what works for you, and always remember that “this too shall pass”.

*You might enjoy some of my other blogs about teething.