No matter what your parenting style is, having a teething baby is a universal experience that all parents can feel some solidarity with. However, it’s true that every baby seems to experience teething differently, and the symptoms they may have can also vary widely. Therefore, nobody has found The One True Teething Remedy. Instead, what we have to work with is a wide range of holistic and pharmaceutical options. The most frustrating part can be that you never know which ones your child will respond very well to until you try them, and for some of us, our first baby and second baby will respond to totally different things.
Many of us remember the folk remedy of rubbing whiskey on the gums used by generations past. If you’re going to try that, might I suggest using vanilla extract instead? It contains a small amount of alcohol and tastes a heck of a lot better to babies. But before resorting to something like that, consider some other natural options. Have a teething baby? Solidarity fist bump. May the odds be ever in your favor. Since our family prefers to use holistic options first, I’m going to share some of the things that have helped us survive the teething days.
Amber Teething Necklace
This was hit or miss for us. We tried two different brands for Wildflower, and the only difference we noticed was less drool, but Sunshine seems to be responding very well to hers, which is the third brand we have tried after doing more research on brands. It is my understanding that brand matters (because there are some fake amber necklaces on the market), and the lighter colored amber has more anti-inflammatory power. So while it may be tempting to choose some of the gorgeous dark brown amber, the bright yellow ones actually work better. The ones we used without good results for Wildflower weren’t as light as Sunshine’s so we don’t know whether it was the difference in brand, the difference in color, or that she just didn’t respond well to amber. At any rate, it’s an easy and non-invasive thing to try for teething. A lot of parents swear by it.
But is it safe?
One concern I hear a lot is regarding the safety of amber necklaces for babies, so I just want to explain how that works. First and foremost, it’s common sense to never leave your baby unattended with an amber necklace on, but really…isn’t it common sense to never leave your baby unattended anyway? Secondly, companies that make amber jewelry specifically for children have some safety features on their products. There are knots sewn between each bead so that, if the necklace breaks, the beads aren’t all going to fall off and become a choking hazard. At most, one bead might fall off, and they are small enough that they can be swallowed without causing much trouble for the digestive tract. The second safety feature is the clasp. Some have pop clasps, and some have screw clasps, but these are both designed to open under pressure if they get pulled or caught on something. Screw clasps are one and done. Once they break, the necklace needs to be replaced. Pop clasps can pop open again and again. The downside to the pop clasp is that they are more prone to coming open accidentally, and then you might end up with a lost necklace. I personally prefer the screw clasp for older toddlers who are more likely to lose their necklace while playing, and the pop clasp for infants who are more likely to yank their necklace off out of curiosity. And if you’re really nervous about the necklace being on at night when you’re asleep, there are also amber ankle bracelets, though they may not be as effective since they are further from the site of inflammation in the mouth. Of all the brands we have tried, the one we have had good results with and recommend is Hazelaid. They also have excellent customer service.
Breastmilk has natural calming and analgesic effects, and since it’s also nutritious, it makes a perfect remedy for teething. There are a few different ways to do this, but after much trial and error, here is what works for us. I take a bag of frozen breastmilk out of the fridge, break it up into chunks, and fill one of these silicone feeders. Baby enjoys chewing on it, it seems to help a lot, and the holes in the silicone are small enough that you don’t have to worry about baby swallowing a large chunk of frozen milk.
Frozen Fruit or Veggies
A variation on the frozen breastmilk method is to add frozen fruits or veggies to the silicone feeder. It’s a fun treat for baby that also helps inflamed gums. Since it is not recommended to give babies anything to eat except breastmilk or formula for the first 6 months, it is best to only give the frozen fruits and veggies to babies 6 months or older who are ready for solids.
Frozen Chamomile Tea
Another variation to add to the silicone feeder is frozen chamomile tea. Chamomile is a gentle herb that is anti-inflammatory. It also has a nice taste. Simply brew a cup of chamomile tea and freeze it (in an ice cube tray works well). Then add chunks to the silicone feeder for baby to enjoy. Like the fruits and veggies, this is best to use for babies who are 6 months or older.
There are a lot of different homeopathic remedies that can be useful for teething, and for some babies, one remedy may work while another doesn’t, so it can take a little research on understanding homeopathy in order to navigate what the most effective remedy might be for your child. There are also several combination remedies available, which contain multiple homeopathic remedies in a blend made for teething. We have had good results with this one. While I don’t like the excessive/wasteful packaging, it is convenient that each dose of these drops is individually packaged and already dissolved in liquid. It’s easy to pack them in the diaper bag when on the go, and easy to administer in the middle of the night when you’re tired and don’t feel up to preparing anything. They also just taste like water, so Sunshine enjoys taking them.
Hydrosols are the water-soluble plant constituents that remain after steam distillation of the plants (used when making essential oils). These are very gentle and safe to use with babies. Unlike essential oils, hydrosols do not have to be diluted in a carrier before applying. You can apply hydrosols directly to the gums. I like to wet an organic baby washcloth with filtered water, add a few drops of chamomile hydrosol, and then chill the washcloth in the refrigerator for a little while. The wet washcloth with the hydrosol is soothing for babies to chew on.
Have you noticed I have mentioned chamomile in many forms already? That’s because chamomile is a great anti-inflammatory, is a very gentle herb, and also has a pleasant taste. But there are some other options to consider. For example, lavender hydrosol is very calming for an irritable baby having trouble with teething. Hydrosols are gentle, yet powerful. We get our hydrosols here.
I almost didn’t include any mention of essential oils on this post because of how controversial their use is with infants. However, our Wildflower responded very well to essential oils when she was teething, and I think it’s worth mentioning in case it can help others. I also know that some people are going to use them whether I mention them or not, so I would like to provide some information on how to do so safely to hopefully dilute (no pun intended) the amount of posts parents will see with unsafe instructions on how to use them.
On one extreme, you will see overly cautious sources telling people to never use essential oils on children under age 2. On the other extreme, you will see people claiming that it is totally safe to apply undiluted (or inadequately diluted) essential oils directly inside baby’s mouth. Some will even suggest oils like clove, which is NOT safe to apply on babies. This is a far cry from the traditional use of clove infused oil (not to be confused with the highly concentrated isolated compounds in clove essential oil). Infused oils and essential oils are not even remotely the same. Seriously, don’t put clove essential oil or blends containing clove essential oil inside your baby’s mouth. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m going to tell you what worked for us. As usual, a common sense approach can be found somewhere between those two extremes.
Once again, we are turning to the magical chamomile plant. Roman chamomile and German chamomile are extremely similar, but there are some subtle differences. In regards to their constituents, German chamomile is better for inflammation, and Roman chamomile is better at calming. However, they are so similar that they can usually be used interchangeably. We have used each of them for teething with good results. Note that German chamomile essential oil is blue! This is normal.
I added 1 drop of chamomile essential oil to a 10ml glass roller bottle (the dark colored ones prevent light from breaking down the essential oil, so I prefer those), then filled the rest of the bottle with a carrier oil. I used sweet almond oil, but there are many different options for carrier oils. 1 drop in a 10ml bottle brings the dilution ratio to 0.5%. This was plenty potent to help Wildflower with teething. With essential oils, and especially when applying to children, more is not better. When essential oils are not diluted adequately, adverse reactions can occur. Always dilute essential oils.
After creating this roller bottle, I applied it as needed to Wildflower’s chest. I could have applied it along the outside of her jawline, but I knew she would rub her face, get it on her hands, and the potential for it to get in her eyes was a concern. Therefore, I chose to apply it to her chest so that it was covered with clothing, still close enough for her to inhale and benefit from near the site of the inflammation. Some people have good results with lavender for teething, and that is certainly a safe oil to try. However, we had much better results using chamomile. NOTE: I personally would not apply essential oil on a baby under 6 months old. It’s a great option for older babies and toddlers. We get essential oils here.
There are many more teething remedies that one can consider, so this is not an exhaustive list by any means, but I hope you find some useful ideas to try when going through the teething days (and nights) with your little ones.