Everyone has different pain thresholds and that includes your toddler. As a parent, it can be hard to know whether those 3-in-the-morning wake-up calls are due to the toddler teething phase, poor sleep habits, an incoming cold or separation anxiety. Harder still is the reality that the teething phase is a long one and varies from child to child. Read on for tips on supporting your toddler and maintaining your own well-being while teeth are coming in.
Teething or Something Else?
Teething in toddlers is similar to baby teething: for some, it hurts, and for others, it's a breeze. The biggest difference is that some toddlers are more able to communicate their discomfort. Some use their words, but for many weary kids, it comes in the form of more strenuous cries or longer tantrums. It can be a guessing game to know if teething is the true source of the irritation. Looking for certain signs may help you better diagnose the distress.
- Just like when they were a baby, your toddler will reach for something to chew, from a soft rubber toy to their fingers.
- A child might rub their ear frequently on the side a tooth is cutting.
- Good sleepers can become poor sleepers.
- Gums may become swollen or red in the area a tooth is erupting.
Other symptoms, including a slight increase in temperature, irritability and a change in eating habits can also be part of teething. If your toddler is exhibiting a combination of the first four symptoms over a period of days or weeks, teething is a likely cause. Diarrhea, vomiting or flu-like symptoms are not a part of teething, says Nemours, and should warrant a trip to the doctor. Likewise, if your tot is only rubbing one ear or they have a slight fever, your pediatrician should be the one to rule out an ear infection.
Tips for Tracking Toddler Teething
If you have a toddler, you're already a pro at those first baby teeth eruptions. Teething can start as early as 6 months and span until your child reaches age 3. But you can have a better sense of teething by charting your child's eruption timeline, says the American Dental Association.
You can create a color-coded teething chart and use it as an activity exercise to educate and distract your child during the process. If you have a fussy toddler, it might be time to look at the calendar!
Home Remedies That Work
Nemours warns against home remedies like alcohol or aspirin rubs, but there are a variety of things you can do to distract your little one from teething pain. Cold sliced bananas, cool wash cloths and chilled, soft teethers are all good remedies for daylight hour pain. Focused play or a walk outside can also be a welcome change. At night, consider massaging gums with a warm, soft cloth. If your pediatrician allows it, you can raise the crib mattress slightly on one side to relieve the increased pressure and pain of lying down, says Sleep Play Love.
Pain Relievers and Dosing Over Time
First and foremost, it's permissible and helpful to give pain relievers to your toddler as long as your pediatrician approves. Just like adults, managing pain makes it easier for your child to sleep, eat or enjoy daily activities. However, one of the biggest concerns many parents have is over-medication. The Mayo Clinic writes that most child acetaminophen overdoses occur when a caregiver accidentally administers an adult dose or combines a pain reliever with another medicine like a cold remedy. As long as you read labels carefully and keep all medications in child-proof containers away from small children, you have the power to give your toddler safe pain relief.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides a helpful table of dosing amounts for your child's weight. The AAP advises administering pain relievers like acetaminophen no more than every four to six hours or five times a day.
Continue Good Oral Care
Teething phases might be painful, but it's important to keep gently brushing. Choose a toothbrush with extra soft bristles for gentle, yet effective cleaning, like Colgate My First Toothbrush, to teach your little one good oral care habits to match those brand new teeth. Before you know it, the baby teeth will be falling out and growing in all over again!