When your baby is just a few months old, you might notice that they start putting EVERYTHING into their mouth. Be it a toy or the cloth on which they lie or even their parent’s finger - anything can be chewed on.
This is not just playfulness, but the beginning of the teething phase of your Baby. It’s a part of their development, as they get their first teeth, babies get this urge to bite into something.
It is believed that babies are teething when they start to drool, typically at 3 to 7 months of age. Parents often search the child's mouth for their first teeth by rubbing their hands along their gums, looking and feeling for newly emerging teeth.
This is the point when your baby needs teethers.
Teethers are toys that a baby can put in their mouth to chew on during their teething phase. When new teeth push through the gums, babies may feel discomfort, itchiness, and pain. Teethers are designed to relieve this pain and soothe babies' gums when their teeth start coming in and continue through the baby's first 1-2 years.
Why do babies need them and when can we start giving them teethers?
Parents eagerly wait for the teething stage of their baby, however, it may not be a comforting phase for the child but rather a painful one. During teething, they have sore gums, become cranky and irritable, might have excessive drooling, and, in some cases, even mild temperature and nausea.
The tendency of putting everything in the mouth could lead to infection and hence teethers are recommended.Teething toys help alleviate some of the pain your baby may be feeling because they provide a safe and clean chewing surface. Chewing helps with the pressure of the newly growing teeth.
Babies love teethers not just for the relief of pain but also for other purposes.
When a baby puts a teething toy in its mouth, all the mouthing and munching encourage a baby to move its tongue inside its mouth. This gives the child awareness of their mouth as they explore different textures and different sounds they make. This takes them one step closer to babbling and eventually, speaking their first words like ‘mamma’ or ‘dadda’ or ‘gaga’ (may turn out to be a fan of lady gaga someday 😉).
As teethers serve both as a toy and as a soother for babies, parents can start giving teethers to their babies from the point when they see any of the signs of teething and make sure whatever goes into their child’s mouth is clean and safe.
Things to keep in mind-
Sometimes for new parents, the many choices for teethers may be overwhelming. There is wood, rubber, silicone and of course, there is plastic. These are available in many attractive colors and many different shapes, sizes, and textures to appeal to a child’s interest.
Any toy you get for your baby should be bought keeping in mind the safety of the child and if that is to be put in their mouth, you need to be all the more cautious about the type of teether you get for your child.
This would include the material of the teether, the finishing, whether it is free from toxic paints and colors that are used on toys, and also the shape and size of the teether.
- Anything too big or too small can become a safety hazard for the child.
- Do not use items that are not meant to be teethers as a toy, especially toys that have small parts that could break or fall off and be a choking hazard.
- Choose only phthalate and BPA-free teethers for your child
- Teethers should not be reused for another child.
- Create a good plan for cleaning and sanitizing teethers and rattles to reduce the spreading of germs, especially if there are other babies around who might want to put the toy in their mouth. Keep sanitizing wipes handy in case the toy falls on the floor. Wash toys regularly with soap and water.
- Always supervise a baby while they are using a teether. While choosing a teether, look for one that your baby will be able to hold and safely put in their mouth.
- Some parents prefer giving their child a piece of carrot or some other food as an alternative teether. But in this case, continuous chewing may cause breakage and might become a choking hazard. Avoid giving anything as a teether that might get shredded.
When to stop using teethers?
Teethers are soothing till the point where the new baby tooth is out. Continuous use of teething toys would hinder development and damage the teeth. Doctors recommend taking away the teether when your baby’s teeth begin erupting into the oral cavity and have broken through the gums.
When a child begins chewing through plastic and other materials, multiple problems may occur. One of the biggest concerns is the loss of a tooth or an impacted tooth. If a child is chewing on a toy or slams a hard toy into their teeth, then they could physically push baby teeth up into their jaw.
Which is the best type of teether?
Any toy you think about is now available in plastic and silicone, and the same goes for teethers as well. The plastic ones come in nice bright colors and different shapes, but might not be really fit for the job. Chewing a plastic toy poses the threat of exposing the child to consuming microplastics and should be avoided.
While silicone teethers are safe, they could be difficult to clean. The best option as per modern parents and experts is teethers made of natural material like wood.
- Wooden teethers are durable and do not break easily. Teethers made from specific good quality wood such as Neem are hard and good to chew on.
- As opposed to a common misconception, this type of teether doesn't splinter.
- Neemwood teethers need very less maintenance since they are naturally antibacterial and antifungal
- The antibacterial properties reduce inflammation of gums and make the teeth stronger.
- The uneven texture attracts and encourages the child to chew on it. This could be achieved artificially in synthetic teethers but wears off over time.
- Wood provides a great sensory experience for the child through its texture and has a calming effect on the child.
Teething can be a rough phase for the baby, but this is a part of their growing milestones and when they cross this stage, they are ready to try all the yummy solid food and also, eventually talk to you in complete sentences.