12 July 2009

Teething 101

A recent post by Bill and Ria about feeding issues reminded me that I have some feeding and teething issues I wanted to post. I'm starting with the most painful... teething.

We've all read information about how children with Ds can get teeth later than their typically-developing peers, have teeth emerge in a different order, or have some teeth that are ultimately missing. Some information is available at ds-health, the American Dental Association (although the ADA site is pretty general to all special needs), and on myriad parenting sites like iVillage.

But what I have never found is really helpful advice about teething. I mean down-and-dirty, excruciating, want-to-rip-the-teeth-out-of-your-skull teething. Clarification: I'm assuming these descriptions based on the look on Sheridan's face. These might be inaccurate, but I doubt it.

It's possible I've missed a blog post about this topic (I'm still finding new blogs every day), so don't be offended I've missed a post (and please let me know about it so I can read it!). I've seen plenty of great advice around dentist visits, good oral hygiene, etc. But nothing on teething. Maybe it's not blogworthy in general, but nowadays it definitely is in my house.

So here's the scoop, in what follows I review a handful of teething toys (based exclusively on our experience with them). But in the end, I'd LOVE to hear what has worked for you. I'm always looking for new ideas to try to help Sheridan survive...


The pros: These toys come in a vast array of shapes, colors, and sizes - and some are soft and squishy while others are hard. They are easy to handle and manipulate. Also, they tend to have lots of ridges, bumps, etc. on them for some good gnawing action. A bonus for kiddos with Ds: these bumps, ridges, nooks, and crannies provide oral stimulation that are good for feeding and speech development. Some of these teethers can be placed in the freezer, and all can be placed in the refrigerator to give some cool relief.

The cons (in Sheridan's opinion): From the freezer they are too hard and too cold (and some experts argue that you shouldn't use anything hard-frozen on baby's gums for fear of "burning" the gums - so be careful!). From the refrigerator they don't retain the coolness for very long. A few minutes in the hands of baby and good bye chill.

These are Sheridan's least favorite teethers.

2. RUBBERY CHEW TOYS (for lack of a better description)

In some ways, these fall into an "other" category (the items above are actually bath toys that squirt water). They are not designed to be teething toys, but pretty much everything becomes a teether in the hands of a teething baby.

Pros: Easy to handle and manipulate. Soft rubbery feeling when chewing.

Cons: Just not enough "back bone" to carry the demands of a teether. They'll work in a pinch (everything does!), but they really don't provide much relief.


Pros: Soft. Easy to handle and manipulate. Provide lots of different surfaces for teething.

Cons: More difficult to clean than traditional teethers (the cloth can get really grimy really quickly - and you try telling a teething baby that he has to wait for the washing machine to finish its cycle and then let it air dry!).


Now we're talkin'...

Pros: Bumps and ridges in key locations. Pliable rubber cover on the vibrating portion is easy on the gums, but still hard enough to give good resistance. And the biggie: chomping down on any of the star's three points results in a gentle but firm, constant vibration. As long as your baby is biting down, the vibration continues.

I actually tried this one myself (no pictures of that included). It's a decent vibration and I can see why it would be soothing to aching gums.

Cons: It has a non-replaceable, non-rechargeable battery - so once the battery is dead, so is the teether. Also, your baby has to be able to bite down hard enough to engage the vibration (just FYI, when Sheridan was really young and didn't have the jaw strength to do that on his own, I would just press one of the star's points to make it vibrate while he chewed on another point - it worked well).


Pros: Big handle for easy baby operation. You can insert cold or soft-frozen food items into the bag so baby can gnaw it. No choking hazard (the mesh is so fine that the resulting food baby needs to swallow is the same as pureed baby food). Washable and reusable. Multi-functional: use it for teething, use it for oral motor skills (drop in a piece of banana, ripe nectarine or peach, anything soft and baby can work on chewing skills), and use it to share food if you want (I have friends who often use this when they go out to restaurants - they drop in some of dad's spaghetti and let the kid go at it).

Cons: Can you say, "Messy" boys and girls? And how. Also, the little mesh bags can get plugged up with food particles (even after running through a few wash cycles) so you have to replace them periodically which can get expensive.


This list wouldn't be complete without this good ol' standby...

Pros: Cheap, and you likely already have one (or 20) around the house. Pliable. Easy to make (get it wet, wring out, put in the fridge) and easy to clean. Babies love it, and it seems to provide some relief for some run-of-the-mill teething pain.

Cons: Just doesn't seem to help as much when it comes to "bad teething days." I have heard that some parents use a juice-water mixture, wring the washcloth out and then put it in the freezer (it's supposed to still be pliable, but really cold) - the small amount of sugar in the juice is supposed to release endorphins that help baby feel better. I don't know, because mine came out of the freezer hard as a rock so I didn't even try.


The mother of all teethers (in my and Sheridan's opinions)...

Meet Sophie, the giraffe from France.

Pros: Constructed out of molded, all-natural rubber from the Hava tree. Painted with food paint. Flexible. Has a cute little squeeker inside. Her face, legs, neck, etc. are all the perfect size for little hands and little mouths. Phthalates and BPA free.

Cons: Haven't found any yet. At all. Sheridan LOVES Sophie. He actually smiles at Sophie when I hand her to him. Then he promptly goes to work on her face.


Yes, babies will teeth on anything within reach. Including, but not limited to: toys, blankets, the stroller tray, the highchair tray, the bumper on the crib, their cup, the spoon, their shirt, schnapps (although I'm not sure if the alcohol is for the parents, the baby, or both), mom's and dad's fingers, their own toes, their own fingers...

(and keep in mind that Sheridan is not a thumb or finger sucker)

If you have any other tried and true ideas, please share them with me. Poor Sheridan has been teething for 6 months now and not a single tooth in sight. And although we are eager to have the first teeth erupt and give him some relief, we know they'll be followed by many, many more painful teething days. Please help!


  1. That was really great! Wish I had a resource like this when Kayla was little!

  2. great timing with this post, Lisa.

    Gabby has been teething for a little over a month now but today...OH.MY.GRACIOUS!!!

    Sheridan has been teething for six months? Ayeayay!!

  3. I think you covered all bases! Teething is an issue with ALL babies and would you believe it if I told you that some pediatricians I have spoken with don't believe in teething?!?!? CRAZY talk! It's probably the same pediatricians that say that crawling isn't necessary....Anyway, I digress....Joaquin loves his little giraffe too. We just keep misplacing her!

  4. I never found a perfect teething solution, not for my daughter Layla (who is now 4), and not for Ozzie. Oz is teething right now. If you put him down and look away for two seconds, he army-crawls to the fireplace and tries to teeth on the granite hearth. I don't recommend that as an option.

  5. Great list Lisa! I found the same problem with using the dishwasher to clean the mesh feeder. So I always just handwash them. Then once the mesh is clean and I want to sanitize it more, only then do I throw it in the dishwasher.
    And that giraffe is cute!

  6. My son Miles, who is also a genetically enhanced tot in the throws of teething, and I can sympathize with your plight. I just googled (that's an acceptable verb now, right?) DS and teething and came across your site. You have excellent timing! Now, I am off to search for that giraffe. We, too have struck out with all of the traditional teething toys, so your suggestions are quite helpful. Best of luck with popping out that first tooth.