Raising a child requires many decisions, including ones about pacifiers and teething. As many parents know, sometimes a pacifier can work miracles with helping to calm a small child. And it’s just a fact of life, when a baby’s new teeth come in, the experience is uncomfortable and your baby needs some soothing. Look at our guide to figure out which products may bring the most relief to your little one.
Here are some points to keep in mind when selecting teething products and pacifiers:
Some crankiness and more frequent waking during the night are not unusual when a baby is teething. However, if your child is crying much more than usual or suddenly becomes very fussy and this lasts for more than a few days, check with your pediatrician.
Before you use a medicated teething product, such as a gel or swab that is rubbed on the gums, check with your pediatrician to make sure the ingredients are safe for your baby, and how often you can use them.
If you decide to use a pacifier, select a one-piece, dishwasher-safe product that is age- and size-appropriate for your child.
Do not use bottle nipples or other items as pacifiers that are not designed for this purpose. They can be a choking hazard.
For babies younger than six months, wash pacifiers in boiling water or in the dishwasher. For older babies, clean pacifiers with soap and water. Clean teething rings the same way, unless the instructions indicate another method of cleaning.
Avoid long pacifier clips, which may present a safety hazard to your child.
Teething Gels & Swabs
What they are: Teething gels and swabs are gently swiped over the gums to ease pain that can occur three to five days prior to teeth breaking through the gums. Some products contain benzocaine, a local anesthetic (pain-numbing substance), but newer products are benzocaine-free, and some are flavored.
Why to buy: Teething gels and swabs can be helpful for a fussy baby when teething pain interferes with sleep or causes serious discomfort. Ask your pediatrician or pharmacist to recommend a product for your child.
Things to consider: Many child health experts and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advise against benzocaine teething gels and liquids because their use is associated with a rare but serious, and potentially fatal, blood disorder (methemoglobinemia). A benzocaine-free product may be a better option.
What they are: Teething rings are made of soft, pliable materials and can be chewed to relieve gum pain and pressure during teething. Many products can be placed into the refrigerator or freezer before being given to your baby, which offers a cool, soothing way to manage teething time.
Why to buy: Teething rings offer a safe option for teething pain relief. Teething rings are inexpensive and can be washed and reused during each bout of teething pain.
Things to consider: Some parents are concerned about the safety of the plastics and gels used to manufacture teething rings. Ask your pediatrician to recommend a product if you have these concerns. Never give a completely frozen teething ring, which is too hard for sensitive gums, to your baby
What they are: Pacifiers are designed to engage your baby’s natural desire to suck, as this activity is soothing and comforting to infants. Pacifiers come in many shapes and sizes, with different sizes being appropriate for babies of different ages. Basic pacifiers tend to be round, while orthodontic models have different shapes that may be appealing to different babies, including shapes that mimic a breast nipple. Some pacifiers include a digital thermometer.
Why to buy: Pacifiers offer benefits for babies, such as soothing them when they’re fussy, helping bring on sleep, easing discomfort during flights, and possibly reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). When it comes time for weaning, it’s easier to remove a pacifier than to have a child stop sucking his or her thumb or fingers. Pacifiers can also be offered as a way to distract your baby during unpleasant situations, such as getting a shot.
Things to consider: Early use—especially in the first six weeks of life—may interfere with breast-feeding, and some babies become dependent on pacifiers to sleep, which may result in multiple nighttime bouts of crying when the pacifier falls out. Pacifiers may increase the risk of middle ear infections in children after six months of age and pacifier use past the first few years of life can create dental problems.
Pick a pacifier that is age- and size-appropriate for your child and has a large enough ring so that it cannot fit entirely in his or her mouth. Once you find a pacifier your child likes, buy several backups, so you always have a clean one handy. Replace pacifiers as soon as they become worn or torn. Pacifiers fitted with thermometers should be used only to take a temperature.