As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, at some stage through our baby’s life there will be something that mum just can’t fix with a kiss, cuddle or nurse. Personally, I was hesitant to use medication with an infant but when Chunka started teething at 8wks I found myself reaching for the baby painkillers. Chunka did not teethe well. In fact, the first few times he started teething I was so worried about this constantly crying, red faced, insomniac baby that I took him to the doctor. Everywhere I turned there were mother’s talking about the tooth that had ‘just popped through’ or about how a single dose of panadol got bub to sleep and in the morning the tooth was through. Great… I’m happy for those mothers (okay, I’m insanely jealous of them and their undisturbed sleep) but it wasn’t much help when all the painkillers seemed to do was take the edge off Chunka’s pain without helping in any other way. In desperation I turned to research and found quite a few natural remedies for teething that helped make my life a lot easier… and helped Chunka teethe a bit better!
- Baltic Amber: I was vaguely aware of the pretty necklaces and bracelets adorning infant necks and limbs before Chunka started teething but didn’t have any faith in them. Every mother I had spoken to gave me a very vague “it just works” response when I asked for specifics and I have to admit that I shrugged it off as a fad. Man, was I wrong?!? It’s not actually the resin itself that contains analgesic properties but the Succinic Acid found in the resin. Then there’s the fact that scientific research has discovered that the amber is electromagnetically alive and has a natural, organic energy that helps soothe a teething baby. Most sites recommend waiting until bub is 36mths before using an amber necklace as it has the possibility of being a choking hazard. There are bracelets and anklets available that still have the benefit of wearing amber however I got Chunka a necklace from 12wks and didn’t have any concerns: he was never unattended so I was confident that I would be aware if anything went wrong. There are lots of different colours and it’s even possible to get polished or unpolished amber: there’s no evidence that a certain colour is more or less effective than another.
- The Omegas: Omegas 3 and 6 are fatty acids that are essential nutrients that the body does not produce. They have lots of long term benefits for the body. Some Omega 3’s are found in plants like Kale and spinach while others are found in fatty fish like Salmon. Omega 6 is found in plant foods like corn and soyabean oils. They’re fantastic for heart disease prevention but they also help decrease inflammation which lowers the pain associated with arthritis…. and teething! Omega 3 and 6 also support brain development and I’ve personally noticed that Chunka had huge leaps in his development each time I started him on the oils when his teeth started playing up again. Now the oils are a part of our daily routine and I’ve even noticed that the days I forget to give them to him are the days he throws a massive tantrum because he’s frustrated about something. i know that’s anecdotal but the difference has been pronounced enough that each time it happens I say “never again!” and go and get the oils from the fridge!
- Reflexology: Babies respond very well to touch so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that they respond quite well to reflexology as well. While teething isn’t one of the main reasons to use reflexology on an infant (colic and sleeplessness spring to mind) it is still an easy and effective way to treat the pain.
Reflexology is not intrusive and bub doesn’t even have to be awake for it to help! There were times when I would wait until Chunka had fallen asleep while nursing before I would gently press on his toes in an attempt to help alleviate the pain from his teeth and see him sleep longer. Even now, at 20mths, I still use this chart as a handy go-to guide for basic reflexology for Chunka.
- Cold Temperatures: Teething rings seem to be a baby-shower basic but what if you’ve got a breastfed baby who hates the feel and taste of plastic in their mouth? Chunka would start shaking his head from side to side as soon as he saw me open the fridge- that’s how much he didn’t want to chew on a teething ring. It was suggested that I freeze a damp washer and let him chew on that and I was pleasantly surprised by how effective it was. I also made breastmilk ice blocks (using expressed milk) and then wrapped the lump of frozen breastmilk in a washer and let him chew and suck on it through the cloth. The cold helped numb his gums and chewing on something seemed to help his teeth break through the gums a lot more quickly. When he started on solids I made ice blocks with pureed fruits and somedays I simply sliced an apple and froze that!
- Aromatherapy: I used aromatherapy less as a treatment for the teething and more as a way to soothe Chunka and help him sleep. I would put a drop of essential oils on my pillow of a night time, lavendar and chamomile in his bath and would even use an essential oils massage oil on him before bed. The massage and the oils helped relax him enough that he would be able to sleep without being in constant pain. It also made a huge difference in his mood through the day: whenever he started getting (understandably) cranky with the pain I would give him a massage using essential oils and help calm him right down. There are some oils that are not recommended for children under 2 and it’s not recommended to use aromatherapy with infants under 3 months as they are still adjusting to their world. Another way to use aromatherapy is to have a bowl of steaming water in the room and add a drop or two of essential oils or chamomile flowers and let it infuse the room!
There have still been times I’ve used painkillers with Chunka but they’ve been few and far between… and I’m a lot happier with that. I wanted to ease his pain and help him get through the teething as easily as possible and, for us, natural therapies assisted with that. They won’t be for everyone and they don’t have to be used exclusively: a happy balance between natural therapies and western medicine can definitely be reached!