If you spend any time with new parents, you’ll probably glean that teething is the source of a lot of agony for both them and their babies. Baby’s not sleeping well? Probably teething. Crying more than usual? Probably teething. Putting anything and everything in her mouth? Again, probably teething. The painful process in which teeth break through the gums can last, according to pediatrician Dr. Jen Trachtenberg, on and off from when little ones are 4 months old up until they turn 2 years old.
There are lots of products on the market designed to relieve the ache of teething, so we turned to pediatricians, pediatric dentists, and baby-gear experts to find ones that are both safe and effective. What you won’t find among their recommendations below, though, is the trendy amber teething necklace that’s become a bit of an Instagram fad based on claims that its beads release a natural pain-relieving substance. As Trachtenberg says, “There is no scientific evidence that they help teething pain, and they are a strangulation and choking hazard for baby.”
Best overall thing for teething babies
Among the experts we spoke with, the most commonly recommended product is one that you probably already own: a washcloth. Dr. Mindy Gallagher of Tribeca Pediatrics says she tells parents to “wet and roll up a small washcloth and keep it in the fridge,” and Phoebe de Croisset, director of editorial and special projects at Maisonette, says, “Your baby will love to gnaw on that, and it will provide some relief to achy gums.” If you forget to refrigerate it, Trachtenberg says, a washcloth just dipped in cold water will do the trick. Dr. Danielle Lombardi, a pediatric dentist at Park Smiles NYC, adds that you can try wetting one with chilled chamomile for pain relief.
De Croisset likes these organic cotton washcloths because they’re free of “any harmful chemicals that are in household product or toys [that] can leach into the body through saliva and cause harm.”
Best silicone teething toys
Lombardi says she often recommends teething rings that can be refrigerated. “Placing the teething rings in the refrigerator instead of the freezer prevents them from getting too hard and too cold causing them to stick to the gums — often causing more discomfort,” she says. Most experts, including Lombardi, recommend BPA-free rings (like these that are made from food-grade silicone), which are easy to clean and disinfect.
Best rubber teething toys
With two rings of different textures for babies to choose from, Lombardi says this giraffe teether has been “very popular in recent years.” It’s made from all-natural rubber and food-grade paints so babies can safely chew away at it.
Best wood teething toys
Organic and untreated wood can feel good on baby’s gums. De Croisset is currently dealing with her own teething baby and likes this set. “My daughter can really grip the [ring] and the different textures keep her interested,” she says.
Made from “smooth, hard maplewood,” this green-juice-style teether is one of Adilova’s favorites because it’s “naturally antibacterial” and “little teethers just love gnawing on it.”
Best pacifiers for teething
Lots of babies like sucking on a pacifier when they’re teething, although, Trachtenberg says, “each baby is different and has different preferences, so you may have to try a few until you find the right one that [your] baby likes.” She says this dishwasher-safe one with its simple “one-piece design” is a top pick among parents and babies in her practice. She also likes that “the nipple inverts, for all the times it gets thrown on the floor,” so it stays free of dirt and germs.
Since it’s attached to a soft, plush toy for babies to snuggle with, Trachtenberg says, this pacifier is “always a hit with baby to calm, comfort, and soothe.”
Best feeder for teething
Teething pain can make meal time a challenge, so Lombardi likes these mesh feeders, which “can be filled with ice, frozen breast milk or formula if the child hasn’t transitioned to solid foods yet, or frozen organic fruits.” The textured mesh feels good on the gums while also letting nutritious food pass through.
Best toothbrush for teething
One of the top expert-recommended toothbrushes for babies, this banana-shaped brush can help with teething, according to Lombardi. “The soft silicone bristles perform double duty by helping clear food particles from the mouth while also massaging the gums,” she says.
Best teething gels
As much as parents want to give babies something for pain relief, this can be tricky, as the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against using gels or creams with benzocaine, which can have dangerous side effects. De Croisset reports having some success with these homeopathic drops that use chamomilla (the same herb found in chamomile tea) and come in single-dose pods. Of course, Lombardi says to run any medication — homeopathic or otherwise — by your child’s pediatrician first before using it.
Also recommended by de Croisset, this gel is “free from benzocaine and parabens and is thus safe for little ones.”
Again, it’s best to ask your doctor before trying any type of medication, but Gallagher says that to help teething babies sleep at night, she usually recommends ibuprofen, “as it gives pain relief and is an anti-inflammatory.”
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