If you’ve ever made coffee without a filter, brushed your teeth with eye cream or thought of a red traffic light as a nice place for a quick nap, you have been at the mercy of a teething child.
In my clinic, and in my mommy circles, I get a lot of questions about teething. There are many options out there, but since I am a holistic healthcare provider, I wanted to give you my list of “go to” remedies. Hopefully one, or several of these combined, which is my preference, will provide your little one some much-needed comfort, and you some well deserved rest.
Acupressure, the application of finger pressure to specific points on the body for a therapeutic effect, is quick and easy since you can’t forget to pack your own hand in the diaper bag. These points are easy to use anywhere and anytime. Simply find the spot and rub or push gently as often as needed. According to a 1998 study published in the “British Dental Journal”, the Department of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, found that the majority of the 16 studies reviewed showed that acupuncture is an effective means of relieving toothache. Two points are often used. For dental pain, I suggest Stomach 6, a point found in the middle of your cheek, on both sides, in the bulge you feel when you clench your teeth. This may or may not be irritating on a little one. Try it and see using light pressure. My favorite point for dental pain is Large Intestine 4 (LI4). For more on the other benefits of this point, read my posts on acupressure for headaches and PMS. (The headaches post may be of particular use to you if you’ve been up with a screaming baby.) The LI4 point is found in the web between the bones of the thumb and pointer finger on both hands. When you locate the point with your finger, push straight down or rub with even pressure. Repeat as needed.
Reflexology is another form of acupressure. Eunice Ingham, still known as the pioneer of modern reflexology, developed charts that show which pressure points on the feet affect specific areas of the body. The top of the foot, specifically the toes, relate to our head, including our teeth and sinuses. During teething, inflammation in the mouth can irritate the sinuses, adding a runny nose and trouble breathing to the gum pain. By lightly rubbing your little ones toes, top and bottom, you can stimulate the area of discomfort and provide some temporary relief. I often use the whole foot , which stimulates the entire body to relax and promotes a general feeling of well-being. Reflexology is easy to do while holding or comforting a child. My kids are so used to it now, my two-year old often asks for a foot rub.
Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies
Until relatively recently in human history, herbal and homeopathic remedies were modern medicine. While emergency medicine and prescriptions have saved countless lives, homeopathy and herbal medicine are still valid and potent options for health and wellness. Chamomile tea is an easy remedy to administer at bedtime. Simply brew a cup of tea, let it cool and serve warm in baby’s bottle. Chinese herbal tinctures are also extremely effective. To find a qualified herbal provider, visit the website for National Certification for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and search for a qualified practitioner in your area. I do not recommend self diagnosis if you are not trained in herbal medicine. Homeopathy has gone mainstream and for good reason. A teething remedy like Camilia is safe for children 1 month and older, has no risk of overdose, no negative side effects, no contraindications with other medications and is recommended by allopathic and holistic doctors alike. I love Camilia. I love it because it works, you can find it everywhere, like Walgreens, CVS, Target or Walmart, and its cheap, like $6 for a box, for 15 individual ampoules.
For a more specific treatment, I recommend Pulsatilla. This remedy can be found at a health food store like Whole Foods or online. It comes in small containers and is administered orally. For small children, it can be dissolved in a small amount of water. For older children, it is dissolved slowly under the tongue. This remedy is best for children with a generally sweet nature that are prone to rapid, and sometimes volatile, mood swings. These children often have a great need for physical comfort and want to be held or rocked for long period of time when upset. If this sounds familiar, your child may benefit from Pulsatilla. If your child is more likely to be described as a go-getter that is possibly thin, quick, active and nervous, with an irritable or fiery temperament, your child may be best suited to Nux Vomica. These children, when upset, are made more agitated by cool air blowing on them, bright lights or loud sounds. Nux Vomica is best administered in the evening.
Amber Teething Necklace
Baltic amber, with proven health benefits, offers a natural, drug-free alternative for teething pain. Its pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent choice. Two theories exist as to the efficacy of amber as an analgesic, which means that it is a pain reliever. First, it is thought that if amber is worn next to the skin all day, warmth from the body releases tiny amounts of healing oils from amber which are then absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream, relieving pain. The second theory, based on scientific research, has shown that amber is electromagnetically alive and therefore produces significant amounts of organic, purely natural energy that promotes a feeling of wellness. While there is debate as to how amber is effective, the results speak for themselves. The best necklaces are light in color and have a knot tied between each bead for extra safety. Amber teething necklaces are made to be worn, not chewed! They should be removed when your child is asleep or unattended. No exceptions.
This is a wonderful choice as a supplement to some of the other options mentioned here. Aromatherapy is very powerful and used correctly can be very sedating, uplifting, calming, or whatever you may need. One option is to go to your local health food store and get some lavender essential oil. It is very potent and calming. I suggest one drop on baby’s favorite toy or on the bottom of baby’s feet. Do NOT put this on baby’s face. Because essential oils can be too strong for very sensitive skin, I often suggest Badger Balm Sleep Balm. This is a wonderful blend of bergamot and lavender in a balm that is safe to rub on even the most sensitive baby’s chest. The Aromatic Chest Rub is great for babies that are having trouble breathing due to stuffy noses. Finally, we use a hot mist humidifier in our girls’ room. A few drops of lavender in the water gives the entire room a wonderful smell and is great for breaking up congestion when eucalyptus is added.
There are lots of people, professional and seasoned mom alike, who will tell you that it is never a good idea to nurse a baby to sleep. I think the “cry it out” method works for some people and doesn’t for others, period. My sister and I can both attest to this. Our kids would have given themselves laryngitis and Mom and Dad a nervous breakdown before the cry it out thing was going to work. And yes, we both really tried it. That said, if you are still nursing, I say do it. It was hugely helpful for me with both of my girls. I was always able to get them back to bed this way, and it saved my husband and I hours of lost sleep, which is a life saver whether you have to go to the office or be an alert caregiver at home the next day. My point is this, ditch the books and do what feels right for you and your baby. If nursing the little tyke helps you both get a good nights rest, isn’t it worth it?
As a final note, it is hard when you are sleep deprived, but remember that teething is just a season. As I write this, I am currently on 4 hours of sleep due to a teething baby myself. I am using all the above remedies with much success, but sometimes we just have a “rock me while I cry, Mommy” kind of night. I try to remember that one day, many years from now, I will miss rocking my children to sleep more than I will miss those lost hours of sleep.
All original content © NAPS & Roadmaps, 2013.