Tracey Stone: Teething, Feeding & Mealtimes

Tracey Stone is a Health Visitor, and able to provide expert guidance on all things teething. Currently a registered practising Health Visitor in the community working with children and their families, Tracey also supports families in the online community with issues related to health and wellbeing. She is a qualified Paediatric Nurse with over 20 years’ experience and a Nurse Prescriber. She has also helped establish a respite service for Children with Special Needs.

All parents like to feel that their babies and children are fed well with nutritionally balanced food, allowing then to grow and develop. It’s a big worry if you feel they are not getting the right amount of milk or solids, plus a hungry small person is not normally a happy one. This isn’t enjoyable for anyone. Parents who’ve experienced teething often comment during this natural process there was a disruption for their child at feeding times.  During teething, babies and small children can also show a simple loss of appetite. They may just refuse their feeds, or take smaller volumes or portion sizes. As children are likely to grow 20 teeth by their 3rd birthday it is possible that at some point feeding may go awry.

If your young baby or child still suckles to feed, the suction created by this can actually make the pain in their gums feel worse. Consequently, your baby may latch off to stop this unpleasant sensation. What a typical feed normally means to them is grub, cuddles and contentment, but suddenly they are left in pain and still hungry – a recipe for disaster!

Others babies are the opposite and can crave for anything in their mouths to bite and chew on, to relieve teething pain, including a teat or a nipple. This is concerning if it’s the latter as bite on the nipple will cause pain – Ouch! There is no need to stop breast feeding when your baby has teeth, as there are ways this risk can be managed with ease. This link will explain more.

For your young baby or child, trying to ease teething symptoms prior to a feed will help them. If they are comfortable and pain free, they are likely to feed better – just the same as we would at our mealtimes. Find a remedy that seems to work best for your child. Gently massaging their gums, or offering a clean cooled teething ring, or cold wet flannel to bite on leading up to feeding or meal times will help calm their gums. It will allow relief for them, hopefully encouraging them to eat well, so you can relax. Using a sugar free paracetamol or ibuprofen suspension will remove discomfort letting them focus on their food. Other traditional alternatives are available over the counter as options also.

Using food for fully weaned babies and children as a way to help their teething pain will also fill their tummies at the same time – win win! Chilled fruit or vegetables such as bananas or cucumbers are good choices, as are other sugar free food products to promote healthy teeth. Try to select ones which aren’t easily broken into pieces, to prevent any possible choking. As with any activity involving food, staying with your child is essential. A nice cold drink of water can offer relief to a child’s mouth if they are over 6 months of age, ideally in a free-flowing beaker or cup.

Another well-known symptom of teething is drooling. This excessive saliva when mixed with milk or solids can possibly cause your child to gag, cough or appear to be choking. This is something many parents fear, and can be left traumatised if they’ve had to manage it. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with what to do in such a situation so you are prepared to know how to manage it, if it does ever happens.

The Department of Health recommends that some babies and children should have daily vitamin supplements, to ensure a healthy balanced diet. If you are concerned that your child may need these, talk to your local pharmacist, HV or GP about which supplement would be most suitable.

General advice only, Tracey does not endorse the brand.

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