Even though she’ll still be a long way off from her first visit to the dentist, your baby’s teeth will most likely start to come in before she turns a year old. Teething is a tough phase for little ones — but it’s also a trying time for parents who have to cope with the crying, screaming, and sleeplessness that children often experience when they hit this milestone. The best way for babies, moms, and dads to get through this difficult time is for parents to find ways to comfort their kiddos and keep the pain of teething at bay.

Signs of Teething

Teething usually begins around 6 to 8 months. Parents usually see the classic signs of teething five or so days before a new tooth grows in, which include:

  • Irritability
  • Drooling
  • Chewing or sucking on toys and other objects
  • Ear rubbing
  • Mild fever
  • Crankiness
  • Pickiness with food

On their own, most of these symptoms seem pretty typical of a growing, changing baby. However, when you start to notice your little one displaying a few (or more!) of these signs, it will be important to have strategies in place that will stave off your child’s pain, comfort her, and keep you from becoming overwhelmed.

How to Help Your Baby Cope with Teething

As with most aspects of parenting, it will take some trial and error to determine the best way to soothe your little one when she’s fussy because of teething. Try testing one or more of these techniques, which are both dentist- and parent-approved.

Help her sleep. Plenty of rest will help your little one’s body better tolerate pain naturally and help prevent her from being cranky due to poor sleep quality or missed naps. Likewise, taking measures to help ease her teething pain will help her stay on a healthy sleep schedule. Try to keep her bedtime and naptime consistent from day to day, even if she’s being particularly fussy with teething pain. In addition to trying the tips below to help her have sweet dreams, make sure she has soft bedding in a dark, quiet, comfortable environment that makes sleep come as easily as possible.

Massage her gums. It’s painful when a tooth breaks through the gum, but the process leading up to teeth coming through can be just as uncomfortable. Not only are they moving closer to the gumline, they may be twisting or shifting forward or backward, causing severe discomfort.

Giving your baby gum massages can help soothe her pain. You can use clean fingers (with short nails) to gently rub her gums, or give her something soft to chew on, such as a teething ring, frozen washcloth, popsicle, or frozen food like a banana. Keep in mind that blisters can sometimes pop up prior to a tooth breaking through or around a newly-sprouted one. While this is normal (as is blood when they rupture), you’ll need to use extra care not to aggravate these tender spots when treating gums.

Make eating more comfortable. If your baby is eating solids, chewing even soft foods may be painful. Give her a good mix of soft and solid foods, or try giving her a cold teething ring right before mealtime to help soothe her gums.

Keep her hydrated. A reduced appetite and increased drooling can prevent your baby from taking in and holding onto the liquid she needs to stay comfortable. Dehydration can both cause pain and make existing discomfort more intense, so keep an eye on the amount of liquids she’s getting. If she doesn’t want her favorite drinks from a bottle or cup, try giving her a homemade popsicle made of water and a few squeezes of fruit juice, which will replenish her fluids without adding naturally-dehydrating salt or sugar.

Treat the skin around her mouth, under her chin, and on her neck. Drool that isn’t wiped away can sit on the skin and cause irritating dryness or even rashes. Keep her as dry as possible, and if you notice any redness, bumps, or puffiness, dab on some moisturizing ointment to help prevent pain and itching.

Keep her clothing dry. Drool can also be bothersome when it makes its way to clothing. Keep a bib on her if she’s salivating frequently, and change her clothing as necessary so she’s not stuck in damp garments.

Preoccupy her. Sometimes, all it takes is a little distraction to get her mind off the pain of teething. Try an activity that you can both do together so she’ll be engaged, such as playing with blocks. The more focused she is on what you’re doing, the less she’ll pay attention to her discomfort.

Talk to the pediatrician about pain reliever. If your little one isn’t responding to any other pain-relieving techniques, medicine may be a good solution. Before giving your child any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medication, talk to your child’s pediatrician. Children’s Tylenol can generally be given to babies who are only a few months old, but a topical gel may be helpful to a child who can’t take oral medicine.

Take Care of Yourself

It’s not uncommon for parents to feel overwhelmed during the teething phase. Helping your child feel better will ultimately help you cope, but don’t forget to practice self-care that keeps you calm. Squeeze in a run or a yoga class, take a relaxing bubble bath, or call a sitter to relieve you for a few hours so you can treat yourself to a movie or a date night with your partner. You’ll only be able to help your child if you’re at your best, so don’t feel bad about taking some time to focus on your own physical and mental health.

Teething is a stage most parents — and babies! — would rather skip, but it doesn’t have to be traumatic. Do what you can to ease your little one’s pain, take breaks as you need them, and remember that your child won’t be in this period for long.