You wait, you peek, you get through some restless nights with your unusually fussy kid … and the next day, your baby’s first tooth appears. However, once those little pearly whites start blooming, then what? Baby teeth, also called milk teeth, are temporary placeholders before the permanent set arrives, but they’re just as important in your child’s development.

Here are some things to take care of once your baby’s brand new teeth start showing up.

1. Biting

Stress from teeth poking through the gums will cause the baby some discomfort, and he/she will look to relieve this by chewing and biting. Teething babies will nibble on anything they can get their hands on, from toys, fingers to your soon-to-be-sore nipples (if you’re still breastfeeding). Take care that he/she does not dig his/her teeth in undesirable things that may cause harm. Get your baby a bumpy rubber teething ring or other chewy, soft toys. Also, they will prefer chewing these if they are cold, as it numbs the gums. Keep a supply of teething rings or wet washcloths in the fridge.

2. Night waking

Teething does not happen only during the day. As your baby’s little chompers start to emerge, the discomfort may disturb his/her sleep (even if he/she generally slept through it the previous night). Avoid feeding them at such times (this will come back to haunt you when this phase has passed), and instead offer comfort by soothing him/her with patting or lullabies. Before that, see if they can settle themselves back to sleep.

3. Cheek rubbing and ear pulling

If your baby seems a bit more irritable when teething, there might be a reason for it. Babies, whose teeth are surfacing, may pull on their ear furiously or harshly rub their cheek or chin. This is caused because cheeks and ears share nerve pathways, and so, pain in the gums (especially from erupting molars) can travel elsewhere. Try and calm your baby down by distracting him/her before he/she unknowingly does any self-harm.

4. Feeding

Teething tends to cause loss of appetite in babies, as they look to avoid the discomfort that eating might cause, which is not a good thing for their development. However, as long as your baby is drinking from their bottles, there is no need to push them to have spoon-fed solid food. Keep trying because it’s important, but don’t force him/her to eat if he/she doesn’t want to.

5. Tooth care

If you suspect a problem, or even a cavity already, be sure to schedule an appointment with the dentist. A history of cavities in the family, or a habit of falling asleep with a bottle, might increase his/her chances of developing early tooth decay. Keeping your baby’s teeth healthy is important to prevent cavities and keep his/her teeth healthy. Make sure to brush or clean their teeth regularly, serve up low-sugar foods and drinks, and avoid sharing spoons or other utensils so that bacteria in your mouth (or a sibling’s mouths) don’t have a chance to spread and cause decay.

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