baby · health · parenting · teething · top tips

How To Brush Baby’s Teeth (Without Losing A Finger)

It seemed like Little Man was teething for forever before his first tooth appeared! He started teething around three months, and he didn’t get his first tooth until he was gone six months old. It wasn’t until a little while after his first tooth arrived, though, that I realised… Hang on, we need to brush it! But how exactly do you brush a baby’s teeth without losing a finger? Wee Man’s first teeth are like tiny razors, and he once notoriously bit his dad so hard on the toe that he drew blood. We were not looking forward to trying to brush his teeth…

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How To Brush Baby’s Teeth (Without Losing A Finger)

When should you start brushing?

As soon as that first baby tooth appears, it’s time to start brushing (oops! Took us a few weeks to realise). The NHS recommends brushing twice a day, including before bed in the evening, with a smear of baby toothpaste.

What makes baby toothpaste different and do I need it?

Baby toothpaste has less fluoride in than adult toothpaste. Swallowing a lot of fluoride may upset baby’s stomach in the short term, which is why it’s recommended to use only a smear of toothpaste on the brush.

Over the longer term, swallowing large amounts of fluoride toothpaste in early childhood could cause something called dental fluorosis, which can affect the appearance and strength of teeth. However, it is rare in the UK for dental fluorosis to be anything other than very mild, appearing as some white patches on the teeth which may or may not be visible to the naked eye. It is still recommended that children and babies do brush their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste, because it’s the best way to prevent tooth decay. Just don’t let them eat toothpaste straight out of the tube!

Baby toothpaste also often has a milder flavour which children may find easier to get used to, compared to the strong mint flavours of adult toothpaste.

How do you brush baby’s teeth?

And so, to the practicalities… How do you actually brush baby’s teeth?

Firstly, sit baby on your knee, with their head back against your chest (I got this tip from the NHS website!). We use a bamboo baby toothbrush, to try to reduce our plastic waste.

Brush baby’s teeth using circular motions, just like you would an adult’s teeth. Don’t restrict yourself to brushing the teeth they actually have, but brush their whole mouth and gums gently, to get them used to the idea.

Making tooth brushing fun for baby

Obviously tooth brushing is a bit strange for baby when you introduce it, so I think the best approach is to really try to make tooth brushing fun. We sing a little song to our baby while we brush his teeth and that seems to be a really good way to distract him! In fact, he enjoys it so much that he now looks forward to having his teeth brush and co-operates with opening his mouth, handing over his dummy etc.

Ideally if both me and my husband are free, one of us brushes his teeth, and the other one dances Little Man’s hands around to the song, as otherwise he tries to grab the brush. We sing the following song, to the tune of ‘Row Your Boat’:

Brush, brush, brush your teeth
Brush them nice and clean
Scrubbly-bubbly, bubbly-scrubbly
Brush them nice and clean

We actually got the idea from the Peppa Pig handwashing advert from the World Health Organisation, if you’ve seen it! We sing through the song three times and the last time we slow it right down so he knows we’re nearly done. After a couple of months of this routine, brushing Little Man’s teeth is not just easy, it’s actually quite a fun thing we do as a family.

I let Little Man take over the toothbrush after I’m done brushing, and he enjoys chewing on it. Then when it’s time to finish, I distract him with a dummy while I take the brush away, and we both watch as I clean the brush under the taps.

So for us, this approach seems to work pretty well. Little Man likes to feel involved and he seems to enjoy the flavour of the toothpaste and chewing on the brush is nice when he’s teething. He does often bite down on the toothbrush while I’m trying to move it, and he also often tries to grab the brush from me, which can be tricky! But in general, starting to brush his teeth has not been as horrendously difficult as I expected!

Your Top Tips For Brushing Baby’s Teeth

Do you have any great tips for persuading a reluctant baby to let you brush their teeth? Let me know in the comments!

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baby · child development · parenting

Choosing Whether To Use A Dummy (Pacifier) For Your Baby

Before we had our son, my husband and I went to ante-natal classes. The main thing we got from them was a lovely social circle of other expectant parents, which I think is so important as having a new baby can be quite a stressful and lonely time. But the second useful outcome was the fact that it prompted lots of useful discussions that we probably wouldn’t have thought to have otherwise.

One of these was about dummies (or pacifiers, if you’re an American reader), and whether to use them. After one class, on the drive home, when it came to discussing our feelings on this potentially controversial topic, we looked at each other and pretty much shrugged. Neither of us really had strong feelings one way or the other about whether or not to use a dummy. We concluded we would just see what happened…

How we ended up using a dummy

In the end, the decision was more or less made for us. Little Man ended up in neonatal intensive care (NICU) for several days, with a very bad case of jaundice. Dummies are commonly used in NICU, especially for premature babies, as dummy use helps to soothe babies and develop their sucking reflex.

When Little Man was first rushed into intensive care, I was asked if he could have a dummy. I said yes straightaway. We weren’t allowed to hold him as he had to stay under the phototherapy lights, to reduce his bilirubin levels, he was covered in wires and tubes with a mask over his face. So I was very keen for him to have anything he might find comforting, and agreeing to the dummy was an easy decision.

Once he left intensive care, he kept the dummy he had been given, as we could see that it was something he found soothing. And he’s used a dummy ever since.

What are the benefits?

Dummies help a baby satisfy their sucking instincts. Because I wasn’t able to breastfeed, this was especially important to us. The sucking reflex is soothing and helps Little Man fall asleep – we find that he resists sleep much longer without a dummy.

There’s also a slightly reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in babies who use a dummy during sleeping and naptimes, although the reasons for this aren’t fully understood.

For us as a family, I’d say there are three further benefits that you don’t usually read about in lists of dummy advantages/disadvantages: firstly, the dummy seems to be soothing for Little Man when he’s teething. Secondly, it’s been good for his fine motor skills as he’s always trying to pick it up, hold it, and manipulate it to get it in his mouth and chew on. And thirdly, I’ve got to be honest and say that Little Man is a VERY LOUD baby. He obviously screams when he’s upset, like all babies, but he also screams when he’s happy, or when he’s just bored. Having a dummy to hand can help to reduce the cacophony…

What are the disadvantages?

Using a dummy does have some potential disadvantages. They’re hard to keep scrupulously clean so can transport bacteria and germs to your baby’s mouth. There is evidence of increased rates of some minor infections in babies who use dummies.

It’s recommended not to give babies a dummy until they are a couple of months old and breastfeeding is well established. Dummy use may interfere with breastfeeding and is associated with a reduced rate of breastfeeding at 3 months of age. As I wasn’t able to breastfeed anyway, this was less of a concern for us, which I’m sure does make it an easier choice.

There are also concerns that prolonged dummy use can have negative effects on your child’s growing teeth.

How to decide whether or not to use a dummy?

Some people seem to have pretty strong opinions on dummies one way or the other… But then, that’s probably true on most decisions you make as a parent, from breastfeeding to nappies, childcare, tonsillectomies – you name it! Ultimately, it’s your choice (and you’re allowed to change your mind, as well). Not all babies are interested in dummies, while others really love theirs. There’s no right or wrong answer either way – the main thing that matters is what works for you and your baby.

how to choose whether or not to use a dummy pacifier for your baby
baby · child development · colic · food · parenting

Why We’re Trying Lactose Free Formula

So as regular readers will know, Little Man has been having a lot of tummy trouble recently, and it’s just been getting worse. He’s really windy but struggles to get the wind out, and it’s been keeping him up at night and waking him up regularly when he does manage to sleep. He’s also had a bit of constipation, despite our efforts to keep him well hydrated. We’ve tried everything we can think of – changing his formula, using infant colic drops, making sure to burp him and wind him regularly, etc etc. But nothing seems to make much of a difference.

As a result, it’s been a tough few weeks, especially combined with his teething issues. Little Man has gone from sleeping through til about 3/4am and then having a slightly fitful sleep after that, to more or less having a fitful sleep through the whole night. Some nights I’ve been up with him much more often than every hour. So he’s been super grumpy, and to be honest, so have I!

So we went to the doctor’s and they recommended changing formula. As we’d already changed formula once, they suggested trying a lactose-free formula. Apparently if it does work, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Little Man is lactose intolerant, but the change might be helpful for him. I guess a lactose free formula is about as big a change as you can have!

So we’re crossing our fingers a) that it works, and b) that he’s not actually got a lactose intolerance! Apparently some babies develop temporary lactose intolerance after tummy upsets or if they were born prematurely, and it can be something they grow out of. Little Man did have some issues with some kind of tummy bug which really upset his stomach a while ago, so it’s not impossible that this could have caused a temporary intolerance which just hasn’t settled yet. I’ll keep you updated on our progress and how he gets on with his lactose free formula!

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baby · child development · colic · parenting · sleeping · teething

It Takes A Village To Raise A Child: Thank You

We’ve been having a pretty bad time the last couple of weeks with Little Man. He has long had bad trouble with wind that wakes him up at night and upsets him regularly. But his teething has now got really bad as well.

We’re currently struggling to feed him at all, because any time the bottle goes near his mouth, he goes through the roof, even with having given him Calpol and teething gel – which obviously we can’t give every feed. Plus it’s waking him up every 40 – 60 minutes throughout the night, so we’re seriously missing out on sleep as well, and thanks to lockdown we don’t have access to any external or family support that we would normally have. So it’s tough. And it means stressing that I’m not doing a good enough job… The classic mum guilt.

One thing that is really positive though is all the help that we’ve had from friends and family who have shared some great tips and ideas for things that might help. Ideas from using a teething glove, to freezing ice cubes out of formula to rub on sore gums, to trying herbal teething powders or teas, and trying the next year size up, have all come from our friends, family and colleagues. Even if they don’t all work, at least we can feel like we’re being proactive in how we’re trying to deal with it and help the poor little dude.

It’s especially appreciated at this time. Normally, I would be going to baby groups and socialising with other mums and chatting about what they do or what products they use, but I can’t do that at the moment thanks to the lockdown. It can feel really isolating. So I really want to thank everyone who’s taken the time to share their experiences and their advice. Not only is it really useful, but it makes me feel better to know that other people have had the same issues. When you’re stuck in the house with a crying baby who won’t eat or sleep, it’s easy to get worried about what is it isn’t normal. It really brings to mind the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child. We’re very lucky to have you all in our village.

So thank you, everyone. And thanks also to everyone who’s just checked in on us or let us have a rant or even sent a gift. These are weird and challenging times to have a new baby, as if having a baby wasn’t weird and challenging enough…

baby · health · history · Just for fun · pain · parenting · teething

Teething Sucks, But It Won’t Kill You (Unless You Live In 1842)

Little Man is FINALLY asleep in my lap for his after-lunch nap, having missed out completely on all naps this morning due to his stomach playing up. Then once his stomach settled, he immediately moved on to having issues with his teeth, so he is way overdue a sleep and has big bags under his eyes. Oh boy, teething is fun. So obviously, it’s time for another post about teething. This time with a focus on the history of teething (or rather, the history of how humans have thought about teething) through the ages…

The Fascinating History Of Teething

The Jaws Of Death

Did you know that in the past, teething was often actually considered to be a cause of death? In fact, in 1842 in London, almost 5% of deaths of children under one year old were registered as being due to teething. This was probably due to the fact that children died at the age when they were teething, and doctors didn’t understand the actual cause of death. Children who are teething often have an elevated temperature, which is not actually a fever, but again in the past fever was considered to be a part of teething – as were fits, convulsions and diarrhoea. These beliefs go back to Hippocrates in Ancient Greece.

This all seems pretty strange to us now, when teething is regarded as an unpleasant experience for babies, but hardly a serious condition.

The History of Teething Treatments – Flossed in Time…

Poor teething babies in the past probably weren’t helped by the range of “treatments” used to help with their pain. Here are a few of my personal favourites (seriously don’t try this at home, although if I really have to say that then god help us all):

  • In 117 AD, Soranus of Ephesus suggested using a hare’s brain to ease teething pain (you rub it onto the gums, obviously)
  • In 1545 the English doctor, Thomas Phaire, advised hanging red coral around the child’s neck to prevent teething pain. It also had the handy side effect of helping the child to “resisteth the force of lightening“… So that’s good.
  • In 1575 the French army surgeon Ambroise Pare advised lancing (cutting) the child’s gums, an idea which proved very popular right through to the nineteenth century. In fact, in 1850 Francis Condie even wrote of a case where a dead child was supposedly revived by having his gums lanced. Hmm. Not sure that one would have stood up to a peer review process…


Hmm. I think I’ll stick with Little Man’s teething monkey. Although admittedly, it doesn’t give him the power to resist lightening (as far as I know, I’ll check the box).

Telling The Tooth

Humans aren’t the only animals who have trouble teething. Other primates and mammals in general also have baby teeth (also known as milk teeth) which are then replaced by adult teeth. In fact, elephants and walruses which grow tusks (basically just massively overgrown teeth) apparently also experience pain when their tusks start growing in, and try to rub them on things just as a baby tries to bite when it’s teething. Which sounds adorable.

It’s a strange thought that parents throughout the ages have all had to deal with teething. And given the crazy remedies that have been suggested throughout history, we’ve all wished it was easier to soothe our teething babies. Little Man still has so many teeth left to go, and everyone has their own opinion about which teeth are the worst to cut – I can’t exactly say I’m looking forward to it!

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baby · parenting · teething

Why You Should NEVER Say “Oh, But Your Baby’s So Good!”

My husband and I have often commented on the weird habit that lots of people seem to have, of commenting that Little Man “is so good”, “is so well-behaved” etc. etc., on the basis of very little actual time with him – or worse, on the basis of nothing but photos/video.

It’s not that we think that he’s “bad”, or even “badly behaved”. He’s just a baby, he reacts to whatever’s currently happening, and that’s totally normal. But these kind of comments can be pretty infuriating, because it implies that he’s super easy to look after all the time AND HE’S NOT. We’ve actually had people comment that Little Man must be a super chill baby “because he’s always smiling”… on the basis of social media posts. Guys. Do you really think I would post pictures of him screaming his head off with poop all up his back? I mean, I could, but as mummy blogs go, that’s a pretty niche niche.

It’s a funny thing that Little Man is often very chill around company (or he used to be… Obviously we haven’t had company in a while thanks to the lockdown). I’m not sure if he just gets distracted by everything that’s going on and ends up sleepy or what. But just because he smiles through an hour long visit for tea and cake doesn’t mean he isn’t screaming his head off at five thirty a.m. because his tummy hurts or he’s teething or he’s just having a grumpy moment.

There’s nothing wrong with commenting that a baby has been well behaved for a particular visit or trip, but when you use that to assume he/she’s always so easy to look after, you are really going to annoy his/her parents who quite rightly feel they deserve some sympathy for all the hours spent soothing a little screaming demon baby.


Anyway, rant over, and here’s a picture of our smiley Little Man just to prove he’s definitely never been difficult, at all…

health · parenting · teething · Uncategorized

The Tooth Fairy vs. The Teething Demon

Older children who are gaining their adult teeth get visited by a lovely Tooth Fairy who pays them for their teeth (seriously though, what does she do with them?) and flutters away. But when babies are getting their teeth, who brings them? Pretty sure it’s the Teething Demon, who no-one has mentioned to me until now.

The Teething Demon Pays A Visit

In case that wasn’t enough of a clue, I can confirm that Little Man is teething. We’d wondered whether he was, as he has been dribbling like a pro footballer all week (it’s been very Messi) and quite fussy at feeds, especially towards the end when he’s been gnawing a bit on the bottle. Today we tried giving him his Matchstick Monkey teething toy to chew on, and he went absolutely popo loco, more or less trying to just bite the poor monkey’s head clean off (hence the Teething Demon…). I was super excited though, because he actually took hold of the monkey with his hands and put it in his mouth to chew, which is the first time he’s properly held anything other than mum and dad’s fingers.

I was surprised that he’s teething already, as he’s still not quite three months old and the NHS website says the average age for teething is six months. It doesn’t really seem fair, given that he’s not even over his colic yet and now we have another set of mystery pains to contend with! I do recommend the Matchstick Monkey (bought for him by his very proud grandma), and I’m going to see if we can get hold of some teething gel during the lockdown as well.

Interesting facts about teeth

I shall close this post with some interesting facts about teeth…

  • In Spanish and Hispanic cultures, instead of a Tooth Fairy, they have a Tooth Mouse! Sounds adorable, and definitely still better than a Teething Demon…
  • In the 10th century, there was a fashion for filing the teeth among Viking men.
  • In the Middle Ages it was believed that a witch could possess you if she obtained a part of your body, such as teeth, hair or fingernail clippings.

Enjoyed these interesting facts about teeth? Why not check out my post about the history of teething?