Feeding a teething baby

It’s normal for babies and toddlers to go off their food when a tooth is coming. Here’s how to cope

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It’s one of nature’s design flaws that many babies begin teething at exactly the same time as they’re starting on solids.

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And if your little one is still getting to grips with new tastes and textures, a sore mouth can easily put him off his food. For the first 12 months, milk forms the bulk of your baby’s nutrition, so don’t worry if his appetite dips.

But how can you help remain a happy eater despite his teething troubles?

Spotting the signs

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Sore gums can make it hard for a baby or toddler to enjoy food

The average baby cuts his first tooth at around 6-months-old, although some are earlier and many are much later.

However, teething symptoms often begin long before that pearly white appears. Signs to look out for include:

  • Irritability and crying
  • Red, flushed cheeks
  • Dribbling
  • A sore, red or ulcerated area on his gum
  • A desire to chew on hard objects
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Poor appetite
  • Runny nose
  • A slight fever
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No food, thanks!

If you’ve ever had a mouth ulcer, you’ll know how uncomfortable it is to eat with a sore mouth. It’s quite common for babies to reject food when they’re teething, and regress to only wanting milk.

Not only will a breastfeed or bottle fill your little one up without hurting his mouth, but suckling will also give him comfort.

However, keep offering small quantities of solids at his normal mealtimes. Hot, spicy or salty meals may cause particular discomfort, but desserts such as yoghurt or smooth fruit purees are cool and soothing for sore gums, so if that’s all he’ll eat for a few days, go with it.

Happy snacking

Babies love to bite when they’re teething, as it relieves the pressure of the tooth pushing through the gum. Offering hard or crunchy snacks can ease your baby’s discomfort, and is a good way of sneaking food into him if he’s off his meals. Try:

  • Batons of chilled carrot, cucumber or red pepper
  • Slices of raw apple
  • Breadsticks
  • Plain or flavoured rice cakes
  • An ice lolly made from pure fruit juice diluted with water
  • Remember to stay close by your child whenever he’s snacking, in case of choking. 
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Pain, pain, go away

If your baby’s teething symptoms are distressing for him or you, try giving him some pain relief. Your doctor or pharmacist can advise you, but many teething aid solutions and infant paracetamol preparations are suitable from three months.

If possible, give pain relief half an hour or so before a meal, so it kicks in before you start feeding him.

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