There are a lot of tough moments in the first year of parenting. Topping the list is the first stomach flu, first long trip and first shots. Right up there on the list is teething.
Teething is a match for even the toughest, most competent parents.
This was made clear on Twitter this week when one of the toughest out there and the best tennis player in history (1) - Serena Williams - reached out for teething advice.
Serena is a new mother, having given birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia, on Sept. 1st. That makes Alexis 3 months and change right now, placing her on the cusp of the very beginning of teething time. Most children's teeth don't start emerging until about 6 months, but, like all things, that is variable.
It takes about two years for all 20 baby teeth to emerge. During that time, a tooth emerges at a rate of about one a month.
Each new tooth can cause discomfort for the baby. As a mother of three, I know all too well the exhaustion and frustration that comes with nights of trying to console a baby that is upset and uncomfortable. From her tweets earlier this week, it sounds like Serena is having a tough time too.
It would be great if there were something that could help, Serena. But, the problem with teething is that there is not a lot that can be done. Sure, placing something cold - like a wet washcloth or freezing rings that can be put into the fridge or freezer - to rub on the gums may help. But, that is the extent of our parental arsenal for this issue.
What has happened, given the lack of available reliable remedies, is that the hole has been filled in with options that are either useless or even harmful. For example, amber beads are choking hazards and a teething necklace was recently linked to lead poisoning in a child.
Another useless and dangerous product, homeopathic teething tablets, was popular until they were linked to roughly a dozen deaths, and many more illnesses, of infants. We have written extensively on their danger. Please find those related articles below. (2) Although, it looks like Serena already understands the danger given the "lol" in her tweet - nice work Serena.
The quandary is that one of our main jobs as parents is to take the pain away from our children. But, this is one time, and the first time, that we can't take it away. And, Serena, here's the really hard part. This is going to happen over and over again. When 7-year-old Alexis comes home from school and tells you that she is being bullied, or when she's 10 and isn't invited to the sleepover or has a broken heart in high school.
That only leaves one thing left to do. Be there to hold her or listen to her or just sit in silence on the couch with her. There's no necklace or cream or tablets or anything that is equal to that.
Oh, and lastly, because it is not easy and no one says it enough - you're doing fine. You've got this. If the rest of us can do this, you can too.
(1) Please don't even think about arguing this point. She is. And, if you don't think so, you can bring it up with Nike.
(2) Articles on Homeopathic Teething Products:
References: Clay Jones, Separating Fact from Fiction in Pediatric Medicine: Infant Teething