A teething child will chew on nearly anything to ease discomfort, including toys, clothing and plastic rings. “Pay special attention to things that go into the mouth,” warns Dr. Alan Greene, clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University. “Many soft plastic teethers contain phthalates while hard plastic teethers can have bisphenol A (BPA).”
Phthalates and BPA are suspected of causing cancer and interfering with the healthy development of a child’s reproductive system. “A number of manufacturers are now eliminating those concerning chemicals, but we still don’t understand the health danger associated with the many other chemicals in plastics,” explains Greene. He recommends that parents look for alternatives such as organic cotton teethers or cold foods. “With safe, effective natural alternatives available, this is one place where I would skip the plastic.”
Additionally, some pediatricians warn against teething gels because they often contain benzocaine, a drug that numbs babies’ gums but could, in some instances, lead to an allergic reaction.
You can sidestep these risks by alleviating swollen gums the natural way. Try a frozen whole wheat mini-bagel, which a kid can slip over a finger and gnaw on; small frozen half-moons of banana (picking them up also helps with fine motor skills); or a real-fruit frozen treat.
Some parents swear by a couple drops of homeopathic Chamomilla stirred into food or drinks.
Since teething babies and toddlers may be extra fussy at mealtime, feeding them naturally numbing foods (read: anything cold) ensures that children get the energy and nutrients they need, even when pain prevents eating with the usual gusto. Jamillah Hoy-Rosas, mother of Livi, age 4, and a pediatric nutritionist with Betances Health Center in New York City, suggests that parents use their creativity to make healthy frozen teething remedies. Her daughter was a fan of frozen cubes of yogurt, pureed sweet peas and mango smoothie. “It’s a win-win,” she says. “Baby gets relief from pain and is introduced to a healthy treat.”
The following recipes will help your teething child—and you—through this important but uncomfortable time.
Hyland’s homeopathic teething gel or tablets
Vanilla extract (small drop rubbed gently into gums)
Gentle gum massage
First “Ice Cream”
This food is suitable for the youngest teething child, especially if juice is already in a baby’s diet. The small batch here can be easily doubled or tripled.
4 oz. baby juice
4 oz. breast milk or formula (whichever your child usually drinks)
1. Bring juice to a boil in a shallow pan over high heat. Leave uncovered and decrease heat to medium-high so mixture reduces by approximately 1/3. Cool in stainless-steel bowl set on ice.
2. Once juice is cool, mix in breast milk or formula.
3. Freeze in home ice-cream machine following manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have a home ice-cream machine, you can make this recipe “granita-style”: freeze in shallow container and, as it freezes, break up ice crystals by fluffing with fork, approximately every 15 minutes.
Yields 6 oz. (about 4 servings).
Whole Wheat Baby Biscotti
Even if children are comfortable eating solid food, the texture of these biscuits should be too hard for them to bite off in large pieces, making them ideal for gnawing as they dissolve over time.
2 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 dash salt
1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Whisk together eggs, olive oil and brown sugar in medium bowl.
3. In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.
4. Add dry ingredients all at once to liquid ingredients and mix until a loose dough forms.
5. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and prepare a log, approximately 10 inches long. Transfer to lightly greased baking sheet and flatten slightly into a loaf shape.
6. Bake 25 minutes.
7. When cool enough to handle, slice loaf into half-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices back on baking pan and return to oven, baking an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Turn slices over and bake a final 8 minutes.
8. Remove and cool on wire rack. Biscuits should be firm when cool. Store in airtight container for up to one week.
Yields about 20 biscuits.
Vegetable juices can be made in a home juicer or purchased bottled or frozen from health food stores.
1 cup beet juice
1 cup carrot juice
1. Pour juice into molds, insert appropriate handles and freeze (small paper cups and wooden craft sticks can be used instead).
2. For a colorful look, freeze beet and carrot juices in alternating layers.
3. Remove just before serving, running hot water over mold to loosen if necessary.
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By Jonathan Deutsch, Kiwi magazine