Almost all parents are given some sort of teething aid at their baby shower to help their little one when the time for teething approaches, but many of these teething aids are potentially unsafe for babies. So what’s a natural minded mama to do?
Today I want to look at two commonly used NATURAL teething aids and discuss why even these options may not be the BEST fit.
OTC Teething Gels
It’s not new news that the FDA has removed their approval of baby teething gel products that contain benzocaine. (Source) That happened back in 2011, but after that some teething companies changed their formula to more natural, homeopathic options that from the outside, looks great and has lots of natural-minded parents giving it a thumbs up.
The problem with products like these is that once you look into the ingredients, you may find that it’s not really as natural or good for your baby as you once thought.
Let’s take a look at the ingredient list on a box of natural baby teething gel just to see what’s in it.
Active Ingredients: Calcarea Phosphorica, 12X HPUS. Chamomilla, 6X HPUS. Coffea Cruda, 6X HPUS. Inactive Ingredients: Glycerin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Sorbic Acid, Water.
The active ingredients look great. They’re homeopathic, but even then, what are they and what do they do?
Calcarea Phosphorica – Calcarea phosphorica comes from calcium phosphate which is a mineral salt found in the human body and helps to make the outer layer of bone hard. It’s commonly used during periods of rapid growth in children as well as times of nutritional deficiency and has even been shown to help with some psychological conditions in children too. (Source)
Chamomilla – Chamomilla is essentially a very weak, diluted chamomile tincture, and it practically does the same thing the tincture would. When it comes to using it with teething babies, it’s used to help them calm down, relax, and or sleep. (Source)
Coffea Cruda – Coffea cruda is unroasted coffee beans, diluted, and used as a homeopathic teething remedy because it’s thought to help relax the nervous system. (Source)
Now, what about the inactive ingredients? Some I recognize. Some I can pronounce. Some I don’t know how to pronounce or what they’re for.
Glycerin – I’ve talked about the use of glycerin before in children’s teething products. Glycerin in and of itself isn’t bad, but when it comes to coating your child’s teething in it, it’s no good. You can read more about the negative effects of glycerin on teeth remineralization in this post here on children’s toothpaste ingredients.
Hydroxyethylcellulose – Hydroxyethylcellulose is most commonly used as a thickening agent in cosmetics and is a derivative of cellulose, a fibrous substance found in wood, cotton, and paper. The main problem with this additive is that it’s been known to be associated with allergic reactions ranging from mild burning, itching, and rashes to severe swelling and breathing issues. (Source)
Potassium Sorbate – Potassium sorbate is used as a preservative in many foods and supplements (even herbal ones). For the most part, it’s been shown to be harmless except for causing allergic reactions from overexposure (Source), but in a 2010 Turkish study was linked to mutation of human white blood cells in vitro. Although this study may not mean that this actually happens all the time in humans, it does show that it can affect the body negatively as we know many preservatives can. Again, just another reason to keep things simple and natural in my mind. (Source)
Sodium Benzoate – Sodium benzoate is another preservative (because one was not enough) that increases the acidity of a product, therefore preventing fungal and bacterial growth in it. It’s been shown to form the carcinogen, benzene, when mixed with vitamin c and cause hyperactivity in children. (Source, Source)
Sorbic Acid – OMGoodness… another preservative. Seriously! Three! So sorbic acid occurs naturally in certain berries, but it’s produced synthetically and used in foods and cosmetics to decrease their microbial content. The powers that be say sorbic acid is safe for human consumption, but even Whole Foods won’t allow it in the foods they carry in their store and it’s been linked to allergic skin reactions. (Source)
So, apparently this is better than the old baby teething gels that contained benzocaine, but with all these preservatives and potential cancer-causing additives, it’s still not something that will be found in this mamas medicine cabinet, whether it’s labeled “natural” or not.
So what’s the second commonly used teething aid that may not be so safe for your baby? This one may surprise you.
Clove Essential Oil
Yeah, I said it.
I’m not against clove essential oil or using it to help with tooth pain… for adults that is. When it comes to using it on small babies who are teething, after much research, I’m no longer on board with it.
I will confess… I’ve used it a few times with my kids when they were younger, and I’ve used it on myself. It works well, but you have to use a good amount of clove essential oil to get the really good numbing effect. From my current researching of clove oil, it’s just not safe for small children because of its strength and the low recommended dilution rate.
First of all, clove essential oil isn’t recommended for use on children until the age of 2, and even then it’s at a small dilution rate. A .25% dilution rate is what’s recommended which equals 1 drop of essential oil to 4 teaspoons of carrier oil. That’s not very much. There are some that say that if you’re looking for a therapeutic dose of clove essential oil like you would be when using it for tooth pain, a 1% dilution is acceptable. This may be okay for adults, but just knowing about clove essential oil and how strong it is makes me question whether this is the best choice for a child. (Source)
Clove essential oil is strong. Its main chemical component is eugenol which is what gives it that nice numbing feeling in your mouth. It’s typically used for pain relief, boosting the immune system, being an antiseptic, stimulating digestion or even calming digestive upset and helping with respiratory distress. All great things… just maybe not the best choice for little ones. (Source)
So what’s a natural mama to do that wants to help her teething baby find some relief? Well, you have a few options.
Many mamas love teething necklaces. Either Baltic amber teething necklaces for pain relief (purchase here) or even cloth teething necklaces that baby can chew on. Some mamas swear by soaking a baby washcloth in chamomile tea and freezing it, letting baby chew on it when they need it while others use all natural baby teething biscuits that baby can chew on to provide some relief. But what can be used that’s totally natural, will help to calm baby, and provide some on-the-spot pain relief? Come back Friday for an herbal option that may be a good fit for your little one.
No matter, each mama needs to do her research and know her options. Only then will you know what’s best when you try different things to see what works.