You’ve heard that the teething stage is bad, but is it really? Like, can’t you just give a baby a teether or a cold washcloth and move on?
Well — not always. Sometimes teething pain is bad enough to warrant some medicinal relief — and Tylenol is often considered the go-to option, as it’s generally safe for young babies.
But since teething can last a long time (read: months and months on end), you can’t keep your child on a 24/7 infusion of infant Tylenol. Here’s how to know when to give it to your baby, how to use it safely, and how it stacks up against other pain relief options.
To be clear, it might not cause “pain” in the traditional definition of the word. Some experts think teething causes a dull, achy sensation, or possibly even an itchy one — which is why babies turn to chomping and gnawing during the worst bouts of teething in an attempt to soothe their irritated gums.
Some babies are hardly bothered by teething, while others seem more acutely affected. Either way, it’s reasonable to assume your baby will notice something going on in their mouth — and may not like the feeling.
Since babies can’t tell you how they’re feeling, it can be hard to know if or when they’re in pain. But some common symptoms that your baby isn’t feeling well include:
- unusual fussiness or irritability
- extreme clinginess (i.e., not wanting to be put down)
- difficulty sleeping at naps or bedtime
- pulling on their ears
Specific to teething woes, you might also notice an increase in the amount of drooling your baby is doing — hello, 10 bibs per day! — along with sore or swollen gums and a desire to chew on everything within reach.
Some parents think teething can cause fevers, but this isn’t quite true: While teething can increase your child’s body temperature a smidge, it shouldn’t cause a true fever like the kind that could occur with illness.
Officially, the makers of Tylenol advise that parents talk with doctors about medicating kids under 2 years old. We concur — but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you can use your child’s weight to determine the correct dosage if they’re more than 3 months old.
Since teething typically starts between 4 and 6 months, you can give teething babies Tylenol safely.
You can — and should! — always talk with a doctor about the right dosage for your baby’s weight if they’re under 2 years old. These are the general recommendations about dosing based on weight, which may act as a starting point for the conversation with a doc.
- Whether you buy an infant or children’s formula, liquid medication, or tablets, all pediatric Tylenol now contains the same strength of medication per dose: 160 milligrams. This standardization simplifies dosing. For liquid medication, which you’ll likely give your baby, this equals 5 milliliters (mL).
- For infants between 6 and 11 pounds, the typical dosage is 1.25 mL according to the AAP. The dose increases by about 1.25 mL from there for every 5 pounds in weight.
- Older babies may be able to take a chewable or dissolvable tablet, but that’s child-dependent. You can give your child liquid medication when they’re any age.
- You can give your child a new dose every 4 to 6 hours as needed, but you shouldn’t give them more than 5 doses in a 24-hour period, per the AAP.
- It might be better to use Tylenol for teething relief at night or before long naps to distract your child from their discomfort. During the day, you can try to rely on teethers to distract them from the pain. Talk with your pediatrician about giving your child a dose 1 hour before going to sleep, so it’s working in the full effect by bedtime or naptime.
- Remember to always use the measuring device that comes with your package of Tylenol. It’s guaranteed to give you an accurate amount of medication. Other devices may not be standardized to Tylenol’s measuring system.
In babies more than 6 months old, Motrin is also an option for teething pain relief. Tylenol is often recommended as the first line of defense since you can give it to younger babies and Motrin may cause an upset stomach in some kids.
Tylenol may be tolerated better by your little one, but there’s no major difference in effectiveness in treating teething pain with either medicine. It just comes down to your baby’s age and how well they respond to the active ingredient.
Wondering what you can do instead of — or along with — giving your baby another dose of Tylenol to help them feel better? There are a few good at-home teething remedies, like:
- offering them teething toys
- letting them chew on a cold washcloth or baby toothbrush
- giving them cool, soft foods to eat, like fruit puree in a mesh feeder (if they’re eating solids)
You can use these at-home remedies as often as necessary, especially if it reduces your need to rely on Tylenol to soothe teething pain. But you should avoid the following remedies to treat your baby’s discomfort, since pediatricians don’t consider these to be safe options:
- topical teething gels
- homeopathic teething tablets
- amber teething necklaces
The good news is you can manage teething pain at home with a combination of natural remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) infant pain relievers after getting a doctor’s advice on dosing. Teething isn’t something that typically requires a pediatrician appointment.
Certainly, you can give your doctor a call for advice if you’re:
- having a difficult time handling your child’s teething
- feeling like they need pain relief from Tylenol frequently
- wondering what you can do to help
It’s also possible there could be something else going on besides teething. So, if your child seems inconsolable, it’s smart to check in with the pediatrician.
Tylenol, with a 160mg/5mL strength and dosed based off of weight, is generally okay for babies. Be sure to ask your doctor for dosing recommendations.