Crying through baby’s milestones |

Crying through baby’s milestones

Rub some whiskey on it.

That’s an old Irish solution to soothing baby’s gums while teething. I’d always heard of mothers doing that to create a numbing effect on baby’s gums back in the day. Heck, whiskey was the cure-all for about everything imaginable before pharmaceuticals. Including treating head colds and sore throats (the hot toddy) and battle wounds (chug some whiskey, bite on a stick). Old-school pediatricians may have even prescribed a small rub of fermented grain mash on the gums before the teething gels, soothing tablets and infant-grade acetaminophen of today provided relief. The magic of frozen teething rings were also not around yet.

Ice cubes wrapped in cheesecloth probably came in handy.

Today, safety’s first. And most treatments involving infants need a clinical trial to back it up for parents. So the whiskey method might make people cringe.

Luckily I found some all-natural, quick-dissolving tablets that have provided some relief. Now that Will is almost six months, I’m learning fast how much discomfort the milestone of baby’s teeth breaking through the gums can cause a little one.

The thought even makes my own gums hurt.

That’s the thing about parenthood I’ve always heard about — you feel your child’s pain — but didn’t really understand until I became a mom. Watching Will in the NICU in the first weeks of his life was my first experience of feeling such parenthood empathy. Some days, watching him in his incubator, I’d feel so helpless my knees would weaken and the color disappeared from my face.

A good old-fashioned cry in the bathroom usually helped.

Thankfully, Will has been a pretty easy baby to care for, and is usually smiling and laughing more than crying. Teething will just be a phase we tackle, one day at a time. Being a first-time mom is a delicate balance of trial-and-error and taking as much advice from grandmas and my experienced mom friends as I can. Will and I are lucky to live in a day and age when advice is just a text away, and there are more parenting solutions than just rubbing whiskey on it.

I avoid any self-diagnosing at all costs.

A crying baby can make a parent feel helpless, especially when nothing seems to be soothing. Living in the Digital Age, it’s easy to go straight to an Internet search as soon as a baby won’t stop crying. I don’t always advise this. I’ve learned that everyone has an opinion on the Internet, especially in mommy blog threads, and some voice them louder than others.

That’s putting it lightly.

I made the mistake once, early in my postpartum experience, of reading online comment threads regarding breastfeeding. I noticed a lot of guilt and shame directed at moms who might be stopping breastfeeding early, or might not be breastfeeding at all. Breastfeeding is an extremely personal decision, and has as much to do with physiology as psychology than some people know. I was much better off seeking help from the hospital’s lactation experts, asking my doctor his opinions, and sharing my feelings with mom friends and my own mother than going on online and searching the topic. That can be said for many aspects of life. Especially anything medical.

Or political, these days.

I do know that like breastfeeding, parenting is a highly personal journey that’s not the same for every mom and dad. Even before Will was born, doctors and nurses reminded me every baby is different. And to always remember that. Books, blogs and online mommy threads can provide a sense of similarity in how a baby approaches each milestone. For first-time parents, please know that babies work on their own schedules. Will’s dad had his first tooth at five months, which is about where he is now.

That explains a lot.

Will is having plenty of his own milestones, including saying goo and gaa and making that raspberry sound with his tongue and lips. That has to be about the cutest baby sound ever made. He holds and shakes rattles, favors his sock monkey toy when he’s most sleepy, and has been sitting up in his floor baby chair. He even holds his head and body steady while playing in his jumper.

We’ve come a long way from the NICU, baby.

Will has decided he’s not really into rolling over quite yet. That’s fine. He’s close and will do it when he’s ready. And we aren’t quite sleeping over four or five hours at a time. We’ve had a couple of lucky six-hour stretches, when the teething is kept at bay,

All the while avoiding the whiskey on the gums.

April E. Clark and Will are rooting for Peyton Manning and the Broncos in the play-offs. She can be reached at

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