Like so many other parents of young babies, I am in the, “Is she teething, or just being fussy?” stage of motherhood. There’s occasional bouts of drool. Inexplicable frenzies of needing to chew on anything and everything. There’s the sawing of toys against her gums while freaking the $#%^ out. Ya know, the usual odd baby stuff.
Anyhoo, a gal who had her daughter about a week before I had mine asked me for my view on wooden teethers. Which is an excellent question. While I always had a loose idea that I would prefer Tessa to be cutting her gums on a natural and safe teether like wood, I hadn’t gotten to the point of actually investing in my little zombies pain relief since every sign of her teething would vanish as quickly as it surfaced.
But at 4 ½ months old, I figured it’s time to dig in to the world of safe and savvy teethers. I contacted the lovely family that owns and operates Seven Acre Toys, and asked for their assistance in my research, and they were awesome enough to send me one of their organic wooden teethers for my on-the-cusp-of-teething baby girl!
Why Your Choice of Teething Toys Is Important
Babies, by nature, put everything in their mouths. EVERYTHING. Toys, blankets, your shirt, your hair, the cat. Nothing is safe from the curious taste buds of a newly hatched human.
But a teething baby? Maximize the oral fixation by, like, a trillion. When babies are teething, anything is fair game when it comes to soothing their aching gums. Not only are teething toys good for babies, they are absolutely essential. Your child NEEDS something to ease their pain and assist their gums in doing something big and scary that they have never done before.. rip open to grow a new tooth! If you don’t provide your baby with a teething toy, they’ll find something that will act in that role. (And your cat / iPhone / nipple may not like that.)
So when it comes to designating a “put this in your mouth and nom on it” toy, I think it goes without saying that choosing a natural, safe and toxin-free product is important.
The Problem With Plastics
During the first few years of life, when babies’ cells continue to undergo “programming,” exposure to certain toxic chemicals can disrupt the delicate process. The biggest toxic culprit to infants health is Bisphenol A, better known as BPA.
BPA is a compound in hard, clear polycarbonate plastics that mimics the effects of estrogen in children (and adults!) and has raised particular concern because it interferes with hormone levels and cell signaling systems. BPA’s have the potential to cause permanent and lasting damage to infants health.
Many teethers have BPAs in them, and while the number is rapidly declining given all the recent publicity about them, it’s better to play it safe and avoid using plastic when it comes to mouth-specific items for your baby (teethers, pacifiers, nipples, etc.) .
Latex teethers are also no-no’s, known to leak low levels of nitrosamines, a known carcinogen. Still other teething toys are made with diisononyl phthalate (DINP) or phthalate esters, which can be released during sterilization.
Silicone and 100% rubber are safe and toxin-free options for your baby’s delicate mouth, and excellent choices for nipples and pacifiers, but tend to be too soft and malleable for teething toys. So this leaves us.. wooden teethers!
The Benefits of Wooden Teethers
First off, as mentioned above, wood that is either completely unfinished or finished with non-toxic substances such as water based, oil based or beeswax finishes are much safer than plastic toys – which often contain chemicals that leech out.
Additionally, studies are showing that some hardwoods (such as maple wood) have natural antibacterial properties. In a 2002 study comparing the hygienic aspects of wood and polyethylene cutting boards regarding food contaminations, Gehrig, Schnell, Zürcher and Kucera discovered that cutting boards made of wood (maple, beech and oak) were far more resistant to bacterial contamination than plastic polyethylene. (This is always a bonus when it comes to an object intended for your child’s mouth!)
Wood is also far more durable than plastics. Well constructed wooden toys, particularly those that are handmade, last a very long time. Depending on the quality of your child’s chomping, you could even keep a wooden teether around for child #2! (Though they are so affordable, buying new ones won’t exactly break the bank!)
Finally wood is porous and absorbent, so you have the option of infusing the teether with natural numbing (and child safe!) oils, like clove oil, for really horrid teething pain.
About The Teether
Seven Acre Toys sent me their newest addition to their teether line: the Organic Fish Shaped Maple Wood Teething Toy.
The teether is made from durable, FSC certified sustainably harvested North American hardwood maple (also available in walnut) and comes with an unbleached, undyed, handmade organic cotton yarn fin. The product is finished with Seven Acre Toy’s all natural oil and wax blend, using only the safest and most environmentally friendly materials.
The finish is a food safe, baby safe blend of beeswax, carnuba wax, and mineral oil – all eco-friendly. Seven Acre Toy’s does not use dyes, stains or pigments of any kind, so it is 100% safe and toxin free.
This hand carved toy has a whimsical shape that is visually stimulating for little ones, and it features two sizes of holes that provide many options for little fingers to grasp. I was surprised that the fin is also a great surface for biting and grabbing, at times Tessa seemed more interested in the fin than the actual fish! She kept switching back and forth between the silky smooth hard wood and the soft, textured tail.
The teether came in a cute cloth pouch, with an information card that recommends wetting the tail and sticking the toy in the freezer for added soothing and for a cold, crunchy sensation for your little one. The cotton tail is also removable and machine washable.
This toy really is a unique, beautifully hand crafted, and functional work of art.