With my first daughter Tessa, I had a long drawn out battle of trying to discern if she was just being fussy, or if she was actually teething. There was the occasional bouts of drool. The inexplicable frenzies of needing to chew on anything and everything. Then there was the sawing of toys against her gums while freaking the $#%^ out. Ya know, the usual odd baby stuff. This battle went on for OVER A YEAR before she finally popped out her first baby tooth.
I made the silly mistake of assuming that baby Thyme would be exactly like her sister, and we would have upwards of a year to invest in new teething toys. Uh, WRONG. Thymes first tooth made its appearance at four months, and she has steadily been sprouting new pearly whites ever since.
I discovered with Tessa that I prefer my little ones to be cutting their gums on natural, safe teethers. You want to know why? OF COURSE YOU DO! Ahem…
Why Your Choice of Teething Toys Is Important
I have actually posted most of this on my blog before, when I was a new mommy to Tessa. But it all bears repeating! 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. (Which, if you read my blog regularly, you know I love to rail against from time to time.)
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
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 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 Nihama Teethers
All Nihama (short for Natural Hand Made) teethers are made by Yana Ladyzhenskaya, mother of four. During her pregnancies, Yana always found herself with a lot of spare time on her hands, so she started some new hobbies. With her children as inspiration, she began experimenting with handmade toys, and as the items grew in number, more and more people started asking for some.
Several years later Yana officially introduced her latest collection of handmade teething toys, nursing necklaces and bracelets. She still makes them all by hand (and even takes special orders for custom colors!)
All the Nihama teething toys and nursing necklaces are made of beech wood and organic and natural yarns. The majority of yarns used are 100% baby cotton, organic and eco-friendly, but in some cases organic cotton yarns with wild silk and kapok are used too.
Nihama teethers are ideal for use with wraps, carriers and slings, and designed to help in developing motor skills while alleviating teething pain!