Have you noticed that when your child is teething, they will chew on literally everything? It can be cute, infuriating, and scary all at the same time. It’s adorable when they reach that chubby little hand for the teething toy and start gnawing away.
However, it’s really aggravating when they soak your blouse before you head into work, and it’s even scarier when they get ahold of something they shouldn’t and put it in their mouth.
Babies chewing on cribs may seem harmless, but it can lead to a lot of things you might not expect. Luckily, there are also ways to stop it.
Why Your Baby is Chewing
Babies use their mouths to explore the world around them, so it’s not a bad thing that they’re putting everything in their mouth. It’s a normal phase of development and nothing to worry about.
However, as a parent, it’s your job to guide and protect them by offering toys that they are allowed to put in their mouth while restricting access to those that are dangerous.
If your baby begins to chew lightly on the crib, don’t worry too much about it, unless you start to notice a lot of wear and tear, deeper bite marks, or one spot that seems to be getting a lot of attention.
We use all of our five senses to explore the world around us, but we also have the benefit of years of brain development that we can use to discern logically. We can evaluate senses with our education, knowledge, and experience in addition to our senses.
Babies don’t yet have that power. They use their senses alone to learn about the world. And, as you’ve probably noticed, they love to use their mouth the most.
In this case, you may be dealing with teething. As your child’s baby teeth begin to erupt through the gums, it can cause intense pain and itching. This chewing can help relieve the pain and help move the teeth along a bit faster.
You’ll likely notice teething right away because they won’t just be chewing on the crib. They’ll be chewing on everything! You’ll see drooling, fussiness, and perhaps even a fever. You can help alleviate teething with pain medications and lots of teething toys.
It’s not as common as teething, but some babies deal with anxiety. Most babies go through phases of separation anxiety, which is highly stressful for them. They can often chew to help relieve stress.
Don’t immediately jump to this conclusion, but do remember that it is a possible cause. You’re the best judge of whether or not this is what’s wrong, and while there’s not much you can do besides offer comfort now, it’s important to remember that your child may be prone to anxiety as they get older, too.
Sensory Processing Disorders
Even more rare is a sensory processing disorder in which the human brain processes information differently than most people do. Children with this disorder are over or understimulated by their senses like, sight, sound, and touch.
Overstimulation can cause pain while under stimulation causes the senses to be lessened. This will manifest in excessive and often obsessive touching or chewing. Chewing by itself is not enough to diagnose the disorder, but it could be a sign.
Understanding the many reasons why your baby may be chewing on the crib can help you offer a better solution.
When to Be Concerned
You may wake one day to find tiny tooth marks in your baby’s crib rails. While your immediate reaction may be panic or concern, you don’t necessarily have to worry just yet. As mentioned before, your baby uses their mouth to explore the world.
Little tooth marks are just an indication that your child was testing the waters to see what the crib was all about. What does it feel like? How hard is it? Will it move at all if I put my mouth on it?
However, if you find bigger bite marks, or worse yet, chunks missing, you may want to evaluate what’s happening and how to fix it.
While sometimes it might not seem like it’s that big of a deal, there are many reasons why chewing (or eating) the crib can be dangerous.
1. Some cribs have a paint finish.
If your crib is painted, it’s hard to know what materials are in the paint. They could be toxic. Even if it says it’s non-toxic, you can’t be too sure, unless you know exactly what kind of paint they used.
If your crib wasn’t very expensive and you’re finding that the paint chips off very easily, it’s likely made from a toxic substance that you don’t want your child eating.
2. Some wood is stained.
If your crib is stained or varnished, it likely makes your crib look good and preserves the wood, but it’s definitely not safe for your child. Much like the painted crib, even if it says it’s non-toxic, you can never be too sure.
3. It could chip.
Let’s say your crib is 100% non-toxic. Even the wood or stain is made from non-toxic materials and ingredients. When your baby begins to chew on the same spot over and over again, that wood will chip.
As pieces of the wood chip off, they could leave splinters in your baby’s mouth or your baby could swallow them. I don’t need to explain why this is dangerous.
Stopping the Behavior
So, you’ve discovered chewing as a favorite pastime. How do you stop it? There are several ways to get ahead of the issue. What you choose to break the behavior will depend on why your baby is doing it.
If you shopped smart for a crib, you may not have to worry about these concerns. The first step to ensuring your child doesn’t chew on the crib is to make sure you buy a crib they can’t chew on.
For instance, if your crib is made of something other than wood, and it’s not painted or stained, your baby may not be able to chip it or eat any of the materials. You can look for cribs that market that they’re non-toxic, but dig deeper for the ingredients to make sure you know exactly what it’s made of.
1. Teething toys
If your baby is struggling with teething and can’t find anything else to chew on, they’ll probably resort to chewing on the crib. Instead, make sure you give your child plenty of options for chewing inside the crib.
You can leave chewing toys loose in the crib if you’d like, but if that makes you feel uncomfortable, you can mount toys to the sides or the rails of the crib that your child can play with but that won’t be in the way while they’re trying to sleep.
Also make sure you offer plenty of teething toys during the day so that by the time they go to bed, they have gotten enough relief to fall asleep at night.
2. Frozen treats
Again, if you’re dealing with teething, you can give your baby frozen teething treats during the day. It helps to numb away the pain temporarily. Kids love popsicles, and it’s a delicious way to help them get through it.
3. Vanilla extract
Vanilla extract is a natural numbing agent. You can add it to breast milk, ice cream, or juice to help your child through teething. Talk to your doctor before giving it to your child, and talk about how much you should use depending on your child’s age.
4. Add rail covers
You can cover your baby’s crib with rail covers so that when they try to chew, they can’t. This can protect the crib and your child. It will deter them from chewing and give them something soft that they can safely chew on.
5. Deal with separation anxiety
If it’s separation anxiety that causes your baby to chew, make sure you’re using effective methods for dealing with separation anxiety. There are plenty of ways you can help your child through this challenging time.
You can reduce chewing by making sure that your child learns how to cope with separation anxiety in a healthy way.
Your baby won’t teeth for long, so it’s easy to get through that phase quickly, although it may not seem like it. You can give them medicine, toys, and plenty of cuddles to comfort them. Cold treats and patience will also help.
Even if your baby isn’t teething, chewing alternatives can help redirect your child away from the crib rails and to something more fun and interesting. Mount things directly to the crib so when they aim for the crib, they find something else instead.
Deal with separation anxiety and any other reasons for chewing appropriately and always talk to your baby’s doctor about any concerns you have beyond these simple, temporary developmental issues.
While it can be frustrating and scary, this phase will pass and with the right tools, you’ll be able to help your baby through it.