Why babies like to chew on their crib, and how to stop them from doing it.
Both of my boys were biters. Given half a chance, they’d latch on like angry pitbulls to pretty much anything they could get their mouths around.
It was okay when they were tiny little guys—the occasional damp, but enthusiastic, gumming of a stray index finger was only a mild inconvenience. But once their teeth started to come through, it was on for young and old at our place.
Admittedly, I didn’t have it anywhere near as bad as my wife who was still breastfeeding at the time: her screams sent every wild animal within a two-kilometre radius fleeing into the night.
But what I did end up with—aside from a few sore fingers—was a really (like, really) expensive cot that looks like it’s been used to take tourists swimming with Great White sharks off the coast of South Australia. (We’ll come back to that analogy in a moment.)
Like lots of parents, we were hoping we’d recoup some of the small fortune we spent on good baby gear by re-selling it later.
But a ‘for sale’ notice on Gumtree that reads:
“One expensive wooden cot, RRP around $400. Clean mattress included. In near-perfect shape (except it’s been chewed on by two children and now looks like it’s been used to train the new guy at the Men’s Shed on how to use a tomahawk). $40 or best offer. Pick up only.”
… is not really an enticing advertisement.
Okay … but why are they chewing on the furniture?
Sigmund Freud had a theory about this. He called it the “Oral Stage” of psychosexual development.
His idea is that the greatest source of pleasure for infants is their mouths. Which sounds entirely reasonable—food goes in, they feel good. They chew on things when they’re teething and it feels good.
Even as they get older, some kids still feel the urge to gnaw like angsty beavers on everything.
And while kids learn pretty quickly that dad’s car keys taste like pocket lint and are too pointy to eat, other stuff, like the edge of the cot, provides light entertainment and relief from teething pain.
Later, gnawing on things can become a bit of a ‘security blanket’—it felt good before, so I’ll do it again – and the cycle continues, long after the teething is done.
So how do I stop them from destroying everything?
There are three ways to stop your infant from behaving like a grossly-large termite masticating their surroundings.
I can’t promise they will work 100% of the time, but by the time my second little guy turned up and started machine-gumming the furniture, we were prepared.
Firstly, protect your belongings
For the crib (and other woodwork they regularly come into contact with and seem compelled to chew on),
They clamp over the edges of cots and coffee tables, giving junior something to mindlessly gnash their teeth on without reducing your expensive furniture to splinters.
Just make sure that the protectors you use are OK to be gnawed on.
Secondly, give them something better to chew on
Teething rings come in all manner of shapes and sizes — what worked best for my guys were the ones that we could bung in the freezer so they’re nice and cold.
The cold helps to deal with the teething aspect and they gradually become more pliable as the frozen parts melt, so their little jaws get a satisfying workout along the way.
Lastly, get stuck in there
You can always try what our parents (and grandparents) did back in the day: help the munchkins alleviate discomfort by massaging their gums with your finger.
Yes, you’ll get a few good-sized nibbles on your digits, but I found it to be quite an interesting way of bonding with my boys when they were very little.
I know my kids love me — I’ve got the scars to prove it.