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Are Teething Rusks Good for A Baby?

Teething baby or toddler?

I know it is not always easy managing teething for your little one. A baby’s first tooth generally appears between six-seven months and by around two and half years of age your child will have their full set of teeth.

Through this period your child will go through times of teething. This discomfort from teething comes from the soreness and swelling in the gums before a tooth breaks through. It will disappear as soon as that tooth comes down.

There are many ways for easing this possible discomfort for your baby. One of the popular suggestions is to use a teething rusk or teething biscuit.

Are these actually good for your baby?

My short answer is I do not recommend your store bought teething rusks.

I have never used these with either of my three children. Many major health guidelines world wide also recommend against them. This includes the NHS (UK) and the Canadian Paediatric Society. In Australia, public health guidelines do recommend them but specify sugar-free ones. This is because some processed rusks do have added sugar. However, as they majority of the rusk is made from a refined grain it does also still natural glucose in it (see below).

Here in New Zealand, our guidelines do suggest to use teething rusks (without highlighting a sugar-free option) which is a disappointing to say the least, given the need to look after small babies teeth. Let alone the following reasons as well.

Then again, there are also recommendations for processed baby rice in this document as well which I strongly do not recommend (and many brands of this also have added sugar).

It is long time we had an overall of our public health guidelines here in New Zealand, but in the meantime I will keep talking about this!

Reasons not to use store bought teething rusks:

High Chocking Risk

Any foods that are hard in texture pose a reasonable risk to a baby – babies can suck these bought rusks (not bite them) down to a size that could block the wind pipe. Teething rusks have been identified in research as carrying one of the highest risks of chocking in small children.

No Nutrients

The above list is the ingredients in a teething rusk currently available on the market – what is a baby getting from what is simply a refined grain?

Did you also know that a lot of rusks are not dairy-free like this one?

Some rusks are ‘fortified’ with iron. Remember this means it is not a natural, bio-available source of iron which will impact absorption. It is also certainly still not what I would call in a high amount – 1.6mg per serve. Babies need 10-11mg a day. Let alone the fact it does not contribute to repeated exposure of natural sources of iron rich foods.


Food Should be Food:

Teething rusks are often used not just in times of teething but as a 'distraction' for a baby or toddler. We want to set up the precedent that food is food right from the beginning. Using a processed food to distract a baby can potentially lead to other challenges down the track. This is hard in a social environment where even as adults not only were we raised with such behaviours (food as a distraction) but many foods, meals and drinks are still used in this way! The more exposure to the core foods the better and we do not want to take away opportunities for this. 

"Although foods such as vegetables are often initially disliked, the evidence is clear that repeated experiences result in learning to like and ingest certain foods." 
(Johnson, S & Hayes, J. 2007)


Homemade Rusks:

As an alternative, you can make your own teething rusks. This way you can still get the benefits of a teething rusk but in a way that is nutritious, gives exposure to core foods.

In my best-selling Baby and Toddler Cookbook I have a homemade teething rusk – grain-free and made with a vegetable and egg. Highly nutrient dense and you can put these in the freezer to make them hard and cold initially – and soften as a baby has them so significantly lowers chocking risk.

Other ways to help teething – think hard and cold!! These suggestions are from my best-selling book, The Nourished Baby:

  • Ice in a mesh bag or food feeder
  • Frozen peas in a food feeder
  • Cooked bones (at the same meal time)
  • Natural teething gels and drops
  • Wooden teething necklace
  • Teething pops

Teething pops can especially be helpful as they are nice and cold. They can also be a way to get in extra nutrients if a baby does go off their food those couple of days before a tooth breaks. I have a number on my website like these ones and some in all of my main books (can you really have enough ideas?)

Other Helpful Links and Recipes:

-Why I Don't Recommend Baby Rice

- The Meat Question

- Introducing Eggs

- Allergenic Responses

- Freezing Baby Food

- Best Milk for Babies Starting Solids?

- High Iron Mexican Baby Food

- Grain-free Mussel Fritters

- Baby Led Weaning Pancakes - Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free & Nut-Free

Other Helpful Resources

- The Nourished Baby

- Baby and Toddler Cookbook

- Baby Pumpkin Porridge

- My Podcast 

Full Reference for Quote:

Johnson, S & Hayes, J (2017). Developmental readiness, caregiver and child feeding behaviours and sensory science as a framework for feeding young children. Nutrition Today, 52(2), S30-40.

NHS Statement -

Canadian Paediatric Society -

New Zealand -

x Dr Julie 

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