Top marks

As tempting as it is to continue the holiday theme and regale you with Pip’s tropical adventures, I’m going to save that for another time and instead tell you about something rather less glamorous but just as exciting: teeth.

While we were away, Pip cut his first tooth and surprisingly it was a top one. I don’t know any other babies whose top teeth arrived first – I can’t find any statistics on how common this occurrence is but it does seem to err on the side of the unusual. It’s quite funny that Pip has been teething for what seems like about six months (I wrote this post back in November!) and when one finally arrives it is not as expected. I had been monitoring his lower gums for so many months – feeling them practically every day – that the top ‘uns really crept up on me. There had been two whitish lumps on what looked like the outside of his gums for a while, but I didn’t realise these would actually manifest themselves as teeth so soon!

top teeth

Fortunately, during the day Pip was fine and the teething did not impede his holiday fun. He did wake up most evenings… but this was mostly during the first half of his sleep which was when the babysitter was there (we booked her for the duration of our stay). With a couple of unpleasant exceptions, he tended to then sleep through until morning. I think the babysitter actually quite enjoyed the challenge and it made the evening a bit more interesting for her than just sitting silently in our hotel room. We’d put Pip’s cot in the bathroom – the toilet was in a separate cubicle, come on now we’re not THAT bad – but the door had to be open to let the air conditioning in so she couldn’t really watch television or anything.

Apart from the night waking, which has continued since we got home, probably as the second top one is coming through, he exhibited very few symptoms. Drooling? Nope. Ear rubbing? Not that I noticed. He did have rosy cheeks but this could have been down to heat. Also, the nappies weren’t the nicest – but again, this could be thanks to the different diet he was experiencing.

So what does it mean when the top teeth come in first? According to one Indian custom, it can signify bad luck for the baby’s maternal uncle. I don’t have a brother so this is irrelevant to us, but it is still interesting to read what you are supposed to do in this situation to counteract the ill fortune:

“…The mother moves out of town, from the other side the maternal uncle comes and a ceremony is performed with charity of wheat flour, white doth and four iron nails. This special ceremony is known as `The charm of the teeth`.

…When the brother hears about the arrival of his sister, he brings along with him an old copper coin with an iron nail and nothing else. When the brother is approaching, the sister takes her child up in her arms, so that his face is toward the way on which her brother is coming. The brother comes noiselessly and opens the mouth of the child, touches its teeth with the coin and the iron nail, without showing his face to the sister or even seeing his sister`s face. He then buries the coin and the nail on the very location and returns home. The ill luck for the maternal uncle is thus no longer effective.”

Bringing bad luck is one thing, but being put to death is another. I’m glad Pip wasn’t born into this tradition found in what is now Tanzania, as described on the Sacred Texts website:

“…he cut his upper teeth first, and such infants are, by most of the Bantu, considered extremely unlucky. Indeed, so strong is the belief that if allowed to grow up they would become dangerous criminals that in former times they were invariably put to death. At Rabai, on the now forsaken site of the old fortified village on the hill-top, a steep declivity is pointed out where such ill-omened babies were thrown down. It must have been the rarity of this occurrence that caused it to be regarded as unnatural, and so produced the belief.”

Even in more recent times, teething differently can cause issues. A 1991 health study reported that in some rural Nigerian communities babies who cut top teeth first are considered evil:

“The majority (70.4%) believed the eruption of upper teeth before the lower to be a sign of an evil child. This observation was, however, related to educational status and age. The higher the educational level of the respondents, the higher the proportion of respondents who viewed the occurrence as a mere individual variation. Similarly, the older people tended to view the eruption of upper deciduous teeth before the lower as evidence of an evil child…”

Time will tell whether Pip gets evil (to which I say, look at the smile above. Evil? Really?!) – in the meantime, I am hoping that he doesn’t start chomping down when feeding with his newfound SHARP gnashers. So far, so the same, but we’ll see how it goes.

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