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The Sleep Coach’s Guide to Managing Baby’s Sleep During Teething

Baby sleeping peacefully despite teething challenges

Teething. That word alone puts fear into the hearts of many parents and often for good reason. Managing the teething phase can be quite challenging for parents and that goes double for navigating your child’s sleep during this time. Let me guide you through the unique challenges and concerns of this period and ensure that their sleep isn’t significantly disrupted.

In this blog, we’ll cover:

  • Sorting out what’s true and what’s not about teething symptoms.
  • Practical tips to help your baby sleep better during this phase.
  • What to avoid to ensure your baby’s sleep habits remain healthy.

Let’s get into some helpful insights to ease both your baby’s teething and your nighttime worries!

Understanding Teething

Welcome to the world of baby teeth! Every little one’s journey is unique, but generally, teething starts around 6 months of age. It’s a natural process, but it sure can stir up a lot of questions and concerns. So, what really happens during teething? Your baby’s teeth are making their grand entrance, and it’s not always a silent affair. There can be drooling, a bit of fussiness, and sometimes a change in their eating habits.

But here’s where it gets interesting. Not every symptom your baby experiences might be due to teething. It’s common to attribute things like fever and diarrhea to teething, but often, these are signs of something else. To get the full scoop, check out this detailed symptom checker from HealthyChildren.org, which sheds light on what’s typical for teething and what might be a sign to consult your pediatrician.

Understanding what’s normal and what’s not can save you a lot of worry and help you provide the right comfort to your little one. Remember, while teething can be a bumpy ride, it’s a sign your baby is growing just as they should!

The Impact of Teething on Sleep

Ah, sleep – that precious commodity that seems in short supply during your baby’s teething phase. It’s true, those emerging pearly whites can disrupt those much-needed naps and nighttime rests. But why does this happen, and what does it mean for your little one’s sleep patterns?

During teething, your baby might experience discomfort or pain, leading to more frequent wake-ups at night. They might be fussier before bed or have trouble settling down. It’s a lot like how we feel with a slight toothache – uncomfortable and restless. This discomfort can also lead to shorter naps or more resistance to going down for a nap.

Now, every baby is different. Some might have minimal disruptions, while others might find their sleep schedule turned upside down. As a sleep coach, I’ve seen a wide range of experiences. The key is to understand that this phase is temporary and manageable. With the right approach, you can help your baby (and yourself!) get through this period with as much rest as possible.

Practical Strategies for Managing Teething and Sleep

When those tiny teeth start stirring up nighttime challenges, it’s essential to have some smart strategies up your sleeve.

Here’s my number one piece of advice for teething and sleep: Ensure that your child has a solid foundation in healthy, independent sleep habits before teething starts. The better your child is at sleeping independently, the easier it will be to provide support and soothing during teething. This strong foundation means that even if teething temporarily disrupts sleep, you can confidently return to your regular sleep routine once the tooth has made its debut, without further disruptions.

With this foundation in place, let’s explore some hands-on techniques that can help soothe your baby’s discomfort and aid in maintaining those precious sleep routines:

  • Gentle Gum Massage: Sometimes, a little pressure on the gums can work wonders. Using a clean finger or a cold teething ring can provide soothing relief.
  • Consistent Bedtime Routine: Stick to your usual bedtime routine as much as possible. Familiar activities like a warm bath, storytime, or gentle lullabies can signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down, even on rough teething nights.
  • Create a Comforting Sleep Environment: Ensure the sleep environment is calm, quiet, and comfortable. A dimly lit room with a consistent temperature can help your baby relax and sleep better.
  • Monitor for Over-Tiredness: Teething can tire a baby out more quickly. Watch for signs of tiredness and try putting them down for naps or bedtime a little earlier if needed.
  • Stay Close but Not Too Close: While it’s tempting to make big changes during this phase, like bringing your baby into your bed, try to resist. Instead, offer comfort by staying close, perhaps with a hand on their back or softly speaking to them, to reassure them without changing their sleep setting drastically.

Remember, every baby is different, and what works for one may not work for another. It’s about finding the right balance for your baby and adjusting as you go.

Things to Avoid During Teething

When your baby is teething and sleep becomes a bit of a juggling act, it’s tempting to try just about anything for a peaceful night. However, some well-intentioned practices might inadvertently set back your baby’s sleep progress. 

Here are some things to avoid during this time:

  • Avoid Introducing New Sleep Props: It’s best not to start habits you’ll later need to break. Relying on rocking, feeding, or other new methods to induce sleep during teething can become sleep associations that are hard to shake off later.
  • Resist Bringing Baby Into Your Bed: While it might seem like a quick fix for comfort, co-sleeping during this time can lead to long-term changes in your baby’s sleep habits. It’s better to comfort them in their own sleep space.
  • Don’t Skip the Bedtime Routine: Even if your baby is fussy, stick to the familiar bedtime routine, even if that means shortening each step of the routine. Abandoning the routine can make it harder for them to understand it’s time to sleep.
  • Be Cautious with Teething Gels and Medicines: Always consult your pediatrician before using any teething gels or medicines. While they can be helpful, some products may not be suitable for your baby.

By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can help ensure that teething doesn’t lead to lasting sleep challenges. Remember, this phase isn’t forever, and maintaining good sleep practices now will pay off in the long run.

When to Seek Professional Help

Teething is a normal part of development, and most of the time, it can be managed with simple home remedies and a lot of patience. However, there are times when it’s wise to reach out for professional advice. Here are a few situations where a consultation might be helpful:

  • Persistent Discomfort: If your baby seems to be in constant distress and none of the soothing techniques are working, it’s a good idea to check in with your pediatrician. They can rule out other causes of discomfort.
  • Symptoms Beyond Teething: Fever above 100.4°F, severe diarrhea, or prolonged irritability are not typical symptoms of teething and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
  • Sleep Disruptions Continue Post-Teething: If sleep issues persist even after the teething phase seems to have passed, a consultation with a sleep coach will be beneficial. Sometimes, habits formed during teething can linger and need professional guidance to resolve.

Remember, you know your baby best. If something feels off or you’re just not sure what to do, there’s no harm in seeking advice. A quick chat with your pediatrician or a sleep coach can provide reassurance and guidance. 

Tranquil Nights Ahead

There you have it – a comprehensive guide to navigating your baby’s teething and its impact on sleep. We’ve covered the essentials, from understanding real and false teething symptoms to practical strategies for maintaining peaceful nights. Remember, while introducing new sleep props and bringing your baby into your bed might seem like immediate solutions, they can create long-term challenges. Sticking to your usual bedtime routine and comforting your little one in their own space is key.

If teething is turning your nights upside down, and you’re finding it tough to manage, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

FAQs

Q: My baby has a fever, is he teething?
A: Maybe. Teething can cause a low fever, under 100.4°F. However, a higher temperature or persistent fever isn’t typically a symptom of teething and could indicate an underlying illness. It’s always best to consult your pediatrician if your baby has a fever.

Q: Can I sleep train while my baby is teething?
A: Absolutely. Considering that babies can start teething as early as 3 months and continue until they are around 2 years old, it’s not practical to delay sleep training. Establishing good sleep habits early on, even during teething, is beneficial for your baby’s overall sleep health.

Q: How can I comfort my baby during teething without impacting their sleep down the road?
A: It’s key not to let teething become an excuse for reverting to old sleep habits, such as rocking or nursing to sleep. You can offer teething rings or similar objects during awake times, but try to avoid making them a part of the sleep routine to prevent them from becoming sleep props. Comfort your baby, but remember to keep them sleeping in their own crib and put them down to sleep while awake to avoid creating hard-to-break sleep associations.

Q: Will teething affect my baby’s daytime naps as well?
A: Probably, teething can affect all aspects of your baby’s sleep, including daytime naps. You might notice shorter naps or some resistance to napping due to discomfort. Keeping a consistent nap routine can help smooth things out.

Q: How can I tell if my baby’s fussiness is due to teething or something else?
A: Teething babies are often fussier, especially at night. However, if your baby’s fussiness is accompanied by other symptoms like a high fever, diarrhea, or vomiting, it might be something other than teething. When in doubt, consult your pediatrician.

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