Drooling, discomfort and crankiness are often signs that a tooth is trying to push through your baby’s gums. And once teething starts, it tends to be blamed for every ailment imaginable, including poor sleep.
Baby has a fever… must be teething.
Baby is crying more than normal… must be from sore gums.
Baby is waking up more often in the night… must be those new teeth trying to break free.
Granted, these are potential symptoms of teething, but we tend to use teething as a scapegoat for whenever our baby isn’t acting as usual.
So, does teething affect your baby’s sleep? Quick answer… yes.
But it doesn’t have to interfere with your sleep training.
Babies can start teething as early as 3 months and can continue until they are 2 years old. Waiting to sleep training until your little one is done teething is not practical or beneficial.
Signs of Teething
What are some common signs and symptoms of teething? What should you watch out for?
- Teething rash (chapping from extra saliva on their face)
- Loose stool or diarrhea
- Tender gums
- Biting and chewing on everything
- Rubbing of cheeks and pulling of ears
- Irritability and increased crying
- Waking more often in the night
Teething and Sleep Training
As parents, we naturally want to soothe our little one when they cry out in the night. It isn’t nice to know that our baby is in discomfort.
Sleep training doesn’t mean that you have to ignore your baby’s cries. You’re encouraged to attend to your little one to ease their pain. However, I caution using teething as an excuse to slip back into old sleeping habits. Habits like rocking your baby back to sleep or nursing until your little one is fully asleep.
These efforts will soothe the pain, but it can also lead to your baby learning to use these comforts as sleeping aids or sleep props. These props become a learned behavior and discourage your baby to fall back asleep on their own.
Here are some quick facts about teething to keep in mind:
- Teething symptoms last for around 8 days.
If your baby is waking up and crying in the night for over two weeks, then he may have another ailment, or he has reverted back to requiring comfort to fall asleep. Your baby has learned that crying will bring their favorite person into the room, you.
- Teething is not as uncomfortable as we think.
New teeth aren’t actually breaking through the gums. Baby’s gums actually move out of the way to allow for the incoming teeth. According to research and many experts, teething doesn’t cause a significant amount of pain.
Teething isn’t the villain that we all make it out to be. Yes, it will affect your little one and may disrupt their sleep schedule for a little bit, but you can still sleep train, and get a full night’s sleep.
Ways to Comfort your Teething Baby
So how can you soothe your little one and maintain good sleep habits?
- Teething Objects during non-sleep times.
Teething rings or toys put counter-pressure on the gums. Also, many of these objects can be frozen which helps numb the gums. Reserve these for awake times so that they don’t become a sleep prop.
- Tylenol or Ibuprofen
If the pain is bad and your little one just can’t sleep, I suggest giving them a little medicine before their nighttime feed. (Please, check with your medical provider first). Just a heads up: it is no longer recommended to use Baby Orajel as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that these types of topical numbing agents can put children under 2 at risk for reduced oxygen levels in the blood.
You can still provide comfort to your little one in the night but keep your sleep training in mind. Don’t bring your baby into your bed. Put her back down while she is still awake.
A full night’s sleep has so many benefits and your baby is going to be a lot happier while going through the teething process if she’s getting a full night of uninterrupted sleep. The same thing goes for the parents.
Teething can be a tough time for many families. If you need help figuring out how to sleep train during this time, please schedule a time to chat. One of our sleep coaches would love to help.