I remember when I saw the first pearly tooth in my baby’s mouth. How cute, I thought—until she started waking up more often at night! No matter how hard you try to keep your child on a predictable and comforting routine, disruptions are inevitable. One of the most common routine busters is teething, which strikes without warning and can turn a child’s sleep upside down. I know how heartbreaking, and how tiring the long nights can be for both of you.
Fortunately, teething doesn’t affect every baby; some babies are simply more compliant than others. While select babies will breeze through it, others will be clearly impacted by it. I clearly remember that my first baby was more affected by those little teeth emerging than my second.
Usually children who sleep well will experience minor disruptions when they begin to teethe. But children who are overtired, or who don’t yet know how to put themselves to sleep, can be more restless and experience more trouble to sleep when teething.
Some symptoms of teething are:
- Clear runny nose
- Decreased appetite
- Increase in breast / bottle feeding
- Wanting to bite or chew on EVERYTHING
- Diaper rash
- Looser stools
- Low-grade fever
- Hot red cheeks
- General fussiness
- A red, sore bottom
- Pulling at the ears
Not sure if teething is the culprit of your fussy baby? If she is showing at least three of the above signs then you can say with a fair amount of certainty that she is teething. However, if she seems in pain but doesn’t show any of the above symptoms, then I would recommend that you talk to your doctor or healthcare professional for individualized advice.
How can teething affect your baby’s sleep?
A baby that doesn’t sleep well during the teething phase is one of the most common concerns I hear from my clients. Your baby may need a bit more help to fall asleep and therefore expect that same help in the middle of the night when he wakes up in discomfort. And you know what? That’s okay! Just remember what an excruciating experience adult tooth pain is! With that in mind, you might want to be extra soothing and comforting during these days. Just remember: a little bit of setback is normal, but try not to regress completely either.
And now what? What can you do to help your little one?
Be prepared and be patient! As you can imagine, teething is a long process. In most cases, the first tooth cut occurs between six and seven months, but that is just the first of many more teeth! (Please see graphic below). Depending on your child’s age and how many teeth are coming through, your little one may feel miserable and be clingier. As a consequence, he may need more cuddles, reassurance and time in your arms. Hang in there! The pain usually subsides as soon as the tooth comes through the gum. So in the meantime, these are a few things you can do to help your baby deal with any discomfort:
- Teethers (of course we recommend MITTEEZ) – Since babies like to chew on everything, a teething toy will help relieve the pain…at least for some time!
- Use extra barrier cream on your babies bum and let some air get to it if you can
- Offer the breast / bottle if it provides comfort. Breastfeeding is natural pain relief.
- Ask your doctor about using pain relief if necessary. There are also some natural options in the market.
- Don’t force your baby to eat solids if she is refusing. She may prefer liquefied foods such as mashed fruits or vegetables.
- Provide extra hugs and kisses mixed with tons of patience! Remember that this too shall pass…
I also recommend that you continue implementing a consistent and positive bedtime routine. Your baby may need a bit more time to wind down at the end of the day. To prevent overtiredness, you can add an additional 10 – 15 minutes to her routine to make sure she is relaxed and ready to fall asleep.
Your baby may not be himself while teething, so keep trying different things to see which works best. Babies feel less stressed and loved just being held. So have those arms ready! It can be hard to look after an unhappy baby, but remember, teething won’t last forever.
* Always seek professional advice at times when you are uncertain of your child’s symptoms, or if your child requires assistance to ease pain or speed up their recovery process. Always seek medical advice before making any assumptions or following any recommendations above.
Maria Escola is a Gentle Sleep Coach and owner of Sleepy Miracles Baby & Child Sleep Consulting. Maria helps families that are struggling with sleep issues from newborn to five years old, offering a more gentle and holistic approach to sleep coaching. Visit www.sleepymiracles.com for more information.