Your little one, who was once a great sleeper, is now suddenly waking up at all hours of the night.
They are fussy. Inconsolable. Drooling a lot.
And you think: They must be teething.
Teething is often blamed for children’s sleep issues, yet is it really the culprit? Or is it something else that’s causing those sleepless nights?
I’ve seen some debate in the sleep world about weather teething should actually be blamed for a child’s sleeplessness, and it’s important that you’re equipped with knowledge. It’s unfair to say that teething doesn’t cause issues with a child’s sleep, because teething can actually be uncomfortable or painful for some children.
At the same time, it’s unfair to blame all sleep issues on teething.
In this post, I will share how to know whether teething is impacting your child’s sleep, and what you can do to help your babe.
Knowing when teething happens, what signs to look for, and what steps you can take can prepare you for those nights when those pearly whites break through the surface.
When does teething begin?
For some babies, you may see early signs of teething starting around 4 months (remember, all babies are different. Some will teethe earlier, some later). Your baby may start drooling buckets or start chewing on toys or their hands.
But generally, around 6 months is often when baby’s first tooth will pop through, even if they spent months “teething.”
You will know whether a tooth is about to pop through the surface by looking at your child’s gums. If they are red or tender, it’s a good sign you’ll soon see a tooth. For some children, you can actually see the tooth right below the surface before it pops.
If you don’t see any teething signs, continue to observe your little one. They may simply enjoy chewing on things, or maybe they will have different “symptoms” when it comes to teething.
Teething and sleep
Teething can be uncomfortable for your baby, and their gums can be sensitive. These factors can impact sleep, as your little one is likely to be uncomfortable in the middle of the night. However, there are two things to keep in mind.
Teething discomfort lasts roughly two to three days
Teething pain is really only an issue when your child’s tooth is popping through their gum. If it’s been weeks, your child’s sleeplessness is likely due to something else.
Teething discomfort doesn’t just happen at night
If teething truly is the issue for your child’s wakefulness, you’ll notice other signs during the day. They may be fussy, run a fever, or have trouble sleeping at nap time. You’ll also be able to see the tooth below the gum line, and see the red, tender area on their gums.
Okay, I know it’s teething. Now what?
When you know that your child is teething, what can you do to help them catch some more zzz’s?
The best advice I can give you comes in two pieces:
- Wait it out and give your child lots of comfort. There really is no button to press to skip this part. It will be uncomfortable for your child, it will impact their sleep, but it will pass in a few days. Give your child lots of snuggles during the day.
- Ask your pediatrician about pain relievers, or find a natural pain reliever. Esepcially as your child grows and begins to get their molars, teething can be super uncomfortable. Administering a low dose of pain relief 30 minutes before bed can help soothe their aching gums. Of course, there are natural remedies you can try, too. Cold teethers (not frozen) or cold foods can help your little one. For toddlers, giving them a cold cheese stick they can gnaw on is my top choice!
When will the pain pass?
The great news is that teething pain only occurs for a few days. The not-so-great news is that your child will be growing a lot of teeth in their lifetime.
For some children, teething isn’t as disruptive to their sleep. And in that case, any change in their sleep patterns may be due to a regression.
But if your child is a sensitive sleeper and teething is keeping them up, you can expect these rough bouts of sleeplessness a few times in your child’s first two years.
Can I make changes to my child’s sleep habits when they’re teething?
I think laying the foundation for great sleep is the best thing you can do to help identify whether teething is to blame for your child’s sleep issues. Because if you know your child is a great sleeper, then any disruptions are easier to pinpoint.
If your child has always been more wakeful and sleep doesn’t come easy for them, it can be hard to identify whether teething is causing sleeplessness or if it’s just the habits they have.
I’d recommend waiting until your child’s tooth has popped through the surface to begin sleep training, only because I don’t want your child to be miserable due to teething and then have to learn new skills the same night.
Instead, enjoy the cuddles, give it a few more nights, and then start the process of helping your little one get better sleep.
If you’re curious about how regressions and teething go hand-in-hand, I have a free regressions survival guide that explains the different regressions your child will experience. Hint, hint: many later regressions tend to happen around the time of teeth making their appearance. You can grab the guide here!