Is there a connection between baby teething and sleep? Here’s the answer to that question, as well as more information about how to help ease the pain and continue with your sleep training routine.
Some time ago, I had a case with a mother who had just started sleep training her baby. For two or three days, everything went smoothly for her and her partner. Her baby started falling asleep on his own and waking up fewer times at night.
But on the fourth day, he began waking up at night, screaming and chewing on his hands. His teeth were slowly coming out.
And he’s not the only one. All babies are born with around 20 teeth under the gums at birth. In a short time, all of these teeth have to come out by the age of 3. That’s a great deal of pressure for them, which can, in turn, disrupt their sleep and make them crankier than before.
So, if teething has disrupted your sleep training, I want to offer a few tips for how to relieve your little one’s sore gums and stick to your sleep routine.
How do you know if your baby is teething?
The majority of babies start teething between four and seven months old.
Although the symptoms can vary from a baby to a baby, the most common include:
- Chewing on hard things.
- Swollen gums.
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns.
Call your pediatrician if your baby is experiencing high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, or cough.
How do you soothe a teething baby?
Massage your baby’s gums.
Sometimes, rubbing your little one’s gums with a clean finger or wet gauze can help. Massaging their gums can help relieve the pressure and the baby’s feelings of discomfort.
Keep it cool.
In some cases, something cold in your baby’s mouth can help. Try giving him a chilled pacifier, spoon, cold washcloth, or a solid refrigerated teething toy or ring.
Try an over-the-counter medication.
If you see that your baby is extremely irritated and in pain, call your pediatrician. They might recommend getting an over-the-counter remedy such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Tips to keep your sleep training routine on track
Many parents often wonder if baby teething and sleep are interconnected.
One study that covered a whopping 475 tooth eruptions found that the most common complaint during teething was wakefulness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that baby teething often is blamed for symptoms such as changes in sleep and eating patterns.
The Academy further warns parents not to end or change their baby’s sleep routine. Not sticking to your sleep training routine can make the problem worse for your child.
In return, they suggest a few at-home methods for keeping the regular bedtime routine and keeping the baby comfortable at the same time.
Stick to your routine.
Establishing and maintaining a bedtime routine can help your baby sleep more easily and stay asleep for a longer time. It can also lead to fewer sleep problems in the future.
Every child is unique and will require a different bedtime routine. Over time, their bodies get used to a specific bedtime routine, and they become more sleepy as bedtime approaches.
For example, if you have begun a bedtime routine that involves a warm bath, feeding, and a massage, stick to that routine even when your child is teething.
Be consistent and don’t give up, even when it seems tough. Consistency and follow-through are critical ingredients for success.
Tip: Get a baby sound machine to encourage more peaceful sleep. These machines can soothe your baby and drown out annoying sounds that might prevent your infant from getting high-quality sleep.
Give extra comfort without undoing your progress.
To avoid losing the progress you’ve made, try to figure out how to provide comfort and continue with the routine. Consider reinforcing the habit of falling asleep in the crib, instead of bringing your baby to bed with you.
When he wakes up cranky, pick him up and soothe him until he’s calm, and put him down to his crib again so that he falls asleep on his own.
Of course, one or two nights of co-sleeping when your baby is in great pain won’t do much harm, but be careful not to do it every night for a week or more.
Give him medication before sleep.
If you talked to your pediatrician and they gave you the green light for over-the-counter medication, then you’re safe to give it to your child.
The best time to give him the dose is right after the bedtime feeding. The medication usually lasts for about 4 to six hours, so that should be enough for you and your baby to get your much-needed rest.
Avoid giving benzocaine to your baby. Teething gels and liquids that contain the ingredient have now been discouraged for babies under two years old by the FDA.
Baby experts also don’t recommend teething necklaces. Necklaces pose the risk of choking and strangling.
Baby teething and sleep is an issue for many parents. They start waking up more often at night, cry more intensely, and become crankier than before.
But even though teething can make things slightly more challenging, I recommend that you keep on sleep training, especially if your child is a poor sleeper.
Surely, there will be nights that the pressure will be so intense that you’ll have to co-sleep with your baby for a night or two. But generally, don’t let baby teething prevent you from teaching your child how to sleep independently.
There will always be challenges along the way and if you put your sleep training efforts on hold for all of them, you’ll never succeed in successfully sleep training your baby.
Relieve your baby’s pain using massages and over-the-counter medication, while also continuing with your sleep training efforts to help them learn to sleep better.