Sleep and Teething

Are your baby’s sleep and teething connected? Find out how to know if it’s teething causing your baby’s sleepless nights and what you can do to help.

Teething can have an effect on your baby’s sleep but…

Not to the extent that most people think. We as a society tend to place a lot of blame on teething. From causing everything from fussiness to fevers to trouble sleeping, we give teething a lot of power over what goes on in our baby’s everyday life.

The truth is, so much having a baby is a mystery that teething is an easy thing to point to when actually, we just don’t have all of the answers.

But there are actually many factors that can affect your baby’s ability to sleep well.

How do you know when teething is the cause?

The only sure way to know if your baby is getting a new tooth is actually to look inside their mouth. If you can see the tooth under the gum (or coming through) and the gum is swollen and red, then it’s a tooth.

Drooling, putting their hands in their mouth, and being fussy are well, developmentally normal baby behaviors. They’re not enough to tell us much of anything about the status of our little one’s chompers.

If you can see a tooth coming through, and they’re waking up crying intermittently during the night, it might be due to teething. However, the type of pain that would be great enough to cause sleep disruptions only lasts for between 24-48 hours, so the day the tooth actually erupts and maybe the day after.

And, many babies, will never even experience this. In fact, in one study, over 35% of teething infants showed no symptoms.

How to help your teething baby sleep

Teething toys: these can be helpful as both a way to help with discomfort during the day, as well as right before bed. Offer your baby a chilled teether to gnaw on during your bedtime routine.

Medication: ibuprofen is an excellent option if your baby is 6+ months old (with guidance from your pediatrician.) I like it better than Tylenol because it helps more with inflammation from teething.

When administering medication, you may hold your baby for 10-15 minutes while it takes effect

*I don’t recommend using oral teething gels as they have been found to sometimes numb the back of the throat causing your baby to have trouble swallowing.

If it’s not teething, what could be causing their sleep issues?

If your little one has been “teething” for weeks at a time, then it might be helpful to explore other possible causes.

There is a lot going on developmentally in the first two years of a child’s life. While getting teeth is one of those things, the development of other skills also has the potential to disrupt sleep. Learning to roll, sit, crawl, speak, or walk can all lead to sleep challenges. Also known as sleep regressions, these periods tend to last between 1-2 weeks but can persist for longer if there are new sleep props (rocking, feeding, holding, etc. ) introduced during this time.

Another major cause of sleepless nights is if your child develops an ear infection. Again, ear infections are super common during the first year or so. If your child is waking up screaming, then the first thing I would do is have their ears checked. Ear infections can present with or without a fever, and tend to come on very suddenly, especially at night.

If your little one is over 4 months old and is consistently waking up throughout the night, teething is likely not the reason. Getting to the real root of why they’re not sleeping is the first step in getting more rest for your family.

My proven three-step program can help you go from feeling like a walking zombie to well-rested and excited to wake up each morning.


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