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Teething and Sleep: The Real Deal

Teething And Sleep: The Real Deal

Is your baby acting cranky? Fussier than normal? Teething and sleep schedule falling to pieces? Whenever that happened with my little one, my go-to answer was always “Oh, blame the teeth!” and I’m guessing you might be the same.

But what if we can’t entirely blame the teething for a disrupted sleep schedule?

First off, I’ll be honest with you. I was that mom who—when my baby was only 2 months old—thought she was getting her first tooth just because she was drooling and acting so cranky. (Yes, I was disappointed to discover that was definitely not the case, and that her first tooth wouldn’t sprout until several months later.)

Of course, teething is a very real thing, but guess what? Your baby will be growing new, primary teeth from 3 months all the way up to 3 years when all 20 primary teeth come in. Essentially, this means we can’t entirely blame teeth for your baby’s sleep debt. It also shows that we can’t wait to work on sleep training (or correcting) until a tooth pops up since many, many more teeth are following right behind.

What’s also confusing is that at every developmental comes changes that also appear as a sleep regression.  It’s hard to really know what’s teething, a regression or just a cranky overtired baby?  Blaming teeth was my go-to answer!

Okay, so where does this fussiness come in and why is my baby on a wacko sleep schedule?

Well, much like growing pains of any sort, teeth coming in can be pretty darn uncomfortable, and maybe even slightly painful, for your baby. But rest assured, according to pediatric and newborn hospitalist Dr. Jones, babies generally aren’t experiencing a significant, excruciating amount of pain, even though it might sound that way. Why? Because gums move out of the way when a tooth pops through, so there’s no bleeding or real injury to your baby’s mouth.

 

teething and sleep: Baby teething chart

Teeth will continue to come in! Don’t blame everything on teeth.

 

Is there any way to soothe this situation and get my baby back to a normal sleep schedule? There are generally four golden rules to follow when you’re dealing with a fussy, sleep-deprived baby who’s having trouble accepting their new teeth:

  1. Keep doing what you’re doing. Even though this can be a chaotic time in your young one’s life, power through it! There’s no time to wait for all his teeth to come in (remember, it can take up to 3 years), so it’s best to continue with your sleep training.
  2. Soothe your little one’s gums. To help your baby feel more comfortable, try giving her a cold—NEVER frozen—washcloth or chilled teething ring to chew on. Or, try rubbing her gums with a clean finger or wet gauze pad. Have an extra cranky baby? Give her a little Tylenol right before bed, to help her sleep more comfortably through the night.
  3. Do A Reality Check. If your baby doesn’t know how to fall asleep independently and you’re helping your baby get to sleep (by rocking, nursing, bottle, etc.) – try to limit the mistakes first-time moms make.
  4. Don’t settle back into old habits. I understand it’s going to be difficult to not go immediately back to some of the things that you were doing before you started sleep training, especially when you have a fussy baby on your hands, and you just want to make all their pain go away. But try to remember the big picture and stick to methods that teach your baby independent skills.

While teething is uncomfortable for your baby—and probably uncomfortable for you to watch and try to deal with—it does only last for a short period of time. Don’t undo all the hard work you’ve put in these past few months because of a few frustrating weeks. Just try and soothe your baby’s discomfort, stick to their sleep schedule, and eventually, you’ll come out the other end of these trying teething times.

Do you have a teething baby? Share your best teething story in the comments below.

Susie Parker

Susie Parker is founder of Sleep Baby Love and a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute. When Susie's not ridding the world of sleepless families, she loves spending time with her two girls that have given her a ton of real world sleep experience head on.

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