As if sleep regressions, growth spurts, changing nap schedules, and feeding struggles aren’t enough – parents have to help a teething baby sleep, too! Babies can start teething between four and seven months after their birth, and can spend days in discomfort and pain. Of course, discomfort and pain usually translates to NO SLEEP for anyone. Teething can be a painful experience for everyone – crankiness, anger, lack of sleep… and then there are your baby’s symptoms! Is it teething? Is it an illness? Not only is it hard to tell the difference, but it can be extremely challenging for parents to know how to soothe their baby.
While you can’t fully eradicate your baby’s pain, there are some ways you can help to minimize the discomfort. We’ve compiled some helpful info on the signs and symptoms to identify the teething phase, as well as some tips on how you can offer comfort without undoing any sleep training progress you’ve made.
Signs a Baby is Teething
Red & swollen gums
While you may think the pain your baby is experiencing is due to the teeth piercing through the gum, it is actually the gums moving out of the way for the teeth to make their debut. While it is beneficial that there is no bleeding involved, the gums will still appear red and swollen, and your little one will be experiencing a very uncomfortable burning sensation.
Biting & sucking
Gum pain can be alleviated by applying pressure on the area. Hence why with teething, babies' natural instinct for biting appears. They will bite and chew on whatever they can find to suppress the pain. Your baby may chew on hands, toys, or – if you’re breastfeeding – on you!
Teething makes babies drool more than usual, so if you notice excessive drooling, chances are your baby is teething. Excess saliva in the form of drool can be irritating to the face and neck, so make sure to gently wipe away the drool to lower your baby’s chances of getting a rash.
The pain from teething puts babies in a cranky mood. Expect your little one to be fussy and irritated during the teething phase. Gaining teeth isn't pleasant, so you can’t blame your little one for being a little grumpier as a result.
Do babies sleep more when teething?... Nope! Unfortunately, baby teething and sleep do not go hand in hand easily. The discomfort babies face may prevent them from being able to sleep peacefully, and you may notice your child periodically waking up in the middle of the night or having difficulty going to sleep.
Loss of Appetite
Tender gums make it tough to nurse and eat comfortably. The suction from nursing can sometimes cause a baby’s sore gums to feel worse, causing a loss of appetite. Mouth pain might also make chomping on food less appealing.
Cheek rubbing or ear pulling
You may notice your child pulling his ears or furiously rubbing his cheeks. This could happen as a result of shared nerve pathways in the cheeks and ears. However, excessive ear pulling could also indicate an ear infection, so keep an eye out.
Rise in body temperature
A baby that is teething may have an elevated body temperature that is commonly referred to as “teething fever.” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has concluded that a baby’s body temperature may rise slightly during this time but typically will not reach the level of a true fever. According to the AAP, temperatures of 100.4°F (38°C) or above are not associated with teething and may be a sign of an illness or infection. If you are concerned about your child’s temperature or if they have other symptoms, talk to your child’s doctor about other possible conditions that may require treatment.
How Long Does Teething Last?
According to the AAP, the majority of infants will start to develop teeth during the first 6-12 months of life and have all of their baby teeth by age 3. However, teething happens on-and-off within those months. Most kids show no pain during the day. Teething is usually just an annoyance: A bit of throbbing that is easy to ignore during the day, but a bit more bothersome when lying flat in a dark, quiet room.
It is hard to say how long teething pain lasts. One baby might feel the pain for several days before the teeth actually come through, while another may feel the pain once the teeth have formed in the gums and are making their way out. The intensity of pain may differ from one baby to another, but the pain mostly goes away once the tooth has grown out of the gums. While your baby’s front teeth come up in the first year, the back set of molars appear after the first year, so there is a period of relief from teething stress in that time.
How to Help a Teething Baby
Rubber or plastic teething toys that your child can chew on may help by providing counter-pressure against the erupting tooth. You can also chill them in the refrigerator before giving to your baby. Cold desensitizes nerves and reduces pain. You don’t need high-tech teethers either - a “homemade” option can work wonders, too! Just use a damp, frozen washcloth to help numb the area, reducing aches and inflammation.
Remember, always be present to supervise your baby when chewing something. Teething toys are designed to be chewed and not swallowed, so keep an eye on your baby.
Massage the gums
Using a clean finger or knuckle, you can gently massage the sore areas of your baby’s gums. This will ease the pain and help put your baby to sleep. If he/she wakes up in the middle of the night, you can massage the gums again. As you massage your baby’s gums, you will be able to feel where the teeth are coming in. Focus on massaging these areas, in particular.
Eating cold foods can soothe pain in the gums, while also filling the stomach to induce sleep. Babies who are already eating solid food may find relief from gnawing on chilled fruits or veggies such as apples, cucumber, or carrots. For younger babies, cold yogurt is a great chilled food. Make sure to give your baby age-appropriate food that can be chewed properly. An option here would be to buy a mesh feeding bag. This is used to start young babies on solid foods safely, without the risk of swallowing too big a piece, and choking.
Let them suck
Sucking is comforting for babies and has been shown in research to help reduce pain. Breastfeeding, drinking from a bottle, or sucking on a pacifier are all great tools that should be offered frequently during this time.
When breastfeeding, your baby may try to gnaw on your nipples and hurt you. To prevent this, massage your baby’s gums prior to feeding, or try inserting your finger in between your breast and baby’s mouth to try and prevent the pinch.
Cuddle and bond
There will be times when your baby will reject all of your offerings. This is when a soothing cuddle is the best therapy you can give. Nothing reassures children more than being comforted by loved ones. Providing lots of hugs, cuddles, and kind words can go a long way in helping children cope with discomfort.
This should be your last resort if you’ve tried the other methods, without any positive result. While pain-killers can help alleviate your baby’s pain and put him to sleep, you should always consult your doctor before resorting to medication. Painkillers such as Ibuprofen have special, diluted formulas made particularly for children and babies.
Do not buy over-the-counter pharmaceutical products for this. Do not use adult painkillers. Oral gels and numbing agents containing belladonna, benzocaine, and lidocaine have been found to be unsafe and should not be used. If you have questions or concerns about what remedies are safe, be sure to consult with your Pediatrician.
How to Soothe a Teething Baby at Night
Some parents may find their baby seems fine during the day, only to face a long night of crying and a worsening of symptoms at night. Some pediatricians believe this is because children have fewer distractions at night, are exhausted, and have less ability to cope with their pain. Here are a few tips to help teething baby sleep.
Make sure you check the room temperature before putting your baby to sleep, and dress your infant appropriately. Teething can sometimes mildly raise your baby’s body temperature, so ensure the nursery remains at an ideal temperature (between 64 to 68 degrees is recommended).
When dressing your baby for sleep, make sure they are in breathable fabrics and not in too many layers that may overheat. Woolino pajamas and sleep bags are made of super-fine merino wool for natural temperature regulation year-round. Never worry if your baby is too hot or too cold. The merino wool is breathable and moisture-wicking to keep them comfortable all night long. The exceptional absorption of merino wool also helps keep baby dry when drooling is inevitable.
Continue sleep training
When babies have a set pattern of sleep, their bodies adjust accordingly. A bed-time routine automatically makes them sleepy as bedtime approaches, as it subconsciously signals that it is time to sleep when certain activities are performed in a set sequence, for a period of time. The routine could include a warm bath, changing into Woolino pajamas and sleep sack, reading a short story, singing to your baby, or rocking him in your arms until he falls asleep.
Is your teething baby not sleeping? Don’t make teething an excuse for putting off sleep training, or for suffering through interrupted sleep. Remember, your child will be teething during their first 2-3 years – so if you wait until teething is over to start working on sleep, you’ll be waiting forever!! Pediatricians agree that the best way to help little ones get the rest they need is to maintain a regular schedule, have a predictable bedtime routine, and if all else fails… give it time.