Truly, teething can be a tough issue for parents to deal with. While some babies and toddlers seem to just sail through the teething process with minimal pain and fuss, other babies spend days in discomfort and pain. And, of course, discomfort and pain usually translates to NO SLEEP FOR ANYONE.
No wonder, then, that we get so many questions about how to manage teething and sleep disturbances in our Helpdesk!
Not to worry, though – you don’t have to suffer through teething drama alone. Today, we’re looking at 3 tips to help manage your baby’s teething discomfort and sleep disturbances, as well as info on how you can offer comfort without undoing any sleep training progress you’ve made up to this point.
Baby Teething Symptoms
First, though, let’s examine some common teething symptoms, so that you can watch for signs of teething and be proactive. Teething symptoms include the following:
- Teething rash (a chapped, red chin from drool, and possibly a diaper rash due to watery stools from swallowing so much extra saliva)
- Diarrhea (swallowing extra saliva can make your baby’s poop runnier than usual)
- Refusal to feed (tender gums make it tough to nurse and eat comfortably)
- Biting (your baby may chew on hands, toys, or – if you’re breastfeeding – on you!)
- Ear-pulling and/or cheek-rubbing
- Increased night waking
- More fussing/crying than usual
Baby Teething and Sleep: 3 Tips To Comfort Your Baby and Promote Sleep
If your baby is teething, and is really uncomfortable, it will almost certainly mess with his usual sleep schedule, at least for a bit. Fortunately, there are ways you can provide comfort while still preserving good sleep habits, and ensuring you don’t inadvertently help your baby form new sleep associations.
- Try teething objects during non-sleep times to alleviate pain. There are zillions of teething toys and rings out there, that can help minimize some of your child’s pain. Many of them are designed to be refrigerated or frozen – the added cold can help numb your kiddo’s gums. But remember, you don’t have to be high-tech with your teething tools…a “homemade” option, like a frozen washcloth, can work wonders, too!
- Use Tylenol or Ibuprofen for sleep times, to promote longer sleep. Teething toys won’t exactly work during times when your child is sleeping (or, rather, is supposed to be sleeping!). If the pain is bad, and is keeping your child awake, then try offering medicine like Tylenol or Ibuprofen to help alleviate your little one’s discomfort. Just be sure to check with your healthcare provider before offering any medication. You may want to try and time up when you offer medicine with when you know your baby or toddler will need to feed. So, for example, try offering a dose of medicine right after the bedtime feeding – the medication will last 4-6 hours, and that will maximize the chances that your baby will give you a good, long stretch of sleep at the start of the night. Also – you may want to avoid benzocaine! That’s the ingredient found in Baby Orajel, and it’s not been proven safe for little ones.
- Provide comfort without undoing progress. Figure out how you can provide comfort without creating new “bad” sleep habits, or undoing sleep training progress. For instance, if you want to reinforce the habit of sleeping in the crib, avoid bringing your baby into bed with you during bouts of teething pain – instead, hold your baby until she’s calm, but put her back down in her crib to fall back to sleep. You will definitely want to comfort your baby during teething pain, and when the pain is at its worst, you may need to have a night or two when you break all your “rules”, but do try to avoid doing anything that you don’t want to do long-term. One night of co-sleeping for comfort won’t hurt, but if you do it every night for two weeks, then you’ve most likely just created a brand-new expectation for your little one.
Here’s a look at how Nicole handled teething and sleep with her boys:
“My plan with my first son was that if he was extra fussy during the day, I’d give him ibuprofen (and Orajel which is now a no-no) at bedtime. If he had any night wakings 6+ hours (give or take 1 hour) after the medication, I’d tend to him with another dose and then stay with him for 30 minutes until it kicked in and then put him back down. It was usually only about 2-4 days of super fussy times that he needed extra soothing until the tooth popped through. Other times, I’d have to be more stringent on my nighttime visits, because of the problems it would create.”
Baby Teething and Sleep Training
So, what should you do if your child suddenly starts teething during sleep training? We recommend that you keep on sleep training. Now, this is a general recommendation – there are times when teething discomfort may be so intense that you have to just suspend your efforts for a night or two. But in general, we recommend that you don’t stop sleep training due to teething. There will ALWAYS be “issues” that crop up, which will impact your baby’s sleep, and if you were to stop for all of them, you may never get around to teaching your baby better sleep habits! While you might need to moderate your sleep training efforts a bit, and will definitely need to adjust your expectations during teething, it’s usually best to stick with sleep coaching.
We’d also recommend that you don’t make teething an excuse for putting off sleep training, or for suffering through interrupted sleep. Remember, your child will teethe for a solid 2-3 years – so if you wait until teething is over to start working on sleep, you’ll be waiting forever!! You will no doubt always be able to find a reason to avoid or delay sleep coaching, but if your little one’s sleep is truly problematic, then it’s usually best to just start sleep training, and deal with any speed bumps like teething as they crop up. We know that when it comes to sleep training, the first step is usually the hardest to take – but once you take it, you’ll be well on your way to better sleep!
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Baby Teething Doesn’t Have To Ruin Sleep: Let Us Help!
Teething can be a tough thing to handle when you’re also trying to sleep train – that’s why many parents choose to sleep train with the help of The Baby Sleep Site®‘s team of expert sleep consultants! When you purchase a sleep consultation package with us, you get access to your own consultant, as well as your very own Personalized Sleep Plan™, created just for you! What’s more, your consultant will walk you through each step of implementing your plan and will be available to answer your follow-up questions.
Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to log in and get started right away!
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Newborns really can sleep long stretches during the day and at night – you simply have to use appropriate, gentle techniques to get there! Our newborn e-book, Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep, outlines a number of gentle, baby-centered ways you can encourage better sleep from your newborn. Learn how to create sleep-inducing routines and schedules, how to bond and communicate with your newborn, and more!
Persistent nighttime struggles demand a more intensive approach. Check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
For those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.
If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.