Everything you need to know about teething and sleep
If you’re around parents with small children enough, you’re going to hear the word teething come up. A lot. Teething is one of the biggest – and not to mention divisive – topics that will come up when you have babies. There are varying opinions around how much it affects babies, what remedies work and especially whether or not it affects their sleep.
When do babies start teething?
Well, unfortunately, the answer isn’t so simple. It will vary for every baby, and you won’t know for sure until you see that first tooth poke through their little gums.
Typically though, around 4-7 months you’ll start to notice your baby become extra fussy, crying more, red cheeks, dribbling, chewing on their hands (or anything they can get their hands on), refusing food and maybe even the dreaded nighttime waking.
And we’re sorry to say, they often intensify with each one – especially those big molars at the back.
What are the signs of teething?
Every baby will react to teething differently, as mentioned above, some typical signs of teething include becoming extra fussy, crying more, red cheeks, dribbling, chewing on their hands (or anything they can get their hands on), refusing food and maybe even the dreaded nighttime waking.
Swollen gums, refusing food or milk, soft or “acidic” stools and excessive nappy rash can also be signs of teething.
You’ll figure out pretty quickly how it affects your own baby and start to see patterns emerging with each tooth.
Does teething affect sleep?
This is another difficult one to answer and every expert and every parent will tell you something different.
Try and stick with their routine as much as possible, give them extra cuddles or milk where needed but try to avoid letting any bad habits creep in. Generally, if their sleep is disrupted for more than a few days at a time then you can assume it could be something else keeping them awake.
As parents, we like to jump straight to teething as the bad guy when it comes to our baby’s sleep. But if your baby is generally happy during the day and only really unsettled at night then it’s probably not the teething keeping them awake. Look at how they are being put down for their sleep and if there are any other sleep associations that may be causing them to wake or stopping them from falling back to sleep.
How to relieve pain associated with teething?
Each child will find comfort and relief from teething in different ways. For some, you will barely notice a change, or simply providing some extra cuddles and attention may be enough.
Others find cold items to chew on, massaging the gums, teething rings or rusks may work. If these fail and your child is still upset, speak with your doctor or pharmacist about using pain relief medication or oral teething gels.
And never underestimate the good old power of distraction. A few extra games and toys, books or stories or even a walk outside to take their mind off things often works a treat!
How long does teething last?
Teething generally lasts until around 2-2.5 years of age when they get their second molars. It will of course not be constant during this time, it should typically last a few days to a week per tooth as a rough guide.
You should then get some relief from anything to do with teeth until your child begins to lose their baby teeth (or primary teeth) around the age of 6. They can continue losing these teeth until around the age of 12.
Caring for your baby’s teeth
As soon as your baby pops a tooth you should start “brushing” their teeth – or tooth. It’s good to get into the habit early to get your baby familiar with doing it daily. It can also be soothing on their gums if they are sore and swollen. Make sure you use an age-appropriate toothbrush and toothpaste specifically for babies that are gentle on their gums and only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
Don’t be worried if your little one doesn’t have teeth yet, some babies don’t pop their first chomper until well after their first birthday. Like everything, they will get there in their own time. But thankfully by around two, they should have a full set of teeth and those horrible teething days will be behind you.