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Is Teething the Problem?



Nearly every family I talk to offer some information about their child's teething as a reason why they aren't sleeping well. 


So, is teething the problem?


Some Teething Basics


Babies begin teething most typically between 4-8 months and will continue to teeth (for their first set!) until about 2-3 years old. Some babies begin teething earlier and some babies are even born with teeth!


Many parents report fussy, interrupted sleep, red cheeks, fever, and diarrhea leading up to the eruption of a tooth.


The actual cutting of a tooth takes about a day or two. You will know when your child is close to having a new tooth break through when their gums are very red and swollen and you can see the white little pearl of a tooth juuuust under the surface. 


When babies are laid down to sleep, the horizontal position places more gravitational pressure on the gums thus causing a bit more pain and probably more wakings or night time struggle. 


So, yes. Teething can cause sleep disruption! And, if babies teeth for nearly 2 years there can be plenty of sleep disruption due to teething. 


HOWEVER...the bigger question I would ask you is this… did your baby know how to fall asleep independently before teething started AND have you changed your response pattern to your child when they are teething?


If the answer is YES to either of these then while teething maybe the cause of sleep disruption it is not the reason your child is having consistent sleep trouble. In situations where the child never really slept well or was using a sleep prop to get to sleep, teething exacerbated the problem but is not the cause of the problem. This was the situation with my first born - I swear it took her 6 weeks to cut a tooth and all her sleep challenges were due to teething (ahhh, if I knew then what I know now!).



Can you sleep train while your baby is teething?


Oh man, I get asked some version of this question on nearly every call I have with families. This is a good question since nearly all the children I work with are of teething age. Did you know that teething lasts about 2-3 years from when a baby cuts their first tooth until they get their final molars. Like sleep training, teething is a PROCESS!


The simple answer to this question is  … YES. Yes, you can sleep train even when your baby is teething. 



The reason is this: If we pressed pause or used teething as a reason why our baby doesn’t sleep well we would be pausing and making this excuse for nearly 2-3 years (Hi, it’s me - I did this with my first born). Most families I talk to can’t wait that long to start to get good sleep!



Signs your Baby is Teething


The teething process cumulatively takes 2-3 years, for each individual tooth it takes about 10 days for the tooth to be pushed up, and only about a day or so to actually cut through the gum.


There is a lot of back and forth about the signs of teething - some people will name the following, others will not. I have come to learn that each child has their own teething symptoms just like they have their own sleepy signals. Generally, however, the following offers a list of possible signs of teething. Your child may exhibit one, all, or none of these signs and still be teething:


  • Increased fussiness 

  • Interrupted sleep

  • Red cheeks

  • Elevated temperature

  • Diarrhea

  • Excessive drooling

  • Rubbing/Pulling their ears


How to help your baby when they are teething: 


Teething is normal and natural. While there is nothing we can do do speed up the process, we can make the pain a bit less. When you notice your child having possible signs of teething, try these tips to make them more comfortable:



  • Offer them plenty of opportunity to bite and give pressure to the part of the gum where the tooth is budding.

  • Offer medication (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) as approved by your doctor and using the correct dosage (PRO TIP: Time your child’s final dose to be about 30 minutes before bedtime). Note that oral numbing gels are not safe options and should not be used. 

  • Establish a consistent response when they need soothing over night.



Conclusion


In most cases, sleep training, even during teething, can help you better understand your child’s needs in terms of sleep and can help you manage their needs when it comes to teething a bit better! Predictability of how you respond to your child is important to help them get through any discomfort they may be feeling and this is what sleep training can offer you and them! For any specific concerns about your child's teeth or teething process, contact your child's doctor or pediatric dentist.


If you’re not sure if your child’s sleep troubles are due to teething or not, let’s connect so we can talk it out! I am able to identify the root cause of sleep troubles usually within a free 15 minute evaluation call - schedule yours today and you can be on your way to better sleep within a few weeks!

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