Brave Little Baby

Teething and Sleep

Teething is one of the topics that usually gets mentioned when a child has been having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep and might be a very valid reason for a few nights only

I had a sore tooth a while ago and it gave me a few sleepless nights! So teething definitely impacts sleep, and it can cause your child to be very irritable and cranky, even during the day. 

When does it start?

Most babies get their first tooth between 4 and 6 months, but some get theirs as early as 2 to 3 months and others don’t get theirs until a year! 

Between 2 ½ and 3 years, your toddler should be sporting 20 milk teeth!

How long should it last?

As a general rule, we always say that teething is at its worst when the teeth are coming in and breaking through. It should affect sleep for about 2-3 days. Except when they are coming in back to back or multiple at a time!

People often use teething as an excuse for a lot of other things. Rashes, diarrhea, and high fevers are not typical signs of teething, so if your baby has any of these, you should call your doctor. 

Too much drooling is also not always a sign that a baby is teething. Around 2 to 3 months, your baby’s third set of salivary glands will be fully developed. This will cause your baby to drool more, but they may not be teething yet. Developmentally your baby will want to put things in their mouth or suck their hands – so this is also not necessarily a sign of teething.

The time when babies are teething is also when their immune systems aren’t working as well and when they switch from passive to active immunity. Basically, this means that they are losing the antibodies they got from their mother while she was pregnant and maybe even while she was nursing. They now have to make their own antibodies.

This happens at a time when they are putting their hands in their mouths a lot more and when their gums are starting to erupt and are raw. So, this must be a time when there are more infections, from the upper respiratory to the middle ear to the urinary tract.

So, not only are your baby’s first teeth the most likely to cause problems, but they also come in when our children are younger, when their immune systems aren’t as strong and when their bodies are going through a lot of other changes. 

So what are the signs?

One of the biggest signs that a baby is teething is that he or she is fussier, irritable and wants to nurse more often. They may also have more trouble sleeping, since tooth pain can get worse when you lay down. At the site of the eruption on the gum, you may also see some redness and a tiny white spot.

Why is teething worse at night?

Your baby might be happily playing during the day, not seeming to be bothered too much by teething, and then at night all hell breaks loose! One of the most common reasons is that during the day they are distracted by toys and stimulation, eating and nursing frequently, and sucking on their fingers, hands, or toys which all relieve some of the pain.

At night when they are lying flat it causes increased pressure on the head which might cause more pain. It might also be due to lower cortisol levels which is an anti-inflammatory hormone.

What you can do to help:

  • Breastmilk/ formula popsicles, frozen fruits, or smoothie lollies
  • Extra sucking by breastfeeding or bottle feeding
  • Dummy use
  • Babywearing
  • Contact napping
  • Rubbing the gums with a clean finger or silicone brush
  • Extra hugs and cuddles
  • Pain medication based on your doctors recommendation

We do not recommend the use of amber necklaces as they pose a strangulation hazard. Also avoid the use of teething gels which contain benzocaine.

Science says that teething symptoms are minor and have more to do with discomfort than illness, so if your baby is sick, it’s likely that they are sick. That might need a whole different kind of treatment. 

If your baby has a fever or diarrhea, which can be very dangerous for babies and cause them to become dehydrated, you should see a doctor. 

Also, if they haven’t eaten in days or are very irritable every day, you should take them to the doctor. There could be something else going on that they can’t tell you about. And if it’s just a problem with sleeping, let us know and we’ll be happy to help.

For interest’s sake, a general chart of the appearance of baby teeth!

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