It can be hard to work out when to start improving your little ones sleep if they struggling with their teeth, but teething should only cause few nights disruption while the tooth comes through so although you would probably want to wait until the few bad teething nights are over you shouldn’t have to wait long before you can improve your baby’s sleep. If your little one is in a bad pattern of waking repeatedly and it’s been going on for over a week and you can’t see teeth coming through then have a think about other problems that could be causing your little one to wake, for example sleep regressions, which might be disturbing sleep too.
It’s important to understand what to expect from teething, which signs and indicators are due to teething and which are actually caused by other things.
When your baby is 3-4 months old, two things happen. The first is that their saliva glands start working and they tend to dribble constantly. The second is that they develop hand-eye coordination which enables them to put their hands and anything else you give them into their mouths. Babies this age tend to be in the oral discovery stage of development and are learning through their senses, and mouthing and chewing everything they can get their hands on is a good way of finding out about the world around them.
Unfortunately, these changes are what we look for when we’re trying to work out if our babies are teething. Some parents say to me that their baby has been teething for months, and yet no teeth have come through. In this case, it is probably not teeth that are causing the baby’s behaviour but just normal development. Most babies start to develop teeth between 6 and 12 months.
Most babies sleep a lot better throughout teething once they know how to self settle to sleep. We want to minimise your baby’s discomfort and at the same time make sure you don’t get into bad habits during teething that cause your little one to start to wake more frequently and cause longer term sleep disruption. By which I mean that you start by soothing your baby to sleep during teething and before you know it the teething is over but you’re still there soothing them for ages as your baby has decided that this is the way forward!
How do you tell if your little one is actually teething? Here’s is a teething checklist of things to look out for:
- If they will let you have a look in their mouth you might be able to actually see that the gum is sore and red in that area.
- One of your baby’s cheeks might be red or flushed.
- They might rub or pull at their ear.
- They might dribble more than usual.
- They are chewing on things more than usual.
- They might be more unhappy than usual.
When your baby does start to teeth it can cause sleepless nights, and some babies experience a sore gum where the tooth is coming through, a red or flushed cheek, dribbling more than usual or they might be more unhappy than usual. Some people report runny nappies or a slight temperature. It’s worth remembering that if your baby has a ‘true’ temperature (over 37.5C or 99.5F) then it is not associated with teething and could be a sign of an illness or infection that may need treatment.
If your baby suffers with their teeth, and some babies do more than others, then it’s worth waiting for a few days until the tooth has broken through the gum, and you can see that they are happier. But if your babies teething feels like it’s going on forever, they are probably not teething after all and you can go ahead with starting on the path to a good nights sleep.