teething pic

Baby Sleep – Teething

It so often happens that just when a baby starts to sleep through the night, their sleep gets disrupted by teething. If your baby has teething pain during the night, they will need your care and attention. This doesn’t mean that any sleep progress they have made has to go out of the window.

For most babies, this period of extra need is temporary. You should not feel bad about giving them more attention if they are poorly at night. Realistically, you have little choice in the matter! Babies will not sleep if left in discomfort, and leaving them to cry is not only unkind but also unsafe. It could also lead to them developing an unhappy association with the cot.

Teething is a natural process and not an illness but it can often cause pain and general discomfort. Babies typically cut their first tooth at around 6 months old, but for some, this might not happen until much later. Some babies cut their teeth earlier than this, and some are even born with some teeth.

Teething symptoms

If you are not sure whether your baby is teething, the symptoms are:

  • Red and sore-looking gums.
  • Wanting to chew on everything.
  • Dribbling & drooling.
  • Red cheeks
  • Diarrhoea/loose stools
  • Ear pulling
  • Blocked nose
  • Being generally quite irritable or teary.

Please note that some of these symptoms can be indicators of more serious illnesses, so if your baby has a temperature [above 38C or 100F] or seems very unwell or has a different cry, you should always seek medical advice. 

Not all babies suffer during teething, but many do, and the discomfort of teething is usually much worse during the night when they are laying flat and not chewing or swallowing as much as they do during the day. 

How to help

During the day

Give them lots of opportunities to bite and chew. If they are old enough, encourage them with finger foods. Try crusty bread, bagel and toast which has been allowed to cool and go soft but tough.

Because cold has a numbing effect, keep a teething ring as well as whole peeled or scrubbed carrots in the fridge [never the freezer!] for them to chew on. 

Encourage them to put safe toys etc. into their mouths, as any kind of biting is helpful with teething. 

When babies are teething they tend to drool and this often leads to the skin around the chin and neck becoming very chapped and sore. To help with this, change bibs frequently, or use soft dry muslin cloths. 

After meals and drinks use warm water and soft dry cotton cloths to clean them rather than wipes that might sting. 

Don’t forget to clean and dry the soft skin folds under the chin and neck. Often food and moisture can easily become trapped here. Use a gentle barrier cream here to protect them even further.

Pulling at their ears is often a sign of discomfort and inflammation within the ear. This is common during teething, but to be safe, you will need to visit your GP surgery team. They will establish the cause of the pain and recommend a suitable painkiller if needed.

Babies often have loose bowel movements when they are teething, so make sure that you check and change them regularly. If their bottom gets sore, use plain water for cleaning and a barrier cream.

At bedtime

If your baby is unwell at bedtime, try to follow your normal bedtime routine as closely as possible. Be aware that they may be irritated at being handled. Before bath time give a dose of infant Paracetamol or Ibuprofen if they need it for pain. These medicines will also help to lower your baby’s temperature.

Many parents prefer to give Ibuprofen at bedtime, as it is long-acting but needs to be taken when there is something in baby’s tummy. Then if a second dose of painkiller is needed during the night; give Paracetamol, which is gentler on an emptier stomach. 

Neither Ibuprofen or Paracetamol are sedatives.

If you’re not 100% sure and confident about giving medicine to your baby, speak with a pharmacist, doctor or health visitor.

After bath time, offer a bedtime feed but do not be too worried if your baby refuses it or doesn’t take it all. If they are poorly, they are unlikely to wake up hungry – especially if they are over 6 months old. 

If your baby usually self-settles, you should allow them to go to sleep without help, as usual. Rocking them to sleep when they don’t really need it can become a difficult habit to break once they are better. 

However, if they do need extra cuddles, don’t hold back!

During the night

If your baby wakes in the night and is clearly unwell, you should go to them and pick them up and offer a drink of water [not milk if they’ve already dropped their night feeds.]

This helps to unblock the nose and the tiny tubes connecting the back of the nose to the ears and makes them feel more comfortable. 

If they carry on crying, and/or feel hot, offer a dose of an infant painkiller if it’s needed. If the teething pain has been severe enough to wake them up, gels or granules may not always help.

After your intervention, you can then comfort them until they are calm and settled then put them back in their cot. Try to avoid bringing your baby into bed with you if they are poorly. If you need to stay close, it is much safer for you to go and sleep in their bedroom instead. 

It usually takes two or three consecutive nights of your baby coming into your bed for it to become a habit.

It’s fine to relax the usual rules around bedtime and during the night when babies are teething. As soon as they are better, however, you need to allow them to self-settle again at the start of the night.

Draw back on any new nighttime rituals which may have been needed during teething, but aren’t needed now.

Further help

If you’re struggling with teething or any other sleep-related problem, I am here to help you.

My books

My bestselling books give you the tools to help your baby and yourself get a good night’s sleep. They are full of expert, practical advice and case studies. Each book teaches you to create your baby or child’s personal sleep plan and is written in a clear and accessible style.

They are available in all formats from Amazon and other booksellers.

My Courses

My courses are a mix of video, graphics and easy-to-read text. They are a great way to access my expert help – from your phone, tablet or laptop. The courses have no expiry date and are updated frequently. The Gentle Sleep Course is very comprehensive, easy to dip in and out of and is very empowering.

The Early Waking Course is concise and accessible – it takes around an hour to complete and it may be the best hour you’ve ever spent!

Both of the courses contain helpful schedules for day and night time sleep.

My 1:1 Consultations

If you choose to book a one-to-one consultation with me, you will receive my expert advice along with an individual sleep plan for your child. You will be in very safe, experienced hands and I treat every parent and child with kindness. As a qualified health professional, I can help families with medical and developmental issues. My success rate is outstanding, with over 15,000 face-to-face sleep consultations with families from all over the world.

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