Teething and sleep: Understanding the connection and how to help your little one.
Teething can get the blame for all sorts of behaviour, especially disrupted sleep. A good rule of thumb is that if your baby appears bothered by teeth in the day, then they will probably be bothered by their teeth at night. If not, you may want to consider another reason for their night wakings. Babies will often chew on their fingers and toys and may dribble more, which may cause a rash around the mouth. Sometimes one cheek is flushed, and they may be more fretful than usual. Some babies have a loss of appetite and the increase in saliva can cause more unusual and looser stools.
Teething can be uncomfortable and often babies have sore gums but teeth may not appear straight away. In the April 2000 issue of Paediatrics, it was found that statistically an increase in babies’ wakefulness and irritability occurred during the 4 days before the tooth emerged, the day it appeared and for the 3 following days.
So, how can you help your little one when it comes to teething and sleep?
Well, as parents we may come up with various strategies to try and solve any sleep problems that may occur during the teething period. This will often mean becoming inconsistent with nap times and bedtimes and going back to using ‘sleep props’. Such as rocking, feeding to sleep or getting to sleep in the car. Our advice would be not to go for that ‘quick fix’ as you’re likely to find that your little one wants you to continue with these even when they aren’t teething any more.
Of course, this does not mean you can’t comfort your child or help them to settle if they are upset but try to avoid reintroducing any ‘sleep props’. If your baby is upset in the night, go straight to them, offer comfort (and medicine if that is appropriate) but then allow them to drift back off to sleep by themselves.
It’s really important to keep nap time and bedtime consistent. Realistically, helping a little one with really good sleep skills to sleep once is unlikely to undo all of your good work but, if it happens for more than a night or two it is likely to become a ‘sleep prop’.
When they’re awake…
Try to distract your little one by comforting them or playing with them or gently rub their gums with a clean finger. A cold, wet muslin or a teething toy can really help sore gums. If they are over six months, you could try encouraging them to eat by baby led weaning and introduce finger foods for them to chew on such as toast or fruit.
Your pharmacist or your health visitor may be able to offer advice on various teething meds.
Some little ones are much more bothered by teeth than others but just make sure you’re giving comfort without helping them to sleep and their sleep will be back to normal in no time!
If, however, your little one did not have great sleep skills to begin with just get in touch and we can help you to help your little gain their all-important independent sleep skills!