Teething Symptoms – How Can I Keep Sleep On Track?

8 Aug 2022

A teething baby is just hard! Especially for your baby but also for you as a parent. Not only is your baby in discomfort with teething symptoms, we find it stressful seeing them upset and not knowing what to do for the best.

But when does teething start?

Whilst baby teeth may not show through for a couple of months into teething, signs of teething can start as early as 3 or 4 months as your baby’s gums start preparing for their baby teeth to push through.

Baby teething symptoms can actually be one of the many contributors of the 4 month sleep regression.

Whilst some babies start teething as early as 3 or 4 months, they commonly start around 6 months.

Can baby teething symptoms last months?

Before I was a Dad, I thought babies teething was just for a short period of time. I’d heard from parents about how hard teething symptoms could be but I assumed it came and went whilst a tooth was pushing through and that was it until the next one and the next one, until eventually my son would have a string of pearly whites to be proud of. How wrong was I?!

Basically I found that once a baby starts teething, they will be going through up and down spells with it for the next couple of years until all of the baby teeth are through.

What are the signs of a teething baby?

There are a number of common teething signs that will let you know your baby’s teeth are pushing hard:

  • Excessive drooling

  • They may have a mild temperature

  • They will likely have a runny nose

  • Their cheek or cheeks are flushed

  • They want to chew on everything in sight

 

Other symptoms which can show signs of teething:

  • Looser stools

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fussy or irritable mood

As you can see, many symptoms of teething show the same signs and symptoms of a common cold.

If they show any signs of a rash or fever, or diarrhoea alongside these teething symptoms then it might be something else and you should contact your child’s GP or seek professional medical advice.

Do teething symptoms get worse at night?

When a baby is teething, most babies’ pain will worsen at night. Just like when babies (or adults) are sick, they have less reserves at night to deal with the pain of their teeth pushing through. Most babies will wake a little more frequently in the night when they have teething pain, though many continue sleeping through at night.

What order do baby teeth appear in?

Here’s a rough guide to how babies’ teeth usually emerge:

  • bottom incisors (bottom front teeth) – one of these is usually the first tooth to come through (can be around the 5 to 7 month mark)

    The first teeth - usually the bottom incisors - showing through for a baby

  • top incisors (top front teeth) – these teeth tend to come through later at around 6 to 8 months

  • top lateral incisors (either side of the top front teeth) – these tend to appear around 9 to 11 months

  • bottom lateral incisors (either side of the bottom front teeth) – these teeth come through just before or around your baby’s first birthday

  • first molars (back teeth) – these come through between 12 and 18 months

  • canines (between the lateral incisors and the first molars) – these usually come through after the first molars, around 16 to 20 months

  • second molars – these are usually the last teeth to show through and tend to appear around 20 to 30 months

 

Most children will have their first tooth between 6 and 8 months, and all of their milk teeth by the time they are 2 to 2.5 years old.

Don’t forget that when that first tooth comes through, your baby will need their teeth brushed. When there is teething pain, it can be difficult to brush your child’s teeth but good oral hygiene is so important

Baby teething and chewing whatever they can get their hands on!

How to soothe a teething baby?

It can be difficult to soothe a teething baby, but here are some of my top parenting tips to help when they start teething:

Gently rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger

A small amount of pressure in a circular motion can soothe a baby’s mouth. They may start to gnaw your finger so be careful if they already have some teeth in there… those little gnashers can be razor sharp!

Eating certain solid foods

When weaning or weaned, eating solid foods or cold food can also be a great way to soothe your baby’s gums. Healthy foods such as raw fruit, or vegetables can help when a baby is teething. Make sure what you are offering is age appropriate.

One great product is Bickiepegs,  100% natural teething biscuits which I gave to my son right before day naps. He would chew down on them and it relieved his sore gums to help him before sleep. Also, certain finger foods such as bread or a breadstick can help when your baby’s teeth start causing havoc.

Teething Toys

Teething rings or teething toys can be extremely helpful when babies start teething. They want to chew on everything and anything!

A teething ring, for example, can be put in the fridge and they then come out lovely and cold which can really help soothe your baby’s mouth. Note, never put the teething ring around a baby’s neck as it can become a choking hazard.

Teething Gels

Despite being widely used, though there is not enough evidence to suggest that they actually help a teething baby. There is also not enough evidence to suggest homeopathic teething gels help when teething begins. If you do choose to use a teething gel, just check with your pharmacist first.

We have used and continue to use anbesol to help with our babies teething symptoms. We have found that to be the quickest way to soothe our little one’s sensitive gums.

Teething Necklaces

I see many babies with amber teething necklaces. And whilst many parents swear by these amber teething necklaces for helping a baby teething, I would never recommend them as I don’t believe them to be safe to wear.

Pain Relief

You may also want to give them pain relief. As per the NHS website, paracetamol or ibuprofen can be given to relieve teething symptoms in babies and young children aged 3 months or older. Children under 16 years old should not have aspirin.

Always follow the instructions that come with the medicine and if you’re not sure, speak to your GP or pharmacist.

My 2nd baby Rafferty with his Bickiepeg penguin teething toy

How to help your baby’s sleep not go off track during teething?

Keep your bedtime and day routine as consistent as possible

There is research to suggest that when your baby or toddler has less sleep it actually reduces their pain threshold and their tolerance to teething. Even though they may be clingier, making sure they go down for their scheduled naps and at the appropriate bedtime will give them the best opportunity of rest and recovery.

Try not to introduce sleep associations if it will impact sleep longer-term

Sleep associations are things we do to help our baby get to sleep or back to sleep. They can be anything such as rocking, patting or feeding specifically for comfort, not nourishment. The key to a baby sleeping through the night is their ability to self-settle, so that they can fall to sleep and back asleep on their own in the night.

Be prepared for extra daytime sleep

When a baby is teething, they are in pain, not sleeping as well at night and are just feeling a bit run down. They will likely be more tired during the day so be prepared to give an extra nap or longer naps if they need it. Be responsive to their sleep cues, rather than just stick to fixed nap times like a normal day.

When babies start teething, give them additional support in the night

By this I mean when your baby has red, swollen gums with the tooth visible about to poke through. Extra comfort can really help your little one if they become upset in the night with their teeth. A big cuddle or some rocking to help your baby soothe is fine; just make sure you put them back into the cot content but awake, to try and avoid those sleep associations I mention above.  

Don’t let teething stop you making sleep improvements

Teething can cause hiccups to sleep but do not put off sleep training until it passes, as  its not a barrier to sleep! A baby that has learnt the skill of self-settle will sleep through most teething irritations. Have a look at my online sleep training courses which can help you with improved sleep, even when you have a teething child.

Little toddler brushing their teeth

What if teething has led to sleep challenges?

As a baby and toddler sleep consultant, my main aim is to get babies sleeping better and longer. I specialise in designing gentle sleep training programmes for your baby or toddler. I work with families one on one and spend time getting to know you and making sure the sleep solution that we agree upon works for you.

I also have a series of age-specific online sleep training courses with step-by-step sleep training programmes, day and bedtime routines, troubleshooting and much more.