Teething, Illness and Sleep
As a sleep consultant, the number one reason parents give me for their children’s poor sleep, is teething. Many parents claim that teething disrupt their child’s sleeping patterns. However, research shows that teething doesn’t affect sleep as much as we think it does.
Yes, your child could possibly be suffering from sore gums, she could possibly wake up more often due to discomfort or she could possibly be more irritable and cranky due to some teeth coming out.
BUT, she could just as likely be irritable and cranky due to lack of sleep and poor sleeping habits. So often when I work with families and their babies become amazing sleepers, they sleep right through a new tooth coming in and their parents are can't believe it. She could just as likely be waking up at night because she has not learned to be an independent sleeper.
It is amazing to me how many parents think their babies inability to sleep through the night or be a consistent napper is everything under the sun except that their baby hasn’t learned to independent sleep skills that are needed to be a good, consistent sleeper.
Your baby will be teething for the majority of the first two years of life. If we change the rules/routines every time we see (or think we see) a tooth coming through, there will never any consistency in your baby’s night time routine and your child will end up getting more confused about sleep time. Remember, even just one or two nights of changing the rules can be enough for your baby to start waking up again.
In fact, well-rested children handle their teething discomfort much better than children who are overtired and battling fatigue. If you think your childs teething may be disrupting her sleep, the most important thing you can do it remain consistent with your routine.
Signs of teething
Low grade fever
Pulling on his/her ears
If your baby is waking up a lot at night, or has trouble falling asleep but doesn’t seem to be in pain, stick to your regular sleep routine where possible. If you change her routine, even for a short time, she may have trouble getting back on track.
If you’ve never taught your baby to be a good sleeper and your baby is consistently struggling with sleep then ask yourself if it might be a good time to teach your baby to be a good sleeper so that she is able to handle teething much easier. You can teach your baby how to sleep, just like you can teach them how to swim. Sleep is a learned skill!
If you suspect your baby’s gums hurt, you can soothe them by running a cold finger over her gums to ease the pain temporarily. Or you could give her something cold to chew on, such as a teething ring that’s been in the fridge. My favorite trick is to put an ice cube, or some frozen pureed food in a mesh feeder!
Make sure it’s not something else that is upsetting your baby. Ear infections are often mistaken for teething. If your baby has a fever or any other signs of illness, take her to your doctor, which brings us to our next topic…
I can’t tell you how many times over the years my clients have reported that when their babies are ill, they simply sleep more. That’s not to say that a screaming ear infection won’t wake up a sleeping baby, but more often than not if your baby is a good sleeper they will, in fact sleep more when they don’t feel well.
If your baby isn’t feeling well you should of course do what you can to make them comfortable. Especially if they’re running a fever. If they do have trouble sleeping, you can offer your support. Just know that a baby that sleeps well will often just want to be left alone to do just that. Afterall, rest is one of the best medicines!
If you do have to intervene more than usual during sleep times just be sure to get right back on track when baby is feeling better. A good sleeper should get back on track in a day or two with consistency!