Teething is hard on the baby. It’s also hard on us mamas who are trying to build healthy sleep habits. When babies are in pain it’s hard for them to sleep, but it’s hard for them to cope with the pain if they’re exhausted!
My oldest daughter (confident and take charge even as a baby) did not make a fuss about teething.
When cutting her first teeth, on a Friday, I said, “Hmm, she’s a tad fussy.”
Saturday… BAM, two teeth.
After that, I never knew she was getting a tooth because she carried on like normal. She’d cut two teeth over lunch and nap like Rip Van Winkle in the afternoon.
My next two children… not so much.
There was drooling, crying, flailing, fussing, and exhaustion. If I didn’t do the things I’m going to talk about in this post, there was no sleeping to be had by anyone!
Now, I recognize the Teething Fuss four rooms away and I am quick to do my part in easing this transition from tooth-under-gum to tooth-looks-like-mountain-peaks-with-valleys-of-skin to a free tooth.
Here’s how babies can cut teeth without losing a lot of sleep.
Note: The “goal” during teething is for baby to cut their teeth with as little pain as possible.
Sleeping is something they need to remain content, but we can never elevate sleeping over their comfort.
How to soothe a teething baby at night
First of all, it’s important to note that just as you would if baby had day/night confusion… don’t turn on all the lights and act like it’s day just because baby is in pain.
- Even though baby isn’t sleeping due to their pain, don’t turn on all the lights because this will wake baby up even further and contribute to over tiredness.
- Leave the lights low and try to create as soothing an environment as possible.
- You can offer pain relief, your finger, and other options (see the bottom of the post) and try to maintain calmness inside yourself as well.
- If you offer baby pain relief via Tylenol or Motrin, know it’ll take around 30 minutes to kick in, so during that time you can do baby massage, gentle rocking, and whatever soothing habits your baby loves.
- Baby will usually not be up at night with teething every night for a long time, this type of pain is usually reserved for the few short days before the teeth are cut.
- Offer the pacifier, this will give baby something to suck on. I recommend these wholeheartedly.
Use our daily baby logs to help you nail down any trends or habits and make some good tweaks.
Expect a regression, but don’t give in to the regression
It should be expected and normal that babies have trouble sleeping when they’re in pain. Everyone has trouble sleeping when they’re in pain.
Here’s a handy dandy list of 28 things to try so baby will stop fighting sleep and sleep longer and later.
However, teething can last a long time for each tooth and years before it’s all finished. So while you can expect some pain, fussiness, and difficulty sleeping, work through it as you go and don’t expect the worst.
Read: Is Sleep Training a Baby Bad or Dangerous? Let’s Talk Facts!
They will adjust and will get through it.
Provide comfort and relief immediately before sleep
There are many things on the market now to help relieve baby’s pain.
If the teething is particularly painful I like to give any medicine around 30 minutes before the nap.
This will give the medicine time to work before baby tries to go to sleep on their own. It will also help them transition through active and passive sleep cycles without waking up because of the pain.
Read: The Top 10 Indicators It’s Time to Sleep Train
Don’t change basic routine, but be flexible
I don’t change basic routines during teething.
Mainly because teething lasts years. Years, people.
If my baby or toddler has a hard time sleeping, I’ll move up their bedtime that evening by 30 minutes. I’ll also avoid activities that are overly stimulating since they will have a harder time sleeping.
Depending on your baby’s age, a toddler may act as though they’re ready to stop napping.
➡️ Never drop a nap while teething.
If you stop putting your child down to nap – then realize they still need it – they might fight naps long after they’ve popped that tooth. Or teeth.
Easy to implement routines, rhythms and schedules from birth through school-aged kids to help you streamline day-to-day life with kids, including a step-by-step guide for getting started.Learn More
Try to avoid starting habits you don’t want to continue
We all want our babies to sleep well.
I know, I write about this all the time.
However, teething is not the time to start doing all the crazy tricks to get your little ones to sleep.
If you see a tooth right under the surface and know it’ll cut in a day or two, that might work. But if you suspect teething and don’t see an actual tooth (meaning it’ll likely be weeks) don’t start the parlor tricks.
You may need to rock until drowsy again, spend longer on the nap and bedtime wind down, and even give the pacifier throughout the night though they haven’t ever used it much before.
However, if you find yourself doing this after more than a few days, I’d amp up the pain relief, and stop the sleep tricks.
Since teething lasts for so long, they will get used to the new habits you’re making, and the fewer changes you make the better.
Create sustainable sleep habits for your little lamb so the whole family can sleep peacefully without the stress, drama, and tears.Learn More
Try to avoid overtiredness
Now, when a baby is in pain it’s hard to sleep.
The harder it is to sleep the less they sleep.
The less they sleep the more tired they get.
Wow. Teething is so much fun it’s like taxes.
By the time you’ve finished with them, it’s time to start again.
Though you don’t want to create entrenched bad habits nor change your routine too drastically to accommodate teething, we should do our best to prevent overtiredness.
Whether it’s moving naptime or bedtime up 30 minutes or letting baby go to sleep in the car once in a while, try to make sure they are still getting good chunks of sleep or the pain will be even harder to take.
Natural Teething Pain Relief Remedies
- Frozen food in a mesh feeder (bought this as a gift last month!)
- A frozen wet wash cloth
- Over the counter pain relief if it gets intense
- Wooden toys to chew on
- Chewing on a toothbrush (my babies loved this!)
- Chilled utensils (like a spoon)
- Safe essential oils – you can do more research as to which are the safest.
- A pacifier
- Someone’s finger
- Here are more natural teething remedies.
All in all….
Learn how to space naps, how many a day per age, best times, etc. and get your nap game ON!
Provide pain relief for baby.
Keep the basic routine.
Modify it if baby is exhausted.
Keep baby fed as much as possible.
Wait it out.
Frozen grapes in one of those mesh baby food things.
Rachel Norman says
Thank you for the wonderful post Rachel… What if your baby is 3 months / 13 weeks and the only way now they go to sleep is in a sling? Even after painkillers some bouncing, winding down… Even after an hour and 20 she’s still eating her hand off crying miserably wanting to just sleep in the sling?
Rachel Norman says
Oh sweet girl, well my motto has been try my best to prevent bad habits and, when it gets bad, just do what it takes to help the baby sleep. Hvaing them well rested is better than trying to follow strict rules. That poor thing!