Teething and sleep disturbance are often thought to go hand in hand. But while teething may cause some babies discomfort, it is most likely not responsible for your baby’s constant inability to sleep. If your baby is having trouble settling or is waking frequently through the night, it may due to other factors such as illness, diet, or overtiredness.
When will my baby start teething?
When your baby starts teething will largely depend on genetics. In most cases, a baby’s first tooth will appear between four and eight months. However, some babies don’t get their first teeth until they are nearly 18 months old, while other babies are born with teeth. The whole teething process is usually completed by the time your child turns three.
What are the symptoms of teething?
Some babies don’t show any signs that they are teething, while other children have a more difficult time. Teething symptoms typically last a few days, so if your baby is experiencing discomfort for an extended period of time, teething is most likely not the cause.
Some of the symptoms of teething include:
- Increased drooling – due to increased muscle movement in the mouth which simulates chewing and activates the salivary glands.
- Mouth rash – the wetness from excessive drooling can cause a rash around the mouth. Regularly wiping the area with a dry cloth will reduce the chances of this occurring.
- Gum rubbing – this helps some babies relieve the pressure in their gums.
- Ear pulling – some infants may pull on their ears to help relieve the pain caused by sore gums.
- Tender, swollen, red gums – this often occurs when a tooth is just about to break through the gum.
- Fussiness, especially at night – depending on your baby’s pain threshold they may be crankier and fussier than usual.
- Chewing, biting, and sucking – babies may chew on everything in sight to try and relieve the pressure on their gums.
- Increased temperature – your baby may experience a slight increase in temperature. It’s important to note that anything over 38˚C is probably not teething related and may be caused by illness.
- Decreased appetite – some babies may refuse to eat and drink because their mouths hurt. If this occurs, try offering soft, cool food or extra milk feeds until their appetite returns.
Tip: If you suspect that your child is teething and feeling distressed, consider offering analgesia or more comfort at night if they need it. Once your baby is showing signs of improvement, encourage them to settle themselves, if this was what you were previously doing.
How can I reduce my baby’s teething pain?
Parents often feel helpless when it comes to reducing their baby’s pain. But there are a number of things you can do to help, including:
- Cold washcloth – give your baby a damp washcloth that has been in the fridge or freezer to chew on. This may help relieve some of the pressure and swelling.
- Massage – gently massage your baby’s gum with clean fingers or a soft, wet cloth.
- Teething toys – plastic and rubber toys that are specifically designed for teething babies may help soothe irritated and inflamed gums.
- Teething rusks – these are a good option for infants who have started eating solids.
- Medicine – if natural remedies aren’t working, ask your health professional to recommend safe pain relief options.
Does tiredness increase pain sensitivity?
If your baby is experiencing teething pain, it may be hard to get them to sleep. Even if you do manage to get them to doze off, they may wake frequently throughout the night due to teething pain and discomfort. Once this starts happening, it can become a reoccurring pattern that causes ongoing sleep problems for you and your child.
The question of whether ongoing sleep deprivation causes increased pain sensitivity has been widely debated over the years. However, according to a recent study, sleep deprivation can change the circuitry in the brain in ways that amplify pain. This means that when your baby is not well rested, their body can become more sensitive to pain, reducing their tolerance level and making the pain feel more intense.
Why does teething affect some children more than others?
How your baby reacts during the teething process depends on a number of factors including their pain tolerance, personality, and the density of their gums. Age is also an important factor as younger babies may not yet have built up a tolerance to pain.
Do certain teeth cause more pain?
The type of tooth that is growing may also affect the level pain your child experiences. Although the tooth that causes the most pain can vary from child to child, it is often the first tooth that causes the most discomfort. Molars may also be more painful because they are a big, broad-surfaced tooth. If your baby is growing a number of teeth at once this may also increase the amount of pain and discomfort your child feels.
It’s hard to say if teething will affect your baby’s sleep. If you’re lucky your baby will breeze through the process and feel no pain at all. On the other hand, you may have to help your little one survive the teething process by offering pain relief and lots of extra cuddles. Whatever happens, be assured that it all be worth it when your baby looks up at you with a big, toothy grin.