One of the biggest worries for parents with young babies is how to protect their baby’s sleep when teething strikes. Teething is one of the most testing times during your baby’s first few years, and it can be totally unpredictable, making it tricky to prepare for.
Many parents think that their babies start teething when they are around 12 weeks, when they start to display two of the most common signs of teething – dribbling and chewing/sucking on anything they can pull into their mouths. Some babies will be teething at this point, and will go on to cut their first tooth within a few weeks… However, most first teeth don’t appear until babies are 5 to 8 months and some babies are still all gums at a year! Those signs that appear at 12 weeks are simply the saliva glands kicking in and producing lots more saliva, in preparation for teething as well as weaning. The chewing and sucking of all things in reach is just a little milestone in their development.
So how can you tell if the dribbling and chewing are the start of teething or just development?
Are they accompanied by red cheeks?
Has your baby become more unsettled than usual? Crying for no apparent reason? Wanting to be held more than usual but still not settling in your arms?
Has the smell of your baby’s poo become particularly vile?
Do they suddenly have nappy rash?
If your baby is on solid food, have they gone off some or most food?
If you’re breastfeeding, has your baby started biting you while feeding? Or chewing on the bottle while bottle-feeding?
If the answer is “yes” to some or all of these questions, you baby is probably teething.
There doesn’t seem to be a formula to work out when you will be troubled by the wretched things, but there are a few things that you can do to avoid feeling that your little one is living on a diet of Calpol and Neurofen, and to avoid having your precious sleep totally destroyed!!!
Your instinct may be to cuddle away the pain and let your baby sleep on you or in your bed, but this will have a negative impact on sleep. Instead, give extra cuddles, but use pain killers and homeopathic remedies as well. The cuddles will help your baby deal with the pain while the medication kicks in, and then your baby should be able to sleep for a few hours. Try to get on top of the teething pain before you put your baby to bed so that you can at least have your evening.
Don’t jump up the second your baby makes a noise in the night expecting every cry to turn into hours of howling. Teething often causes babies to be unsettled but they can still resettle if you give them a few minutes.
If your baby has become fussy with feeding, be flexible with their routine, but don’t give up on it completely – without a routine, you won’t know if your baby is in pain, hungry, thirsty or tired. But if your baby isn’t taking as much milk or food at their regular times, you can always add top-ups to ensure they don’t get too hungry.
Don’t give up on sleep training if you’re in the middle of it. You can carry on as long as you don’t leave your baby in pain! And if you do have a few bad nights, just go back a step or two in any training that you’re doing and you should be able to get back on track.
When your baby is teething, it is worth getting out the camomile teething granules and teething gel. Apply as per the instructions on their packets and see if they help. If they don’t, you can step it up to the Calpol and/or Neurofen. This should help to relieve the pain, however they won’t make your baby sleep unless they are tired because they are pain-killers, NOT a sedatives!
Most importantly, if sleep regresses, it can be always be fixed. It may fix itself or you may need to be proactive and help your baby back into good habits.