Teething can be such a tough time for babies. Your once happy baby is all of a sudden grouchier and sleep may have gone out the window. As a sleep coach, I often hear parents say “my baby has been teething for months, that’s why they’re not sleeping.” But how long does teething actually affect a baby’s sleep? And what are the signs your baby is teething?
Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.
Signs of Teething
Since your baby can’t talk yet, it can be hard to know what is bothering them when they’re not quite acting themselves. It can be really helpful to know the signs of teething so that you can determine if that is the cause of their abnormal behavior, or if something else might be going on. So what are the signs of teething?
There are several common signs of teething. The first could be more fussiness and irritability then normal because of the discomfort. You may also find your baby beginning to chew or bite on their toys, their hands or clothes to try to help with the pain. Another good sign of teething could be that your little one is drooling excessively.
It’s normal to see your baby’s gums get swollen. You’ll begin to notice little white nubs in their gums where the tooth is coming in. Externally, you may even see their cheek beginning to swell.
If your baby is over 6 months old and is already on solids, you may notice that they’re just not as interested in those solids for a while. This change in appetite can be typical for a baby getting a new tooth in. Their mouth is very sensitive from that tooth growing in so they are very sensitive to different textures and temperatures in their mouth.
Signs That Your Baby Is Not Teething
While it’s good to know what some of those common signs of teething are, it’s also helpful to educate yourself on other behaviors / symptoms that are not related to teething.
If your baby has a fever, that’s likely not a sign of teething. A fever is considered to be over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius. Likewise, if your little one is vomiting or has diarrhea, that’s not typically a sign of teething. If your baby is experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your little one’s pediatrician.
Another misconception around signs of teething is excessive or intense crying. And while eating less solids is a sign of teething, refusing the breast or the bottle is not. Your baby should still have a good appetite to have their milk during the time that they’re teething.
How Long Does Teething Affect Sleep
Every baby is so different on when their first tooth will pop through. But it will generally happen between 4 – 10 months of age. The total teething process may take up to 8 days. But the most painful part of teething is when the tooth is breaking through the gums. And that process typically lasts somewhere between 24 – 48 hours.
The best way to help your baby get quality sleep while coping with teething is to teach them a healthy sleep foundation and independent sleep skills. When a baby knows how to put themselves to sleep for both bedtime and naps, they’re going to be able to deal with all the things life has to throw at them like a champ.
They’ll be able to settle much faster while teething and even get through sleep regressions much better than a baby who relies on sleep props to fall asleep.
A sleep prop is something that your baby needs from you to fall asleep, like needing to be rocked to sleep, fed to sleep, bounced to sleep, etc.
So while sleep may be thrown off for a night or two, teething shouldn’t affect sleep for much longer than that. If your baby hasn’t been sleeping well for weeks or even months, there’s likely something else going on. They may be unsettled because they’re another medical issue to address or because they don’t have the skills needed to self soothe.
And if you do need help teaching your baby how to self soothe, we should chat. I help babies learn how to fall asleep easily, sleep through the night and take awesome naps during the day using gentle sleep training methods. Click here to schedule your free Sleep Evaluation today.
Download Your Free Sleep Schedules by Age
How to Manage Teething
If your baby is in pain during the day, there are several things that you can do to help them cope and manage. Here’s a few things that you can try:
- Try offering your baby a teething ring. For extra comfort, you can even refrigerate it before giving it to them. The coolness may provide extra relief. But don’t put it in the freezer. Unlike frozen food or ice, it won’t melt quickly.
- Wash your hands. Then using your clean finger to gently press down on their gums. That can provide a temporary relief from the pain
- If your baby is over 6 months old & eating solids, your can offer some frozen fruit or vegetable puree.
- A pacifier to suck on during the day can help to take away some of the discomfort.
- Give your baby a cool washcloth to bite on
- Pull out a teething toy or necklace to provide some distraction
Teething & Sleep
And if your baby is overly fussy at bedtime or naptime, it’s ok to be more comforting then usual. They may need some extra cuddles or support as they get though those tough couple of days. And you can absolutely respond to your baby when they need your extra support.
But once they’re over the hump and that little tooth has come through, you can go back to your old routines and ways of getting your little one down. Keep in mind it takes about 3 days to begin establishing new habits. So if you had a baby who slept well and independently before, they’ll be able to go back to those great sleep habits again just fine.