When your baby is teething, it’s so difficult. They are in so much pain; that, in turn, is distressing for you as a parent. Their sleep often regresses for a number of nights, and their mood is irritable. To top it off, if there wasn’t enough to worry about, their appetite can drop briefly.
So yeah, teething isn’t fun for our wee guys or for us parents.
When do babies start teething?
Signs of teething in babies can start as early as 3 or 4 months. In fact, baby teething symptoms can actually a big factor in the 4 month sleep regression.
But like with anything baby related, they all develop at different stages. Some babies show no sign of baby teeth before 12 months; others can have quite a few by 8 or 9 months. Usually, though, symptoms of teething will show for at least a month or two before you start to see any sign of baby teeth popping through!
How long can baby teething symptoms last?
Before becoming a Dad, I thought babies teething lasted a very short time and that was it. But once I’d had my first child Teddy, I realised how wrong I was!
Basically I found that once a baby starts teething, they will be going through up and down spells with it for the next couple of years until all of the baby teeth are through. There will no doubts be periods of more intense teething than others, but it is something that is on and off until all of the baby teeth are through around 2.5 years old.
What are the signs that a baby is teething?
There are a number of common teething signs that will show your baby is going through a tough spell of teething:
- Excessive drooling and dribbling
- They may have a mild temperature
- A runny nose is highly likely
- Flushed cheeks
- They will want everything – and I mean everything! – in their mouth
Other symptoms which can also show signs of teething:
- Loose stools
- Change in appetite
- Irritable mood; showing signs of fussiness throughout the day
If they show any signs of a rash or fever, or diarrhea alongside these teething symptoms then it might be something else and you should contact your child’s GP or seek professional medical advice.
Do teething symptoms worsen during the night?
Very likely, yes. There is enough research to show that when humans (adults and children) are sick and run down – teething included – they have less reserves at night to deal with the pain, which if any of you have suffered from toothache, will know how strong that pain.
Most babies will become a little more fussy around sleep when they are teething; more difficult to settle, more interested in contact naps. However, many children do continue sleeping through at night (or at least consistent with what they do when they aren’t teething).
When do baby teeth appear?
Here’s a rough guide to when, and in which order, their teeth usually emerge:
- bottom incisors (bottom front teeth) – one of these is usually the first tooth to come through (can be around the 5 to 7 month mark)
- top incisors (top front teeth) – these teeth tend to come through later at around 6 to 8 months
- top lateral incisors (either side of the top front teeth) – these tend to appear around 9 to 11 months
- bottom lateral incisors (either side of the bottom front teeth) – these teeth come through just before or around your baby’s first birthday
- first molars (back teeth) – these come through between 12 and 18 months
- canines (between the lateral incisors and the first molars) – these usually come through after the first molars, around 16 to 20 months
- second molars – these are usually the last teeth to show through and tend to appear around 20 to 30 months
Most children will have all of their milk teeth by the time they are 2 to 2.5 years old.
Don’t forget that when that first tooth comes through, your baby’s teeth will now need brushed as good oral hygiene is critical for the health of their gums. This remains important even when they have teething pain.
How to soothe a teething baby?
Here are some of my top parenting tips to help soothe your baby as best you can when teething:
Gently rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger
A small amount of pressure in a circular motion can soothe a baby’s mouth. Just be careful of any existing teeth looking to bite your finger!
Eating certain solid foods
Depending on the age of your baby, solid foods can be a great way to soothe your baby’s gums. For example, a product we used is Bickiepegs’ 100% natural teething biscuits which I gave to my son right before day naps.
He would chew down on them and it relieved his sore gums to help him before sleep. Also, certain finger foods such as crusty bread can help.
Raw fruit or vegetables can also help soothe your baby’s gums whens teething. Just make sure what you are offering is age appropriate.
Teething rings or teething toys can be extremely helpful. Babies want to chew on anything in sight at the best of time, and when they are teething that only increases. Using a teething ring, especially if it’s been in the fridge before use, can be really soothing. Note, never put the teething ring around a baby’s neck as it could become a choking hazard.
There isn’t enough evidence to suggest that teething gels actually help to soothe a baby’s moth. This is the same for homeopathic teething gels. In saying that, we have used, and continue to use, anbesol to help with our babies teething symptoms. We have found that to be the quickest way to soothe our little one’s sensitive gums.
If you do choose to use a teething gel, just check with your pharmacist first.
I see many babies out and about with amber teething necklaces. And whilst many parents swear by these amber teething necklaces for helping a baby teething, I cannot recommend them as I don’t think they are safe and could lead to being a choking hazard.
You may also want to give them pain relief. Just make sure you follow instructions from your GP or pharmacist on what you can use, and how much.
Teething & Sleep – What Can I Do?
Sometimes you may have no choice but to accept there may be negative impact to your baby’s sleep during teething. However, there are things you can do to try and help keep sleep on track as much as possible:
Keep your baby’s routine consistent
Try to keep the same bedtime routine as normal, and unless they are extra tired, try to stick with the normal nap routine when they are really feeling those gums.
Try not to introduce sleep associations
Sleep associations are things we do to help our baby get to sleep or back to sleep. Which if you are OK with, then no need to worry about. However, too much of a sleep association can – though, not always – lead to a reliance from your baby on that association to get to sleep (and back to sleep) potentially meaning more night wakings.
They may need more daytime sleep
There is a good chance your baby will be more tired during the day due to more disturbed nights, or general tiredness from the huge impact the teething has on their little bodies. My advice is to be responsive to their sleep cues, and add in naps or let naps be longer if they need it.
When babies start teething, give them additional support in the night
By this I mean when your baby has red, swollen gums with the tooth visible about to poke through. Extra comfort can really help your little one if they become upset in the night with their teeth. A big cuddle or some rocking to help your baby soothe is fine; just make sure you put them back into the cot content but awake, to try and avoid those sleep associations I mention above.
Don’t let teething stop you making sleep improvements
I hear it so many times – “I wish I had contact you sooner, but there was always something like teething”. Don’t let teething stop you making positive changes to your baby’s sleep – it shouldn’t be the barrier to change. Have a look at my online sleep training courses which can help you with improved sleep, even when you have a teething child.
The Teething Symptoms Have Gone But Sleep Is Bad – What Can I Do Now?
As a baby and toddler sleep consultant, my ultimate objective is to improve sleep for your baby and the whole family as a result. At The Daddy Sleep Consultant, we specialise in designing gentle sleep training programmes for your baby or toddler. I work with families one on one and spend time getting to know you and making sure the sleep solution that we agree upon works for you.
I also have a series of age-specific online sleep training courses with step-by-step sleep training programme, successful day and night routines, troubleshooting and much more.