Teething & sleep disruptions! When my daughter was a baby my husband and I would blame any tiny mood change, cry, or sleep disruption on teething. After a YEAR we finally figured out that it literally had nothing to do with teeth, it was just our daughter being a baby, growing through milestones, having occasional hard nights, and just living life.
Talking to many parents they automatically think drooling and sleep disruptions have to do with teething also. I’m going to give you clarity on this so we can all go about our lives with the right strategies and solutions.
What is teething?
- Stage 1: (0-6 months) Babies are born with a full set of twenty teeth beneath the gums.
- Stage 2: (6 months) The first teeth to erupt are the upper and lower front teeth, the incisors.
- Stage 3: (10-14 months) Primary Molars erupt.
- Stage 4: (16-22 months) Canine teeth (between incisors and molars on top and bottom) will erupt.
- Stage 5: (25-33 months) Large molars erupt.
Drooling does not indicate teething.
Babies drool without teething. When your baby starts developing fine motor skills, such as chewing, receptors send signals to the brain that initiate saliva production. Therefore, when your baby is ready to start eating solid food, they will start drooling more! So, drooling is not a direct sign of teething. Saliva is vital for digestion—which is why your mouth waters when you smell a delicious dinner on the stove. While drool can be, well, wet, that saliva protects your babies’ gut and may also protect her toys and other objects with disease-preventing proteins and antibodies. Basically, your baby develops the muscles and digestive saliva just as soon as she needs it to eat solid foods. Pretty amazing!!
Does your baby go through multiple bibs each day? Here’s why! It’s a matter of muscle. Saliva glands in your mouth produce around 2-4 pints of saliva every day: Adults don’t notice as much because we have the developed muscles needed for swallowing (and we have teeth to keep the flow in). Babies, however, don’t develop full control over their swallowing muscles and the muscles around the mouth until they are between 18 and 24 months. They are little drooling machines!
Does teething affect a child’s sleep?
The truth is no, it does not. If this were the case your child would literally never have good sleep because a baby is pretty much “teething” from the day they were born. Two separate studies in 2000 found no association between infant teething and sleep, wakefulness, or sleep disturbances. A 2016 review also found no evidence connecting teething and sleep issues. Dr Marc Weissbluth says; “Night waking between the ages of 6 and 18 months is due to nap deprivation, fragmented night sleep, or abnormal sleep schedules–not teething.”
Cutting a tooth & sleep disruptions.
“Cutting a tooth” is when the tooth comes through the gums, and I find this very different than just “teething”. The baby’s gums could be swollen and red, and have mild discomfort (especially while lying down). A disrupted nap and bedtime can definitely happen. Luckily a tooth can come through in 1-7 days, so do not be daunted on this small sleep set back. In my experience with my own daughter it was only one night (the night that the tooth peaked through) that she had trouble falling asleep. It also only happened with her first tooth. Every child I’m sure is different, and it can be really hard to know if they are cutting a tooth unless you can see it. Stick to your routine the best you can!
The definition in Wikipedia actually explains it really well, “Though the process of teething is sometimes referred to as “cutting teeth”, when teeth emerge through the gums they do not cut through the flesh. Instead, hormones are released within the body that cause some cells in the gums to die and separate, allowing the teeth to come through.”
Pretty amazing!! Instead of thinking our children are being “cut”, I like this clarity to truly understand the body and that it would never harm itself. It naturally makes way for the tooth to emerge, and although it might cause discomfort for the child it would never hurt or cause pain.
How to help your child through the process of teething.
- Oral Pain relief gels
- As I have said above, teething goes on for such a long period of time, and could be hard to tell when your child is actually “cutting a tooth”, it would not be good for their health to continuously give them a NSAID or Acetaminophen. Oral gels are dangerous for babies and you should stay away from them.
You could get teething toys that your child can chew on to soothe their gums. There are some that go in the freezer that go the extra step to temporarily numb the gums. Check the resources below for a list of approved toys.
Staying consistent with your nap and bedtime routine is going to be essential. Even if your child has one rough night, or nap while their tooth is poking through you can rely on your routine, and your child’s independent sleep skills to back you up the next day when they need to catch up on the sleep they missed. Rest assured teething is not “cutting” your child, or harming them in any way. One bad sleep day will not undo all the hard work you have dedicated to prioritize your baby’s sleep. You’ve got this!!
If your child isn’t;
- Sleeping through the night
- Or falling asleep on their own
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