How To Help a Teething Baby Sleep
Updated Dec 23rd 2022 | 6 min read
Updated Dec 23rd 2022 | 6 min read
Written By Mandy Treeby Chief Baby Sleep Consultant
When your baby is teething, all you want to do is soothe them. But how can you help a teething baby? You can’t teeth for them, after all.
Luckily, there are ways to help a teething baby sleep. Here we’ll discuss how to soothe a teething baby, how to help a teething baby sleep, and how home remedies can help, but with some caveats.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
Babies typically start teething around 6-months-old, though some babies begin teething around 4 months, others it’s later, around 12 months. Each baby is unique and develops at their own pace.
Teething can be uncomfortable for babies and sometimes teething can disrupt your baby’s sleep. There are, however, ways to help a teething baby sleep.
Since your baby can’t talk yet, they can’t tell you they’re teething. Instead, watch for these signs your baby is teething:
Crying for No Obvious Reason: If your baby has been fed and is well-rested and there’s no apparent reason for them to cry, they may be teething.
Excessive Drooling: One of the most common signs a baby is teething is excessive drooling.
Low-Grade Fever: A fever of lower than 101°F can be a sign your baby is teething.
Chewing On Hard Items: If your baby is chewing on anything they can, especially hard items like a plastic toy or building block, they may be teething.
One Red Cheek: A single red cheek may be a sign your baby is teething on that side.
A Rash on their Face: Sometimes teething will exhibit itself as a rash on your baby’s face.
Swollen, Tender Gums: If you look in your baby’s mouth and see swollen, red, or otherwise inflamed gums, they are likely teething.
Irritability: Irritability in a well-rested baby may be a sign they’re uncomfortable from teething. Teething can also disrupt sleep, which can lead to irritability.
There are a few tried and true methods for how to soothe a teething baby and help a teething baby sleep:
Wipe Away Drool: Excessive drool can lead to a rash called drool rash. Prevent drool rash by regularly wiping drool with a soft, dry cloth.
Give a Gum Massage: Gently rubbing your baby’s gums with your clean finger can alleviate teething pain and help the teething process.
Offer a Teething Ring: A rubber teething ring also massages the gums and lets your baby “target” the right area. It’s especially helpful if stored in the fridge. Note: Gel-based teething rings can be hazardous to your baby’s health, so stick to hard rubber options.
Try a Chilled Washcloth: Pressing a cool washcloth against your baby’s gums or letting them chew on a washcloth can help alleviate teething pain and help a teething baby sleep. Note: Always supervise a baby if using the washcloth method.
Chilled Fruit Can Soothe Teething Babies: Letting your baby chew on chunks of fruit from the fridge may be just the ticket to relieve teething pain. Again, though, be sure to hold the fruit and supervise your baby to prevent choking or use a net feeder.
Chilled Metal Spoons Sometimes Work: A hard, cold spoon is soothing and round enough that it won’t hurt your baby.
A Nice, Warm Bath: While the bath itself won't relieve teething pain, it will calm your baby and may reset them to help them sleep.
Cuddles: Again, this is about comforting your baby. Sometimes no amount of medicines or teething rings can help your baby’s teething discomfort. Cuddles and kisses, however, will offer emotional support and positive reinforcement.
Baby Teething Medicines: There are baby teething medicines out there, but it’s best to consult with your doctor before trying any baby teething medicine, even an over-the-counter option.
Maintain Your Bedtime Routine: Even if your baby is teething, be sure to keep up your bedtime routine. While your baby may be uncomfortable, the bedtime routine will cue them it’s time to sleep, building up your baby’s sleep drive and helping them fall asleep, teething discomfort aside.
Frozen Items: While cold can help soothe teething pain, putting a teething toy in the freezer can actually hurt your baby’s gums. It’s far too cold and can sometimes stick to their skin.
Teething Necklace: A teething device around your baby’s neck seems convenient – they can’t drop it – but it’s also a choking hazard. Therefore, teething necklaces should be avoided for soothing your baby’s teething pain.
Hard Teething Toys: Rubber teething toys are the best route; anything too hard, such as wood or metal, can be harsh onyour baby’s gentle gums.
Benzocaine or Lidocaine: Though these chemicals are safe for adult usage, they’re dangerous for your baby. Only use baby teething medication that your doctor recommends.
Home Remedies for Teething Babies: As with over-the-counter teething medications, it’s best to consult with your doctor before attempting a home remedy for teething. While some of the homeopathic ingredients may work, other popular homeopathic teething remedies, such as belladonna, can lead to health problems later.
While the actual “pain level” of teething may not be worse at night, it can feel worse to your baby for a few reasons:
No Distractions: Teething pain can appear worse at night because your baby is more aware of it and therefore crying more. During the day, your baby has a lot of activities and stimulation to distract from any discomfort they may feel. At night, without those distractions, your baby is freshly aware of discomfort and may cry more.
They’re Tired and Frustrated: Since teething can disrupt sleep, your teething baby may be crying because they’re overtired or because they can’t sleep. You’ve probably felt the same sensation: all you want to do is sleep and your body “won’t” let you. Often times, you’ll fall back to sleep. The same is true with your baby: they may wake up and cry from teething, but then self-soothe back to sleep.
If you baby cries for a prolonged period at night and you suspect it’s from teething, try one of the methods mentioned above.
Good baby oral care begins even before your baby’s first teeth emerge.
After your baby eats, you’ll want to softly wipe their gums with gauze or another soft, non-abrasive material. This gently cleans away any residue that can become plague.
When it is time to brush your baby’s actual teeth, use a soft, baby-sized toothbrush or a finger cover to gently brush their teeth with a baby-safe toothpaste containing fluoride to prevent cavities. Calcium also helps build up your baby’s teeth.
There are over-the-counter remedies for teething pain but consult your doctor before using any sort of teething medicine, even if it says it’s safe.
Gentle gum massages or teething rings are good starts for relieving teething pain, but there are other methods, too, such as chilled fruit or a metal spoon.
While all teething can be a bit uncomfortable for babies, the sensation is strongest later into the teething process, around 25-33 months, when the big, flat molars come in. Unlike front or canine teeth, the molars are flat and therefore exert more pressure on the gums when emerging.
If the pain is from a single tooth emerging, the pain from teething usually lasts only a few days. Teething will be done the time your baby is 3 – and, luckily, there is no teething pain associated with their permanent teeth, which typically start coming in around age 6 or 7.
“Symptoms associated with infant teething: a prospective study,” Pediatrics.
“In the News: Homeopathic Teething Gels and Tablets,” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health.
“Safely Soothing Teething Pain and Sensory Needs in Babies and Older Children,” The FDA.
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.