Teething takes up a huge portion of a child’s life and many people worry about their teething baby’s sleep. Some babies start teething as early as 4-6 months of age and can continue up until they are over 3 years of age. Of course, every baby is different when it comes to exactly when they get their first teeth. My oldest got his first teeth at 7 months old and my youngest son at 11 months old.


What do we know about the first teeth?

The first teeth that normally come through are the 2 front teeth on the bottom teeth, then about 4 or 5 weeks later the 4 upper front ones. About a month after that you can normally expect the bottom lateral incisors (the ones on either side of the 2 front ones).

Here is a rough guideline for each tooth:

Upper teeth:

Central incisors – 6 – 12 mons of age

Lateral incisors – 9 – 13 months of age

Canines – 6 – 22 months of age

1st molars – 12 – 18 months of age

2nd molars – 24 – 33 months of age


Upper teeth:

Central incisors – 6 – 12 mons of age

Lateral incisors – 10 – 16 months of age

Canines – 17 – 23 months of age

1st molars – 12 – 18 months of age

2nd molars – 24 – 33 months of age


How do babies react when teething?

Every baby reacts differently to teething – some babies struggle with the teething process, whereas others will wake up with a new tooth without a parent noticing any changes to their behavior or other symptoms. Some common symptoms of teething can be:

  • Excess drool

  • Sore gums

  • Diarrhea

  • Fussiness

  • Rash

  • Ear rubbing

  • Refusal to eat

  • Biting (on objects or parents).

Research suggests though, that as a general rule teething doesn’t tend to cause sleep regressions like night wakings, except when actually pushing through the gums. So you can expect that your baby may have trouble sleeping for a day or two during acute teething (as you start to see the tooth is about to pop through), but once it is out they should be fine again. If you find your baby unsettled sleep-wise for coming up to a week, it is likely that teething isn’t the culprit. The issue could instead be a sleep association, a growth spurt, overtiredness or new skills.

Another thing to consider is your baby’s daytime behavior. If they are coping well in the waking hours while they are teething, but struggle falling asleep or maintaining sleep in the middle of the night, then teething isn’t likely the answer. A baby struggling with teething is likely to struggle at all times, not just sleep time.

How to help a teething baby during both sleep and awake times.


Teething and feeding

Some babies fly through teething and continue to feed well (via breast or bottle) – after all sucking has a soothing affect. Other babies struggle to feed and may even go on a nursing strike because of the pain they feel as they are teething. The teeth that tend to cause the most pain are the lower front teeth – the incisors.

One way you can tell if your baby is experiencing teething pain that might impact on their feeding is to use a clean finger lightly and put light pressure on their gum in the area the teeth are coming through – if they cry out or wince then you know they are feeling discomfort.


My top tips for helping a teething baby?

You’ll probably hear all sorts of different advice from parents about what helped their baby from teething gels that you rub on your baby’s gums, homeopathic remedies, to amber necklaces. Not all of these have a scientific basis to them. The tried and true methods that I tend to suggest however are:

  • Give baby teething objects to chew on (like cool teething rings). You can buy ones that you stick in the freezer/refrigerator along with ones that you can use as-is.

  • A cool wet washcloth that you let them chew on or rub on their gums. You can put them in the freezer if you like. Beware of a completely frozen washcloth as that can be too hard.

  • At peak pain times, you can consider using a pain reliever like Infant Tylenol or Infant Ibuprofen but do check with your child’s pediatrician first.

  • Teething gels can help but I also suggest checking with your pediatrician as well because at times some get recalled due to safety risks.

  • Provide hard foods your baby can gum. What you choose will depend on your baby’s age and how safe they are with them.

  • To help with feeding you can gently massage their gums in the area of swelling before offering a feed so that they can suck with less pain.

  • If your baby is normally an independent sleeper – as much as possible keep giving them opportunities to fall asleep independently after you have finished the bedtime routine.

I will often get asked about sleep training during periods of teething given it happens with some frequency. My general answer is that you don’t need to stop sleep training or wait until after teething is over because teething happens so often in the first year or two. However, if you know yourself and you might not be consistent through the sleep training process as you worry your baby is in pain, then it is best to wait.

Good luck with your baby’s teething! Celebrate that first tooth as the wonderful milestone it is! I know it can be so hard when good sleepers start to struggle. If you find your baby’s sleep derails for longer than a week around teething time, do reach out because it is possible that teething is no longer the reason and something else is going on that needs to be identified and addressed.


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