• Martha Lewis

Should you sleep train while teething?

There's always a good reason to put off sleep training your baby. He's sick, he's starting day care, we're moving, we're going on a trip, or he's teething. Now there are good times and bad times to start sleep training. You don't want to be traveling or moving in the middle of sleep training. And of course it's not a good time when she's sick.

But what about teething?

This a tough one. Some babies have a harder time with teething than others. And no one wants their baby to cry because she's in pain. So what do you do if you're ready to start sleep training and at the same time your baby starts cutting a tooth?

Research shows that babies experience discomfort from teething for 3-4 days before a tooth comes in. So I recommend waiting a few days to start sleep training if your baby is obviously about to cut a tooth.  

But if you wait to sleep train your baby until she's not teething in general, you're going to be waiting years. And the truth is, we don't always know when they're teething. In this post, I will dispel some of the myths about teething and give you a few tips about how to handle teething.

Babies start teething around 6-12 months on average. Drooling, putting things in their mouths, diaper rash, and a low-grade fever may all be signs of teething. Or they may not mean your baby is teething at all. I mean, some babies drool constantly. All babies are oral-fixated and put things in their mouths so that's what babies do. Diaper rash and a fever can have other causes as well. The only way to know if your baby is teething is if you see that her gums are irritated and the tooth is about to push through. And many babies are fussier than usual when they have a tooth coming in. 

Teething is not a good excuse if your baby has poor sleep habits.  If your baby is a poor sleeper most of the time, then she probably doesn't know how to go to sleep independently. If she does know how to go to sleep on her own, then teething may cause a night or two of poor sleep. But if you start letting her sleep in your bed or giving her a bottle during the night when she's teething, she will learn to expect those things. And you'll see her independent sleep will go out the window.

But what if your baby's teething is causing her to wake up at night? I suggest giving her a few minutes to see if she'll go back to sleep by herself. If she doesn't and she's obviously uncomfortable, you can give her some medicine to help with the pain. Children's tylenol or Motrin will work. I've also had good luck with homeopathic teething remedies like Boiron's camillia. 

During the day, you can give your baby teething rings to chew on. You can also wet a washcloth and put it in the freezer and then give it to your baby. Another option is to freeze breastmilk and give it to her in little chunks for her to gum and suck on.

My son Parker has never woken up in the night and called for me because he's teething. He sleeps through the night about 95 % of the time. He only wakes up in the night if he's sick. So I know that something is wrong if he cries in the night.

I hope this helps clear up some of the myths and questions about teething and sleep. If you have any questions about your baby's sleep, don't hesitate to ask! 

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Martha Lewis, MS

Jackson Hole, WY



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