Do Babies Sleep More While Teething?

Medically reviewed by Laura Marusinec, MD on February 9, 2016Written by Ashley Marcin on February 9, 2016
babies sleep when teething

Your baby’s first year is a huge period of growth and change. One of the most noticeable changes from birth to the 1st birthday is their teeth!

Those adorable pearly whites are actually present under the gums in utero, but they’ll need to make their way to the surface. As you can imagine, this process can cause some unpleasant symptoms for your little one.

You might wonder: Do babies sleep more while teething? Here’s the answer to that question, as well as more information about teething and how to help ease the pain.

Your Baby’s Teeth: A Timeline

The American Dental Association (ADA) explains that babies usually have 20 teeth under the gums at birth. Considering these teeth will all be out and proud by age 3, that’s a lot of moving and cutting that happens in a relatively short period of time.

These are the teeth your baby is working on in the first year:

  • The central incisors on the bottom usually poke out first between 6 and 10 months. These are the two bottom teeth in the center of your baby’s mouth. Next up are the central incisors on the top, which appear more around 8 to 12 months.
  • After that, the lateral incisors — which bookend the central incisors — erupt in the opposite pattern (top first, then bottom). This typically happens around 9 to 13 months and 10 to 16 months, respectively.
  • The first molars tend to appear next, both sets coming in between 13 and 19 months.

Keep in mind that your baby’s teeth will appear on their own unique schedule. Some babies may start to get teeth as early as in the first couple months of life. Others may not see much happening until closer to the 1-year mark. And, sometimes they don’t follow the usual order.

It’s a good idea to schedule your baby’s first dental appointment shortly after their first tooth appears, or no later than their 1st birthday. Your child’s pediatrician may also examine their teeth at annual well visits to look for signs of decay.

Symptoms

The Mayo Clinic shares that many parents think teething causes both diarrhea and fever, but researchers don’t back up these claims. Instead, there’s a host of other signs your baby may send you to indicate that something’s brewing.

The most common teething symptoms include:

  • drooling
  • chewing on anything solid
  • crankiness and irritability
  • painful, swollen gums

Some babies escape the period of teething with no complaints, while others end up miserable. Your baby’s symptoms may even change from one new tooth to the next.

Teething and Sleep

Most information focused around sleep and teething indicates that budding teeth disrupt sleep habits. In one study, over 125 sets of parents reported on their babies’ teething habits, covering a whopping 475 tooth eruptions. One of the most common complaints? Wakefulness.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also mentions that the pain from teething may be enough to wake baby from sleep. Beyond that, parents who end up changing their baby’s bedtime routine in response to irritability may make the problem worse. They suggest using some at-home methods to keep baby comfortable, but to keep the normal bedtime routine for consistency and better sleep.

Do babies ever sleep more while teething? It’s possible.

According to popular baby website The Baby Sleep Site, some parents have anecdotally reported that their kids do sleep more during particularly severe teething episodes. In a way, they say, the teething can act like a bad cold and make your baby feel under the weather.

These claims aren’t backed by formal studies or mentioned by leading pediatric organizations. If your child is excessively sleepy, you may want to call your pediatrician to rule out other causes.

Other Reasons Your Baby Might Be Sleeping More

Your little one might be sleeping more than usual for a number of reasons that aren’t related to teething. According to KidsHealth, babies grow an average of 10 inches and triple their birth weights in the first year.

In one study, researchers explored the link between sleep and growth. Their findings? Babies see an increase in both the number of sessions (naps or bedtimes) of sleep, as well as the total duration of sleep, when they are going through growth spurts. The longer the sleep session, the greater the growth.

Otherwise, illness can sometimes masquerade as teething. Here are some ways to identify if your baby has a cold versus a new tooth on the way.

  • Runny nose? Teething mucus or drool doesn’t run out of the nose. If your child has a runny nose, they may have a cold.
  • Fever? Teething doesn’t usually produce a fever. If your little one’s temperature is above 101˚F, it may indicate a viral or bacterial infection.
  • Ear-pulling? This action might be more related to teething than an actual infection. If your baby is pulling or grabbing at their ear and also very fussy, you may want your doctor to check both the teeth and ears.
  • Getting worse? Teething symptoms are typically mild. If your baby seems to be getting sicker, it’s a good idea to call your doctor.

Pain Relief Methods

As your baby’s teeth start coming in more regularly, you’ll notice the signs and symptoms more readily. You can try some at-home pain relief methods to help your teething baby feel better and sleep more soundly.

  • Pressure. Try putting pressure on the gums. Wash your hands or use a moist piece of gauze to manually massage the sorest areas of your baby’s gums.
  • Cold. Use the power of cool to take the edge off the pain. You can offer baby anything chilled — a washcloth, spoon, or teether — but avoid anything totally frozen, which can harm more than it helps.
  • Chewing. Offer older babies hard foods to chew. Good options include cool cucumbers and carrot sticks. Take care with this suggestion, though. Babies are vulnerable to choking, so you’ll want to supervise this activity or place the food in a mesh bag made for this purpose. You can also offer teething biscuits or teething rings.
  • Wipe the drool. Prevent skin irritation by keeping drool at bay. Make sure you wipe your baby’s chin and cheeks gently when they’re drooling a lot.

When all else fails, you may try giving your baby an over-the-counter medicine like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). Contact your doctor for appropriate dosage instructions that depend on your child’s age and weight.

Avoid any pain relievers, including topical gels, that contain the ingredient benzocaine. These medications have been associated with a condition called methemoglobinemia, which reduces the oxygen in the blood.

When to Call the Pediatrician

The ADA recommends caring for your baby’s teeth before they emerge. Wipe gums clean with a washcloth or cotton pad. When teeth do appear, brush them twice a day using a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. The toothpaste should be an amount about the size of a grain of rice.

If your baby’s symptoms get worse or they’re sleeping excessively, contact their doctor to rule out illness. Teething symptoms are typically the worst in the four days before the tooth emerges and last until three days afterward. So, if the tooth is through the gum and your baby is still miserable after a few days, there might be something else going on.

The Takeaway

Babies go through a lot of change in the first year. Teething is just another one of those milestones in a line of many.

Though it’s normal to feel anxious or worried if your little one is acting differently, rest assured that this stage will soon pass and your baby will have a beautiful smile to show for all the struggle.

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