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Teething is one of those experiences I think babies and parents alike wish didn’t have to happen. It’s not fun knowing that your little one is in pain, especially if it’s causing them to lose sleep.
If you’re wondering how to soothe a teething baby at night, I’ll be going through some tips and tricks to make the process as easy as possible for everyone involved.
Teething Symptoms or Illness?
It can be difficult to tell if your little one is really teething or if they’re ill. This can cause some panic for parents. I understand the feeling—my poor baby ended up in the ER all for teething.
It’s essential to look at the big picture here. Yes, your baby may have a mild fever or a decreased appetite—but is it standalone, or does it come with the rest of the teething symptoms? If your little one has a few (or all) of the following symptoms, it’s likely to be teething and not an illness.
If you’re sincerely worried, though, then a quick trip to the doctor is always a good idea. It’s also important to know that teething can begin as early as two to three months—although six months is the average. Teething also continues sporadically for up to two to three years.
Swollen, Tender Gums
This is the classic sign of teething. Those teeth are pushing their way through your baby’s gums, so they’re bound to be uncomfortable and inflamed.
You may also notice your little one chewing on their fingers… Or toes. Or a blanket. Or toys. Chewing or sucking soothes swollen, sore gums, so they’ll most likely be putting everything they can reach into their mouth.
This isn’t because your child isn’t hungry. Eating can be painful with swollen gums, so your little one may just avoid it for a bit. Missing a feed or two shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Your darling will catch up when they’re feeling better again.
One of the ways your baby’s body tries to soothe the inflammation is by producing more saliva than usual. Because babies are still learning how to control their own lips, though, this usually causes a lot of drooling.
This excess of saliva and your little one’s inability to keep it in their mouth sometimes results in a slight rash around your baby’s mouth. Wipe away the drool as often as you can to prevent this.
These last two symptoms are far less common but can pop up. A mild fever can occur as a result of inflammation in the gums. If the fever is more than just mild, I recommend getting a checkup—you can never be too safe.
It’s also important to note that the temperature should only spike slightly on days when teeth are actually poking out or the day before. If the increased temperature lasts more than a day or so, it could be something more serious.
Mild diarrhea can happen as a result of baby swallowing all that extra drool! It’s generally not much to do with your baby’s digestive system, but more to do with all that extra watering down.
Not all teething babies suffer from diarrhea, though. It’s merely a possible side effect. It’s another symptom that you should double-check carefully, as it could be a sign of other illnesses.
Wouldn’t you be a little grouchy if your gums were sore and sharp toothy bits were poking into your mouth? Your baby is no different. As they can’t complain or tell you what’s wrong, it’s likely that they will just be a little grumpy for a while.
The fact that they’re probably getting less sleep doesn’t help!
The Effect of Teething on Your Baby’s Sleep
The unpleasant experience of teething can have some adverse effects on your baby’s sleeping patterns.
Pain Disrupts Sleep
The pain from their gums can be so severe that it wakes your baby from their sleep. Babies already have somewhat wonky sleeping routines, so if this happens regularly while they’re teething, it could put them a bit behind in the amount of sleep they get.
Less Sleep Increases Irritability
As adults, we understand that lack of sleep can cause us to be cranky or moody. It happens in babies, too, though. Although they may not get snappy, they could be quieter than usual or cry more than usual.
Because they’re waking up more frequently, they’re likely to feel tired during the day. This can lead to overreactions to small things, like meeting new people or being in a less familiar place. Things that would normally be just a curious and interesting experience for your little one is now overwhelming.
Also, less sleep heightens sensitivity to pain, so your baby may be feeling their teeth and gums even more so when they’re tired.
How to Soothe a Teething Baby At Night
Learning how to soothe a teething baby at night will improve both your sleep and theirs. Every baby is different, though, so not all of these methods are guaranteed to work for your little one.
You know your baby best, so try whichever one seems right for you. How to soothe a teething baby at night definitely depends on their personality.
Cuddle the Pain Away
Yes—cuddle therapy is a real thing. Have you ever had a terrible day and come home with a headache, and all you’ve really wanted is a long hug and to fall asleep with your person? Yep, babies have that same thing.
Sometimes, just picking them up and holding them can significantly reduce their unhappiness. If you’re lucky, they may settle down in your arms. Then it’s just a case of putting them down again when they fall back asleep.
It could also be a good idea to gently massage your little one’s gums with your finger. Simply putting some light pressure on the swollen areas can bring immediate relief. Make sure your hands are clean!
Use a Pacifier
A pacifier could be the key to soothing aching gums. Your baby may chew on it more than suck on it, but either way, the action helps calm the inflammation somewhat and settle them down again.
If you place the pacifier in the refrigerator for a bit before giving it to your child, they get the benefit of soothing cold, along with chewing and sucking. This may be an item you already have lying around, so you wouldn’t have to go and buy something specifically for teething.
Invest in a Teething Device
When you start shopping, you’ll find a multitude of teething devices out there designed to make this an easier experience for little mouths. They come in many forms, but I recommend two in particular.
Teething rings are great as they’re shaped nicely for your baby to hold onto and chew or suck. There’s some controversy over whether or not they’re safe to use, as some contain chemicals that can be harmful.
With this in mind, I recommend choosing a wooden teething ring. I know, it sounds wrong—but these types of teethers are incredibly smooth and treated with beeswax or oil to ensure the absence of harmful splinters. Just be sure to check what they’re treated with, but they should be a better alternative than plastic ones.
I love these creations! You know how your baby likes to chew on their own fingers when teething? This little glove will help soothe their pain even more. It has textured silicone on the top that will rub their gums nicely when they chew on it.
There’s no need to worry about your little one dropping their teething toy, or choking on it. It’s placed firmly on their own hand and when they put their hand in their mouth—which they naturally do when teething—it’s a self-administered gum massage.
Cold Is Your Friend
Try giving your baby a cold damp washcloth from the refrigerator to chew on. It’s soft and very chewable, and should ease the pressure on their gums. The cold also helps! Think of it like putting a cold pack on a sore spot. Supervise, though—it’s never a good idea to leave your baby alone with anything to chew on.
Just be aware that it’s not a good idea to give your little one something directly out of the freezer. Brain freeze is painful for adults—never mind for babies. Out of the fridge is quite all right. If you’ve frozen something like pieces of vegetables for your baby to chew or suck on, it’s a good idea to let them warm up to refrigerator-temperature before they get anywhere near your baby’s mouth.
Understanding how to soothe a teething baby at night may require some detective work to see what works for your little darling. Not everything works for everyone.
Try some of the tips and tricks here to soothe your child’s aching when they wake. Above all, be patient. It might not feel like it now, but every one of these moments is making a memory that you’ll look back on with fondness when this tooth-growing stage is over.