Does teething affect baby sleep?

Does Teething Affect my Baby’s Sleep?

What do Catherine O’Leary’s Cow, Yoko Ono and teething have in common?

No, this is not the start to a silly joke, unfortunately.

Back in 1871, the Chicago Tribune reported that the cause of the great Chicago Fire was a cow. Catherine O’Leary’s cow to be precise, kicked over a lantern in the barn while it was being milked. While it was admitted later that the story was completely fabricated, it didn’t stop people from blaming Catherine’s cow for one of the greatest disasters in US History.

In 1970, the Beatles broke up. John Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono was widely (and unjustly) blamed for the breakup of one of the greatest rock bands in history. There were a lot of other factors at play there.

So, you are probably wondering, what do this cow and Yoko Ono have in common with teething?

Nothing really, except that they’re all victims of some unnecessary scapegoating.

Teething gets blamed for just about every ailment imaginable when it comes to babies. Baby’s got a fever? Probably because she’s teething. Baby’s crying more than normal? I bet it is sore gums from those teeth coming in. Baby’s got runny poop for a couple of days? I’ve heard that diarrhea can be caused by teething.

Now, it is true that a tooth coming in can potentially cause all those things. But many parents (admittedly myself included at times) are too quick to blame teething for any and all deviations from the norm as soon as they notice that first tooth appearing below the gumline.

And this is especially true when it comes to sleep.

So, how does teething affect sleep?

As parents, we’re predisposed to want to prevent discomfort in our babies. And obviously, that’s a good thing. Our natural reaction when baby starts crying in the night is to go in and do whatever we can to soothe them. Unfortunately, this is exactly what can lead to baby being unable to get to sleep without that comfort.

So let’s say you’ve been sleep training for a couple of weeks, everything’s going well. Then suddenly, you start to see a regression. Baby is suddenly waking up crying two or three times a night. Naturally, you’re going to look for a reason why they’re slipping back into old habits. And if there’s a tooth coming in, that provides a quick and easy answer.

And, of course, it’s not fair to leave baby to cry if they’re actually in pain and not just looking for Mommy to come nurse them back to sleep. So because of teething you give in and decide you’ll get back to sleep training once this whole teething thing is over with.

Cut to a year later, and baby is still getting rocked or soothed to sleep every time they wake up, because ‘Hey! I think there’s a tooth coming in!’

So… just a couple of things to keep in mind before you give up on your sleep routine due to incoming chompers.

First of all, teething symptoms last for around eight days. So if you’re looking at two weeks of baby crying through the night, it’s either due to some other ailment, or baby has once again learned that crying when he wakes up will bring his favorite person into the room. And you’ll be helping him get back to sleep. Yay, so fun! (for baby…NOT Mom and Dad.)

Second, teething symptoms are not nearly as uncomfortable as parents typically imagine they are. We hear about teeth “breaking” or “erupting” through the gums. This conjures up some cringe-worthy images, but nature is not nearly so heartless in this instance. Baby’s gums actually ‘rearrange’ to move out of the way for the incoming teeth.

Long story short, according to many experts, teething doesn’t usually cause a significant amount of pain.

So, once again, I’m not suggesting that you should ignore the teething thing altogether. Every baby is different and will experience teething differently. Just bear in mind that new teeth are not really the villain they’re often made out to be. And remember, baby’s going to be a lot happier while going through the process if he’s getting full nights of uninterrupted sleep.

The same thing goes for his parents.

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