Chew on this!
Teething is rough. Plain and simple. Every new parent has or will experience the struggle that is teething. When and how baby teeth show up is unique to every baby. Some babies are very sensitive teethers while others pop out tooth-after-tooth with little pain and suffering. Usually, during this time, your baby will sleep less from the discomfort. No parent wants to see their child in pain, but this can be an especially challenging time for the whole family who may temporarily lose sleep too.
Most babies begin teething around four months but sometimes it can happen sooner. One of our new moms, Calin, told us her story “My little girl started teething at just two months old. She refused to sleep on her own altogether too. This is my first baby and I was about to drop dead from exhaustion already.” Teething is an individual experience, but whenever it happens, just remember, it won’t last forever.
How do you know if your baby is teething?
The most common teething symptoms are:
Drooling: More than normal!
Teething rash: A chapped, red chin from excess drool. Possibly a diaper rash due to watery stools from swallowing extra saliva.
Diarrhea: Swallowing extra saliva can make your baby’s poop runnier than usual.
Refusal to eat: Tender gums make it tough to nurse and eat comfortably.
Biting or chewing: Your baby may chew on hands, toys, or – if you’re breastfeeding – on you!
Ear-pulling and/or cheek-rubbing
Increased night waking
More fussing/crying than usual
While the symptoms are significant, the remedies and coping strategies are few. Here are the best 5 tips to ease the pain and help provide some comfort.
- You may notice your baby trying to find anything within reach to chew on – a necklace, car keys or anything they can get a hold of. Shiny objects beware! Instead, try to rub your baby’s gums with your finger. But, first, sterilize your hands, and use one finger to gently massage the gums.
- During the day, teething rings and other specially designed chewing toys can be extremely comforting. Often, these objects are made to be chilled in the refrigerator, which is a bonus, because the coolness can help take the edge off the pain. Make sure the label says there are no BPA’s in the material – those nasty chemicals that could be harmful to your little one. When your baby loses interest in it, sterilize, place in a baggy, rechill and repeat. Voile’!
- There isn’t always a need to be fancy though, freezing a damp washcloth and giving that to him to chew on can be just as effective as the possibly expensive teething toys. Another mom comments, “We tried a teething necklace and it didn’t help at all, even though some moms swear by them. A frozen washcloth was her favorite. I put several washcloths in water and then ball them up individually and wring them out and freeze them on a cookie sheet. She will chew and slurp on one for almost an hour.”
- Movement or rocking may also soothe the nerves of a teether, but this is really more a distraction than a solution. But if sleep is needed, this may help woo your little one to sleep which can be difficult.
- Consult your doctor and discuss options like Tylenol. Your doctor can consult you on when to administer medicines and the proper doses. It’s essential that you get professional advice prior to administering any type of medication due to the baby’s weight and maturity.
- Wrap your baby snugly (swaddle) in a blanket to keep her feeling warm and secure. This will increase comfort during this painful time.
The impacts of no sleep, and why it’s so important
Sleep is compromised during teething and some babies have difficulty sleeping through the night anyway. This unrest makes for an ideal time to try out a new sleep schedule. Four months old is a good age to try out a new routine. Not getting enough sleep can have significant consequences on the family, so the extra effort can really pay off for everyone. Here’s why:
- Not enough energy to deal with your baby’s unique and frequent needs can leave everyone feeling grumpy. If you are not getting enough sleep, ask for help so you can take a nap. Even a short nap (20 minutes) will make a difference.
- Lack of sleep affects concentration and judgment. We must have good sleep to make sound decisions. If you find your ability to make decisions is challenged, don’t keep this to yourself. It’s time to rely on a friend, neighbor or your Birthright support team.
- Compromised driving – too sleepy to focus behind the wheel leaves you and your baby at risk. If you are feeling too tired, ask a friend or neighbor to drive you. Or, wait until you catch a few extra winks so you are alert.
- Not enough sleep makes concentrating on work or school difficult. Your performance will be compromised and the outcome less than satisfactory for everyone.
- No sleep for the parents can be very stressful and place added strain on your relationship.
How to create a nighttime routine
Sleep training can be a wonderful thing as you finally get your little one to sleep for longer periods in their own bed. But it’s a little trickier when teething pain interrupts your best efforts to establish a routine. You might need a little extra dose of patience, as it may take several months or longer to create the best routine.
- Follow your baby’s natural sleep schedule, and pull back the time a little. If your baby tends to sleep her longest stretch from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., aim to start fitting in a bedtime routine around 7:15 or 7:30 p.m.
- Introduce new bedtime rituals slowly. Once you’re ready to start incorporating a bedtime routine, slowly introduce the nighttime rituals into the mix like a soothing bath, gentle infant massage, a cuddly feeding, reading, or turning on a white noise machine or soft, soothing music.
- Try to put your sleepy little one down while she’s drowsy so she gets used to falling asleep on her own, and not in your arms.
- Find what works for your baby – if bath time is more exciting, try massage instead to calm him down.
- Have your child sleep in the same place. That means running errands when your baby falls asleep in the stroller is not the best idea.
For our young mother Calin, this was a big help: “By the time she was three and a half months old she was sleeping from 10 pm to 2 am every night. While that may not sound like a lot, it felt like I was finally a human being again. Don’t give up mamas. It’s worth all the effort!”
It is important to remember that each family has their own way of doing things that may not work for you but we can always draw strength from hearing other mothers’ stories and knowing there is a light at the end of what might seem like an endless tunnel.
Are you struggling with a teething child or sleepless nights? Is the lack of sleep starting to blur days together? Let’s talk! You can visit our office in downtown Hillsboro location at 232 NE Lincoln St #F, Hillsboro, OR 97123 or call us at (503) 648-6766. If our main office is closed you can call after hours at (800) 550-4900. Let’s start a conversation! Comment here on this post or find us on Facebook! We want to build a community where moms can come together and know they are not alone. Come together at Birthright.