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Teething or Sleep Regression?

I remember at one point when all three of my little ones were still little, I thought I might never again sleep through the night. But alas, I have made it to the other side to blissful sleep once again! I remember the days when I would wreck my brain trying to figure out why my babies would not sleep through the night. Were they too cold? Too hot? Was the white noise too loud? Were they going through a sleep regression? Were they sick or teething? It was a constant guessing game, but most of the time I came to the conclusion that they were either teething or going through a regression. So, what's the difference between teething and a sleep regression and how can you figure out which one is disrupting your baby’s sleep?

Typically, a sleep regression describes a period of time (usually a couple of weeks) when a baby or toddler who has been sleeping well and suddenly starts waking at night, and/or not napping well for no apparent reason. However, despite popular belief, sleep regressions are not just to drive us crazy in the middle of the night, they do have a real purpose. Sleep regressions usually accompany a developmental leap such as sitting up, crawling, walking, or bursts in language development. There are several sleep regressions that happen over the first couple of years, but your baby or toddler may be impacted by some more than others.

So, when do these sleep regressions typically happen? The most common regressions typically happen around are 4 months, 8 to 10 months, 18 months, and 2 years. There could also be one that appears around the 12 month mark, but that one is not as common. While teething often carries with it a wide variety of symptoms (drooling, mouthing everything, swollen gums, crankiness, ear pulling, changes in eating and sleeping habits), sleep regressions usually only correlate to new developmental milestones and a change in appetite.

How do I tell the difference between teething and a regression? The best way to try to tell the difference between teething and a sleep regression, is to observe your baby during the day rather than overanalyzing symptoms at night or during nap time. Ask yourself: How is he behaving during playtime? Do you notice any of the symptoms of teething, such as swollen gums, loss of appetite, excessive drooling, or chewing on hands? Is she on the verge of crawling or walking? Asking these questions during waking hours may get you to the root of the problem more quickly, but you then still have to decide what to do about it.

What should I do when my baby is teething or going through a sleep regression? Whatever the cause, the best plan of attack is simply to continue to provide comfort and try to maintain as consistent a schedule as possible. If you remain attentive and predictable, the quicker and easier your baby can get back to their good sleep patterns and you will once again be able to sleep peacefully. Until that happens, plan on making that second cup of coffee a part of your daily routine:) 


About the author

Amanda Medley

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

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Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

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