Skip to the content

Teething Causing Sleep Troubles?

“He is so fussy today. He is probably teething.” “He didn’t eat well today…teething.” “He did not sleep well last night. His gums must be sore from teething.” Do any (or all) of these statements sound familiar? I know they do for me! When my second oldest had trouble sleeping, I would always blame it on teething, even though he was never a great sleeper to begin with. It is easy to blame teething on anything that is going on with our babies that we don’t have answers for because it gives us an answer and a sense of comfort.  I am not saying that teething doesn’t cause any issues because we all know it can make a baby fussier.  I have seen enough babies to know that some babies don’t handle teething well, but to use it as a reason for consistent poor sleep, especially if your baby wasn’t sleeping well to begin with will only continue to encourage poor sleeping habits.

Throughout the years of being a sleep consultant, I have witnessed teething as an excuse for a bad night sleep MANY times, and although the baby’s gums might be a little sore, it should not completely derail his sleep. Research has found that teething doesn’t really cause significant pain, at the most there could be some discomfort for a day or two while the tooth is coming through the gums.  According to an article from Science Based Medicine, it is a myth that the new tooth cuts its way through the bone and gum. In reality, a pathway emerges because of the remodeling of the tissue.  So essentially, the gums give way for the tooth to come in, making it less painful.

So if teething isn’t the issue, then what could be causing my baby to sleep poorly?

  • Developmental milestones
  • Illness
  • Incorrect sleep schedule
  • Nap transition
  • Leap in language development
  • Lack of good sleep habits and self-soothing skills
  • Sleep associations
  • Separation anxiety

So, I would encourage you to take a look at how well and independent your baby sleeps before you blame teething on the next change in your baby’s behavior.  An overtired baby who doesn’t have independent and healthy sleep habits tends to struggle with everything and anything from travel to illness to milestone development to teething.  If your baby isn’t sleeping well and seems to be struggling with teething, its likely time to implement some changes to teach your baby independent and healthy sleep habits.   I can tell you with first hand knowledge with our son, once we taught him healthy sleep habits, teething became a non-issue! While we saw a little bit of grumpiness for a couple days when a tooth was coming in and possibly a shorter nap here and there, it was nothing like what we saw when he was sleep deprived.  He became a happier and healthier well rest baby.

How to minimize sleep regression when baby is teething

Like I said before, certain babies don’t handle teething as well as others. If your little one is cutting a tooth or two and was a good sleeper before, try to provide comfort without creating new “bad” sleep habits, or undoing all the healthy sleep habits you have instilled. For instance, if you want to reinforce the habit of sleeping in the crib, avoid bringing your baby into bed with you during stretches of teething pain – instead, hold your baby until she’s calm, but put her back down in her crib to fall back to sleep independently. Providing more comfort during that time is totally fine, but try to still encourage her to drift back to sleep on her own.

Also, try to keep bedtime and nap time routines consistent while your baby is teething. These routines are a great cuing system for your baby’s body that sleep is just around the corner, so changing the routine can confuse her, making it more difficult for her to fall asleep.

The other thing you can do to provide more comfort to your baby is offer a pain reliever such as Tylenol or ibuprofen so it is easier for her to get back to sleep if she wakes up from the pain. If you do use pain relievers, I like to recommend offering it 20 minutes before going down for a nap, or in the middle of the night if she is waking up. Just be sure to check with your healthcare provider before offering any medication to make sure it’s the right fit for your baby.

Should I wait to sleep train until after my baby is done teething?

Absolutely NOT! Your child will be teething on and off for 2-3 year, so if you put off sleep training until after your child is done teething, think of all the hours of consolidated sleep you will have lost! I am sure we as parents can always find a reason to put off sleep training, but if your little one is truly having problems getting good sleep, then it is best to start sleep training and adjust when small speed bumps come along such as teething. Many times the hardest part about sleep training is taking that first step to start, but once you do you are quickly on your way to better sleep for your whole family.


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

Don't go through another night of bad sleep.

Contact us to schedule your FREE 15-minute sleep evaluation!

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.

Light window Image

Get Sleep Solutions Today

Don't waste another night not getting sleep. Contact us today and we help guide you to get your family sleeping through the night.