You’re reading this because you may be experiencing disruption in sleep and thinking, “It must be teething!” Maybe you have experienced random spouts of crying at night, increased fussiness, and even seen some of those gums turn a little white. Maybe it’s something that your own mother, mother-in-law, aunt, or even caregiver has told you as you see a small change in demeanor around the 7-month mark.
The interesting truth about teething, however, is it can be blamed for so many things, when in fact, teething may not be the problem at all!
You might be thinking, “what? There is a tooth cutting, and my child is clearly in discomfort.”
The TRUTH About Teething:
It is not to say that teething does not cause some discomfort, but oftentimes, it is not enough to cause any long-term disruption in temperament or in sleep. In fact, when your child begins to teethe, while there is initial soreness, the teeth do not actually cut through the gums, but their gums actually move to accommodate for the teeth to come through. The American Academy of Pediatrics does state that the soreness can, at times, impact sleep, but more than often, parental change in routine to manage the teething is what impacts change in temperament or sleep patterns. This study done in 2013, actually states that while there is some pain, the pain that is associated with teething was over-emphasized.
In a study done in Brazil with over 40 infants, a doctor examined these infants during teething. The study found that teething was associated with changes in sleep disturbances and some of the common effects we know such as appetite loss, temperature, irritability etc… but only during the day that the child’s tooth had erupted and the day after, not any days before or far after the disruption. In another study, it was also found that some longer sleep disruption happened in many children, even those who were not teething.
So what does this all mean? If it’s not teething, what is it?
In many cases, longer spouts of disruption in sleep and temperament can be developmental, which usually points to the milestone regressions. These occur due to developmental leaves and progressions your child is making and can make a much larger impact on sleep than teething.
Common Culprits of Sleep Disruption:
Changes in sleep routine, overstimulation, or major transitions also have a large impact on sleep! Some questions to ask yourself are”
- Have you changed the routine or offered more assistance that may turn into a sleep prop?
- Has there been any transition in the daily routine or caregiving?
- Is my child getting enough day’s sleep?
- Is my child trying to learn a new skill?
If you answered yes to any of the above, this is likely to be much more the culprit to sleep disruption than teething.
What can I do to manage through this?
Just because teething isn’t the cause for long-term sleep impacts, doesn’t mean we don’t need to address them! Simply monitoring and offering cold teething toys are really great ways to help with soreness before naps and bedtime.
Talk to your pediatrician if Tylenol is appropriate, and it can be just what you need to help your little one through a rough night.
Otherwise, dive in to other developmental leaps. Check out our regressions articles to help guide you through more!
If you’re ready to ditch those sleep associations and start your sleep journey to independent sleep, check out our Group Coaching events for better sleep in 7-days!
Rested Mama, Happy Baby Founder
I'm your certified pediatric sleep coach and new parent educator, Mica Deshaw. I help families on their journey to establish healthy sleep habits and get the whole family sleeping again, working with children ages 0-4 years old.
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