Your baby’s first year is full of exciting milestones, but sometimes those achievements can come with a special set of challenges—especially when it comes to teething. The eruption of your baby’s first teeth means they are healthy and their development is progressing right on schedule, but this children’s dental health milestone can mean pain, irritation, fussiness, and even the occasional symptom like fever. Unfortunately for most parents, this means a chaotic sleep schedule for baby and them, but fear not! Here are some of our best tips on how to help a teething baby so you can both get some rest.

When Does Teething Start?

For most babies, teething begins at around 4 to 6 months of age and continues for the next couple of years. You should expect your baby to have all 20 primary teeth by the time they’re 3 years old. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby will be in discomfort for that entire time. If your baby’s teething symptoms last for more than a few weeks at a time, you should consider making an appointment with your dentist to make sure they aren’t suffering from other issues like an infection, rash, or other potential non-dental problem.

Symptoms of Teething

While every baby is different, there are some fairly common signs to look out for that can tell you if your child has started teething. The most common ones include:

Irritability

While this can be difficult to discern in babies, irritability generally means they just don’t seem to themselves. Maybe they aren’t smiling or giggling as much as they used to, they don’t seem to want to be still, or perhaps they’re a little more clingy than usual. Of course, a big indicator is crying—which, of course, can happen at any time of the day or night.

Drooling

Excess drooling is a sign that your baby’s teeth are stimulating their saliva glands, make sure you keep a clean bib and soft cloth around to clean up.

Red and Swollen Gums

Emerging teeth will irritate a baby’s soft gum tissue. Open their mouth and visually inspect what their gums look like—you might even be able to see the very tip of the new tooth emerging.

Lacking Appetite

With that irritation and pain might come an unwillingness to eat. This is more common with toddlers who eat solid foods, in which case some soft snacks might ease their discomfort.

Urge to Gnaw

Also called “mouthiness,” teething babies might attempt to suck, gum, or bite things around them to stimulate the new tooth. Keep a teething ring on hand so they don’t end up biting things they shouldn’t—like you!

Signs That Teething Is Affecting Your Baby’s Sleep

If you’re wondering how to help teething baby sleep, start by making sure that it’s actually their teething symptoms that are keeping them up. Look for some of the above symptoms around their usual bedtime and any time they might be awake throughout the night. Some other common issues like diaper rash, indigestion, hunger, or sickness can also account for a rough night’s sleep, so make sure you are vigilant and prepared to offer treatment where possible.

How to Help a Teething Baby Sleep Better

Once you’ve established that it’s their teething keeping them up, here are some tips for teething baby bedtime comfort:

1. Gum Massage

You can soothe your baby’s sore and irritated gums with a little gentle pressure, either by hand or with the help of a pediatrician-approved teething ring. Make sure your hands are clean first, then gently rub your baby’s gums with your fingers. You can even dip them in some cool water first to help.

Giving your baby a plastic teething ring allows them to perform a similar sensation on their own by simply chewing. Make sure that the ring is clean and doesn’t have any small or loose parts that could pose a choking hazard. Also, avoid gel-filled rings as any puncture could cause a mess.

2. Offer a Cooling Treat

A cooling sensation can do wonders for a teething baby’s sore gums. Some teething rings can be refrigerated beforehand so they’re ready to go if your child wakes up in discomfort. Otherwise, you can take a clean washcloth and soak it in water, then place it in the freezer. As long as there are no loose threads or rips, your baby can gnaw on the cool fabric for as long as they like.

3. Contain the Drool

Excessive drool can lead to a painful rash on your baby’s skin if it’s not cleaned up. Invest in some durable, drool-proof bibs for your baby to wear at night so their bedclothes aren’t soaked while they sleep.

4. Try a Distraction

Having some background sounds like white noise or other gentle soundtracks can help your baby drift off to sleep despite discomfort from teething. Certain soundtracks or white noise machines can be set to turn off after a certain amount of time so you don’t have to risk waking your baby by doing it manually.

5. Use the Medicine With Caution

For babies with exceptionally difficult teething symptoms, certain over-the-counter medications can help. Make sure that you talk with your baby’s pediatrician first to establish that the medicine you are considering is safe, and to learn the proper dosage. Children’s Tylenol is one of the most effective medications in this instance but stay away from medicine that is marketed as a numbing agent or other specialty teething treatment, as well as any herbal remedies that haven’t been approved by the FDA for use with infants. Some of these can have dangerous side effects. Learn more about when to visit a children’s emergency dentist.

Wrapping Things Up

“How to help a teething baby sleep” is probably at the top of every new parent’s search history, but just remember that teething is a temporary part of your child’s development and you’ll get your sleep schedule back eventually. With a little knowledge and preparedness, you can help your baby through this important dental milestone and onto the next big thing—it’ll all be worth it when you get to see that full set of teeth smiling back at you one day! When that day comes, be sure to visit Northern Nevada Children’s Dental and Orthodontics for tips on how to look after your child’s baby teeth, or for any other questions you might have along the way.