Teething and Sleep Insights with Sleep Consultant Lucy Wolfe
When your baby teethes, this can have a significant impact on how they experience their sleep. Many parents will report disrupted sleep accompanied by obvious teething signs such as flushed cheeks, sore, bottoms, messy nappies. Or perhaps clamping their mouth or gums and showing you in variety of ways, that they are in pain. Our task is to comfort and support them as best as we can during this time and know that each teething phase will pass, and you will both get reprieve. In an effort to reduce the effects of teething on your baby’s sleep, it may be helpful to observe some positive sleep to help reduce the vulnerability of inevitable teething episodes.
1. Create a sleep-inducing environment:
That will promote sleepiness at bedtime and encourage your child to maintain their sleep to the best of their ability overnight too. Establish a dark-enough bedroom- consider blackout blinds and curtains and isolate any external light sources. It may be also helpful to use a night light in the room-out of your child’s eye line-so that they do not experience unnecessary separation anxiety. Make sure the cot does not have any toys, bumpers, or distractions. Ensure that your child is warm enough- they won’t sleep well if they are too hot or too cold, so adjust the room temperature to reflect 16-20 degrees and dress appropriately too.
2. Do your best to have enough daytime sleep for your child based on their age and stage.
The more age-relevant rest that your child achieves by day-the more able they may be to cope with teething pain overnight. Day time sleep deprivation may leave parents more vulnerable to night-time activity beyond 6 months of age. To help foster better naps- time the nap before your child shows obvious tired signals and ensure you are creating an adequately dark environment for daytime sleep as well as bedtime. Always provide a pre-nap ritual that serves to bridge the gap between the busyness of the day and time to sleep for the nap. I propose a naptime routine of about 10-15 minutes before each nap and carried out in the bedroom itself. Use motion or contact naps later in the day to ensure that your child gets enough sleep and make sure that naps are over in enough time to make space for bedtime as well.
3. Expose your child to bright and natural light, fresh air, and outside activity;
Light plays a significant part in helping to regulate your child’s sleeping patterns. Ensure that they are getting lots of age-appropriate activity and that they don’t spend too much of their day in the buggy, car, or highchair.
4. Connect and engage with your child with plenty of uninterrupted one to one time.
Chat with them and have lots of eye and physical contact to continue to help them feel loved, safe, seen, heard and secure. Also, create opportunities for your baby to spend safe pockets of time without a parent present. Tell them that you are leaving and return quickly again, to help manifest a felt sense of internal security.
5. Make sure that they are having a varied and balanced diet for their age and stage.
Promote a regularity to your days with offers of drinks and meals at regular intervals. When teething you report that they find it hard to eat, so do your best to keep offering appropriate food types together with enough milk and water for their age range.
6. Plan your bedtime routine before they become obviously tired.
Avoid waiting for intense symptoms such as intense eye rubbing or big yawning or becoming fussy or vocal. Prepare for bedtime when you see brief eye rubs and yawns and when your baby has been awake for an adequate, but not too long- time following their last nap. Have your bedtime routine in the bedroom that your child sleeps in – dim the lights, change them into their sleep clothes and engage in present, available, connected, and calming activities to help prepare them for sleep.
7. If teething disturbs their sleep- have a response plan that aligns with your parenting approach.
Manage pain appropriately with Teetha® gel or granules comfort and support them as they need you too. Avoid having an unpredictable approach and treating until 6am as night-time. Try not to start the day before this timeframe so that you don’t shift their body clock to an early rising setting.
Trust yourself and trust your baby to know what is needed during this intense phase and how best to support them in that. Understand that the teething episodes will pass and are not indefinite–although it can often feel that way.
Lucy Wolfe is a Sleep consultant, Co-creational Parent and Relationship Mentor, Author of The Baby Sleep Solution and All About the Baby Sleep Solution and Mum of four. She runs a private sleep consulting practice and online courses where she provides knowledge, expertise, and valuable support to families around the world. www.lucywolfesleepplans.com