Does Teething Affect My Baby’s Sleep?

Teething symptoms in babies is much debated — just ask your pediatrician…and then poll your friends. Some pediatricians will say that an elevated temperature is not a sign or symptom of teething, but ask parents of multiple children and they’ll tell you otherwise. A quick internet search will yield results listing a handful of baby teething symptoms, but what you rarely see listed is disturbed sleep patterns.

Teething Sleep

Timing of teething

Many of my clients often feel that their baby has just gotten the hang of a healthy sleep routine when it’s suddenly derailed. And if this sleep regression happens between the ages of 4 and 7 or 8 months, teething typically gets the blame.

Teething symptoms

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) — a good source of answers to all of your baby questions — does concede that teething in babies may be accompanied by some not-so-fun side effects; it’s interesting to note that their listing of signs and symptoms of teething is preceded by the following statement:  “Teething occasionally may cause….” Notice the word in italics. The reality of many parents with teething babies is much different than an occasional symptom or associated discomfort, and you’ve likely experienced anecdotes from both sides — not a single symptom or side-effect, or a completely miserable, drooling baby.

The AAP’s official stance is that teething may — occasionally — cause and/ or be accompanied by mild irritability and crying in your baby (no surprise there because, ouch.). Your baby may also exhibit a low grade temperature — not exceeding 101 degrees Fahrenheit — excessive drooling, a desire to chew on something hard, and have swollen, tender gums.

Teething and sleep

What the AAP doesn’t mention is that your baby’s sleep may be disrupted during this uncomfortable period. It stands to reason that, if your baby is experiencing the uncomfortable symptoms associated with teething, those symptoms won’t simply disappear during naptime and nighttime. And, as any good parent does, you want to do whatever you can to take away any of your baby’s pain or discomfort, by any means possible. Am I right?

The truth is that teething can disrupt your baby’s sleep, but it can also derail any progress you’ve made with sleep training, if you suddenly decide to run in at the sound of the first wimper. Now, I’m not saying you should leave your baby to cry when they’re in pain, but you shouldn’t use teething as an excuse to fall back into bad sleep habits, either.

According to a Parents.com article, parents may give their baby Tylenol to help reduce teething pain. However, the article warns that, while teething can cause sleep disruptions, a change in behavior — a disinterest in playing or inability to be distracted — can be a sign of something other than teething. In essence, teething isn’t so painful that your baby should be crying incessantly; if this is the case, you need to call your pediatrician.

As you would at any other time, give your baby some time to calm themself when they awake from sleep crying. I’m not saying to completely ignore a baby in distress, but don’t disregard the pause just because your baby is teething. Allowing your baby to work through the discomfort and self-soothe will ensure that they’re getting the sleep they need for their growing body, tooth buds and all!

Is your little one having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep and you are sure it’s more than teething?  Let’s chat! Please reach out to me!  Visit me HERE and get in touch for a complimentary sleep assessment.

Head Banging in Babies and Toddlers

If you’re the parent of a toddler, you’ve already experienced the phenomena of toddler tantrums at least once. Arms flailing, body writhing, tears streaming, often for no obvious reason (and other times for something as simple as cutting a sandwich). With vocabulary still being acquired, and emotional expression a new extension of identity, physicality is the quickest and easiest way for toddlers to express their anger or frustration in a situation. While alarming, full-body tantrums are minute when compared to head banging.

head banging

If you are a parent of a child who bangs his head, don’t be alarmed (tough, I know). Head banging is actually quite normal, with As many as 2 in 10 healthy children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years of age. And, if you’re a parent of a boy, he is more likely to head bang than girls his age. Once you get past the alarm, you should take a look at some of the reasons why babies and toddlers head bang.

The simple answer to the underlying reasons for head banging is that your child is practicing a self-soothing technique (and a scary one at that). Most commonly occurring during sleeping hours, the rhythmic action of head banging serves as a way for your child to comfort himself. According to the Children’s Health Network, head banging episodes can last anywhere from under fifteen minutes (most common) to over an hour. Here are a few reasons why your child might be banging his head:

PAIN

Earaches and emerging teeth might just be the culprits. Because babies and toddlers are still acquiring language, communicating discomfort can still be a challenge. For minor aches such as teething, head banging is a simple way for babies to soothe themselves to sleep.

FRUSTRATION

Toddlers brains are developing at an incredible rate, and they are still learning the intricacies of self expression. Emotions are often felt with intensity, especially in response to boundaries and limitations being set (that impede their sense of independence), and navigating strong emotions can be a challenge for a toddler. In addition to flailing out physically, many toddlers will head bang as a way of their expressing frustration or anger.

ATTENTION

Again, language and expression are emerging and often don’t match up to acquired capabilities. Babies and toddlers will often head bang as a way of getting attention from parents or caregivers. It’s cause-and-effect testing in action; baby/toddler bangs head, parent/caregiver rushes over in alarm.

MEDICAL ISSUE

In rare cases, head banging can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or related to a known medical condition. The Children’s Health Network states that head banging is more common in children who have cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, autism, blindness, or Down Syndrome.

WHAT CAN YOU DO

As always, you should consult your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s health. Most children outgrow head banging by school age, but there are things you can do to help your child find alternate coping mechanisms.

If you child is head banging out of frustration, take a moment to acknowledge and discuss the emotions your child is feeling. If your child is head banging as attention seeking behavior, make a point of paying more attention to your little one when he is not banging. Also be sure not to call too much attention to the banging while it is happening (so as not to reinforce the behavior).

Because of the rhythmic nature of head banging, The Children’s Health Network suggests that you work with your child during waking hours, playing with a drum (or other musical instrument/toy), dancing, clapping, and swaying in a swing or utilizing a rocking toy.

HEAD BANGING AND SLEEP

If your child begins head banging during naps and bedtime, your first instinct will likely be to pad the crib or bed. While the majority of bangers won’t bang hard enough to cause themselves harm, it is actually more harmful to add blankets and pillows to your child’s bed in an effort to protect them. Adding blankets and pillows to your baby’s crib creates the possibility of a suffocation risk; instead, allow your child to go to bed with a security object or “lovey” for comfort. Remember to create a warm and calm environment with an established bed and naptime routine (bath, bottle, book, bed). Cuddle and sing to your little one, or play some light music to further create a warm and secure sleep routine.

Again, if you are concerned about your child’s head banging, put a call in to your pediatrician. Most of all, remember that this is just a stage in development for healthy children, and it will pass (just as throwing food did).

If you need help creating a safe sleep environment and comforting bedtime routine for your little one, I’m happy to work with your family!

When Babies Start Teething – Sleep Training During This Time.

Teething Babies: The good, the bad and the ugly

Is your baby not sleeping through the night because of teething?

You see, the good news is – your little one is getting teeth!  Hooray…he won’t be the only baby that’s sporting the all gum smile.  The bad news is, it might come with some sleeping problems and the ugliness of it may be that you will use your teething baby as an excuse for everything that has ever gone wrong in your life!  Okay, I admit…that might just be a tad on the dramatic side.

When Babies Start Teething and Sleep Training – Could it actually work together?

Now the question remains whether your little teething bundle of saliva can actually sleep, sleep train, be trained for to sleep and/or sleep better while teething.  The answer is a resounding YES!  If you are going to wait for your baby to stop teething before you actually train or teach him or her how to sleep, you are going to wait well over 2.5 years. Since sleep is a skill that we need to teach our children, the faster we give them the Gift of Sleep the better.

When Do Babies Start Teething? Sleep Training During This Time.
When Do Babies Start Teething? Sleep Training During This Time.

Helping Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

If you want to help your baby sleep through the night, take restful naps, be healthy, happy and still have teeth, you can help your baby or toddler by teaching him or her how to sleep unassisted (sleep training your baby).  Think about it, if your little one can put herself to sleep without you help she won’t wake you up during the night the 5 times he wakes at night due to sore gums.  In my experience as a sleep consultant, I have found that children who have learned the skill of self soothing and sleeping handles teething and illnesses much better.

Teething Causing Baby Sleep Problems

Teething can cause a slight regression in tour child’s sleeping habits.  HOWEVER, be careful that YOU are not the one regressing, using “teething” as an excuse.  If your child wakes during the night due to teething, go to him or her, provide some comfort (soothing words or careful touch), administer the necessary medication and  then allow your little one to fall back asleep without any props or assistance (no pacifier, no bottle and no rocking).  And as a side note, I have found Ibuprofen to be a very effective pain reliever in babies over 6 months of age.  Just be certain to carefully read the dosing instructions on the package and consult your pediatrician to double check before administering.

Lastly, a good way to test whether your child is fussy due to teething, is to think about whether they are showing other signs of teething, and whether or not it is also bothering them during the day.  If it truly is teething, it won’t be bothering your little one just at night.