Not as much as you might think….
This is something I am asked about almost daily, since all babies have to live through it!
Firstly, it is important to realize that teething usually only affects sleep when the teeth are actually cutting through the gums. Some children can have a couple of nights that are tough as a result of teething, but in the big picture, sleep will not be disturbed for extended periods of time.
Secondly, all children are affected differently. Some are grumpy, some have a runny nose and red cheeks, while others don’t show any signs, except for a brief yelp when the tooth cuts.
Through my experience with babies, teething, and sleep over the last many years, here is what I have found…
Teething doesn’t actually affect sleep (MOST of the time) as much as you might think.
If you find there is great discomfort (screaming or writhing in pain) then please do employ whatever pain relief methods your family is comfortable with. Other than that, there is almost nothing you can do. It’s a rite of passage, and if you change your nightly routine or sleep strategies and expectations, you may find that you have a whole new problem on your hands.
A baby with healthy sleep habits but who is teething, isn’t likely to fall asleep differently (in fact many will want more sleep) or begin to wake at different times, multiple times in the night. If this is happening, my guess would be that something else is going on and that we my have developed a new sleep prop or revisited old ones.
If you are sure teething is waking your baby in the night, the best thing you can do is to see if she will fall back to sleep on her own, and if not, go in and reassure her that it’s still night-time and that she’s okay, or use pain relief. Just know that within a couple of nights, things will return to normal. A teething baby is only going to wake to eat if that is part of their regular routine anyway or need to be rocked back to sleep if that is how you (even sometimes) handle night waking. Even if they do wake from teething discomfort, a baby with well established self-soothing skills, will be able to pop right back off to sleep. The pain of a cutting tooth is literally from the MOMENT it cuts and the rest of the time it’s likely minimal discomfort.
Unfortunately, teething is something that has to happen; every child goes through it. And it’s more livable than the adult witnessing it might think. It’s very important to hang on to your consistency and your expectations for their sleep teething or not, while still being able to slightly change your response, etc. The undeniable truth is that they still need to sleep (likely more so, if not feeling well) even if they’re teething, so try to keep your routine the same.
Hang in there. xo