Just when you think you have sleep training figured out, a new milestone in your baby’s life changes things up again.
A particularly disruptive milestone can be teething. It can affect their mood and eating habits, but most often it’s sleep quality that takes the biggest hit.
Babies can be more tired during teething as the pain and discomfort can lead to sleep disturbance in the night and shorter or skipped naps. The acute fever-like symptoms associated with tooth eruption can also cause babies to feel more groggy during this period, leading to bouts of sleep regression.
All babies will experience teething differently and some will be able to sleep right through a new tooth eruption unfazed.
Just so you know what to expect though, we’ve taken a look at how teething can affect sleep, the normal symptoms, when to worry, and more.
When Do Babies Start Teething and What Are the Symptoms?
No two babies are the same when it comes to their teething timeline. It is quite common to see a change in their sleeping and eating habits as teething progresses though.
Let’s find out when teething typically starts and the changes your little one can experience.
What Age Does Teething Start?
Expert family general practitioner Dr. Phillipa Kaye notes that “teething can start when your little one is as young as 3 months, but often the first milk teeth appear when your child is between 6 and 9 months.”
Baby teeth can erupt at different times, with the first set of upper and lower teeth appearing as late as 10 or even 12 months, so you may find that your child doesn’t get their first tooth until after their first birthday.
Here’s a chart of when teeth typically appear.
Common Signs and Symptoms
During teething, it’s quite common to see the following symptoms and changes in your little one:
- Excessive drooling
- Teething rash (caused by excess drooling)
- Changes in appetite (wanting to feed more or eat fewer solids than usual)
- Fussiness and irritability
- Sore, red gums where the teeth are poking through
- Chewing and gnawing on food/objects
- Flushed cheeks
- Raised temperature
- Rubbing their ear or cheek
The increased saliva production during teething can also make their stools looser and perhaps watery, appearing like diarrhea.
Consult your child’s doctor if you notice this persisting beyond a week to rule out an infection or other cause.
How Long Does Teething Fussiness Last?
Due to the different rates at which baby teeth emerge, it’s hard to pinpoint when the fussy period may end.
According to Dr. Kaye, “It tends to happen over a few days, usually around a week, but they can appear one after the other, which makes it feel like longer.”
It takes 2 years for all of your baby’s milk teeth to appear, but this doesn’t mean they will experience constant pain or fussiness.
Teething should only cause pain for just over a week — for five days before the teeth appear, the day they erupt, and three days afterward according to an infant teething study shared by the NCT (National Childbirth Trust).
Do Babies Sleep More When Teething?
According to The Baby Sleep Site founded by child sleep consultant Nicole Johnson, a bad bout of teething can work like a virus, causing your little one to feel rundown and extra sleepy.
This need for extra sleep is most often due to sleep disturbance in the night as the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) notes that teething pain can be enough to wake your baby.
This may result in longer sleep or more frequent naps during the day.
As sleep may only be disturbed for three to seven days at a time as new teeth emerge, it’s important to keep to your child’s normal bedtime routine as sleep disturbances could lead to more sleep troubles in the long run.
Keeping to a consistent routine and using remedies to ease their teething can help their sleep return to normal.
Do Teething Babies Sleep More During the Day?
Pediatric sleep expert Natalie Nevares explains that “if your baby has low-grade fevers, which often present with acute teething symptoms, your baby might seem a bit floppy and sleepier while fevers are present.”
How Long Can Teething Affect Sleep?
As a general rule, teething may only affect sleep for the three to seven days it takes for teeth to begin emerging and post-eruption.
Every child reacts differently though, with sleep expert Navares explaining that “Some babies are hardly fazed by teething and they sleep right through it.”
Navares also notes that how long teething impacts sleep can depend on the type of teeth coming in (molars can cause the most discomfort) and how many are erupting at one time.
Teething: Sleeping More, Eating Less
Teething can not only impact their sleep, but it can also cause your little one to eat less.
If they have recently moved onto solids, it’s perfectly normal to see a drop in their appetite as these foods are currently too painful on their sore and sensitive gums.
Temporarily offering pureed foods and additional formula/breast milk is helpful while solids are a no-go.
These symptoms are a normal part of teething, but be sure to contact your doctor immediately if your baby presents any of the following:
- Fever above 100.4°F (for babies under 2 months) or fever persisting more than three days
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Signs of dehydration (dark urine, sunken eyes, fewer than six wet diapers per day)
- Cold or respiratory infection (alongside fever)
- A rash persisting longer than a few days
- You have trouble waking your baby
Teething and Sleep Regression
When teething is the cause of sleep regression, you’ll normally start to notice it happening at around 3 to 4 months, according to What To Expect.
Though the signs of sleep regression can vary depending on the cause (growth spurts, change in routine, etc.), you may notice that your baby is resistant to naps, has trouble falling asleep at night, and wakes throughout the night.
To help with their sleep regression and combat over-tiredness, you can try making up for persistently skipped/short naps by starting their bedtime routine 15-30 minutes earlier.
As for waking at night, give your little one a few minutes to fuss before responding as this may help them to self-soothe back to sleep.
Best Sleeping Position for Teething Baby
It may be tempting to try a new sleep position to help your baby through teething, but despite their symptoms, it’s important to stick with putting them to sleep on their back to prevent the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Things like rocking or nursing them before sleep can help encourage a back sleeping position in your little one.
Teething Baby Remedies
- Distract your little one with lots of cuddles and play
- Provide cool water and cool foods such as yogurt and soothing teething pops
- Offer gentle baby face and jaw massage!
- Natural rubber teethers can be a great comfort
- Wipe drool away when possible to prevent a sore teething rash
- Apply gentle pressure on the gums with a clean finger, a cool wet cloth, or a soft toothbrush
- Consider over-the-counter pain medication, but be sure to get your doctor’s approval first
Is My Baby Teething or Sick?
The symptoms of teething are usually at their worst (raised temperature, crankiness, decreased appetite, etc.) in the days before the tooth has emerged.
If your baby is still irritable more than three days after the tooth has appeared through the gum, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor that something else isn’t the cause.
If your baby has recently had a vaccination around the time of their teething, this could present with symptoms of low-grade fever and tiredness.
Always speak to a doctor if you are in any doubt though.
Do Babies Poop More When Teething?
Babies don’t necessarily poop more when teething, but you may notice that they have looser stools due to the increased production of saliva.
It’s also normal for stools to appear watery and frothy during teething, but speak to your healthcare provider if this persists for more than a week.
Can Teething Cause Loss of Appetite?
Yes, it’s common for some babies to have a decreased appetite when they are teething.
Pureed foods are good options until their appetite returns.
The discomfort and general weariness of teething can make your baby quite tired as the pain can mean losing out on nighttime sleep and nap quality.
Fortunately, teething is temporary, and you can help combat your little one’s over-tiredness with various teething remedies during the day.
If your baby is excessively sleepy for weeks or even months on end, be sure to consult your pediatrician to rule out illness or other causes.
Rebecca is a seasoned copywriter and researcher with over a decade of experience, specializing in parenting topics. With a passion for all aspects of raising children, from breastfeeding to potty training.