Teething and sleep go together like oil and water. Here's how to comfort your teething baby and encourage a peaceful night's rest. 

By Deborah Pike Olsen and Nicole Harris
Updated October 05, 2020
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| Credit: Jaren Jai Wicklund/Shutterstock 

As many parents can attest, the symptoms of teething—including gum soreness, mouth rash, and drooling—can make babies extremely fussy. This irritability usually gets worse during naps and bedtime, when babies don’t have their typical daytime distractions, says Ari Brown, M.D., a pediatrician and coauthor of Baby 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Baby's First Year.

Want to help your teething baby snooze soundly—which, in turn, will let you get a good night's rest? Check out the following expert-approved tips regarding teething and sleep.

Teething Remedies For Sleep

For pain relief, disregard the old wives' tales about rubbing whiskey or another alcoholic beverage on your baby's gums to placate them—it could be dangerous. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also advises against using topical numbing creams and gels, as well as homeopathic teething tablets, because of potential negative side effects. Teething necklaces are also a no-go because they risk strangulation and choking. Instead, try one of these expert-approved teething solutions for nighttime and nap time. 

Numb the gums with cold items.

Cold items can numb your baby’s gums, which might alleviate some of the pain, says Jeannie Beauchamp, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist in Clarksville, Tennessee. She recommends letting your child chew on a wet, cold washcloth before bed (stick it in the freezer for 30 to 60 minutes beforehand). Other parents give their babies cold food and drinks, such as slushy applesauce, frozen fruit, or chilled bagels. 

Test out teething rings.

Cold teething rings may also do the trick—just make sure they don’t have any puncture damage from your baby’s teeth, since they could ingest the substance inside.

Put some pressure on their gums.

Dr. Beauchamp also recommends applying light pressure to your baby’s gums; the counter sensation feels soothing. Simply rub your finger along their gums as they’re winding down for bed. Make sure to wash your hands first!

Give over-the-counter medications.

Ask your pediatrician or dentist whether you can give your child an appropriate dose of infant acetaminophen or infant ibuprofen. These medications might be recommended for those older than 6 months, as long as you give the correct dose and administer it judiciously, says John Liu, D.D.S., president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and a pediatric dentist in Issaquah, Washington. Avoid giving aspirin to children, since it’s associated with a rare but serious condition called Reye's syndrome. 

Wipe away excess drool.

Is drooling causing uncomfortable rashes on your baby’s face? Wipe excess drool away regularly, change your baby’s clothes when needed, and moisturize their skin with baby-safe products. 

Maintain your bedtime routine.

Don’t interrupt your baby's bedtime routine because of teething. This can actually mess up your little one’s slumber even more, and the familiarity of a routine creates a better environment for self-coping.

Could Nighttime Fussiness Be Something Else?

If your little one is not exhibiting other teething symptoms beyond restlessness, their disrupted sleep could be due to other factors. Ear infections or colds are also known sleep disruptors, so if you suspect your baby may be under the weather, call your pediatrician.

Reaching new milestones, like crawling or standing up, can also keep otherwise good sleepers up at night.That’s because your baby's so excited to learn these new skills that they want to practice all the time. Another trigger could be separation anxiety

The Bottom Line

It can be frustrating to have your baby waking up after you thought you had the whole sleeping-through-the-night thing down pat, but try not to worry. Sleep that's disrupted by teething pain will get back on track once your baby's teeth cut through their gums.

Comments (2)

Anonymous
December 2, 2018
My baby never slept well (especially through the night) until I started using the website >>SleepBaby .org<< - that website has been by far one of the best things I've ever got my hands on to get him to fall asleep quickly. Best time is 45 seconds from awake to asleep! Can’t imagine life without it! I heard about it through a kindergarten teacher who uses it to put to sleep a group of 30 children. Check it out! >>SleepBaby .org<< - sorry, you can't post links here so you'll have to turn it into a normal link :) Best of luck to you and your family!
Anonymous
December 1, 2018
My baby never slept well (especially through the night) until I started using the website www.SleepBaby.org - that website has been by far one of the best things I've ever got my hands on to get him to fall asleep quickly. Best time is 45 seconds from awake to asleep! Can’t imagine life without it! I heard about it through a kindergarten teacher who uses it to put to sleep a group of 30 children. Check it out!