Teething, and the crankiness and sleep problems that come with it, are a normal part of infancy. Teething can begin as early as 3 months of age and may continue until after a child's 3rd birthday, according to the Nemours Foundation. In addition to sleep problems, teething causes drooling, pain, gum swelling and irritation, and difficulty eating. All these problems may contribute to your baby's fussiness and may make it very difficult for him to fall asleep and stay asleep. Fortunately, there are several ways to help keep your baby relaxed, pain-free, and encourage him to sleep through the night while his new teeth are erupting.
Create a quiet, relaxed atmosphere in your home, both during the day and at night. Your baby is likely to be more tired and cranky than usual while teething, and a noisy environment will just make him feel worse and interfere with sleep.
Give your baby only soft foods in the evening to prevent increasing gum irritation and inflammation before bed. While teething rings and hard foods are soothing to a teething baby during the day, they may actually make it more difficult for your little one to fall asleep if given during the evening. Try soft pasta, mashed vegetables, or stick to baby food at dinnertime.
Keep your baby on his normal daytime and bedtime routine. Even if your baby is especially fussy or refuses to take a nap, sticking as close as possible to his normal schedule will help him feel more relaxed and increase the likelihood that he will fall asleep at a normal time.
Place an absorbent cloth beneath your baby's chin while he sleeps to soak up drool and help prevent the rash that many babies develop when teething. You can also apply a small amount of a mild emollient around your baby's mouth and on his chin to reduce irritation during sleep.
Check your baby's diaper during the night for loose stools. Some teething babies swallow the excessive saliva produced during teething, and this extra fluid intake may cause mild diarrhea. Teething does not cause true diarrhea, however, and if your baby develops diarrhea, you should consult your pediatrician.
Try acetaminophen or ibuprofen about an hour before bedtime to help your teething baby sleep. These medications will help ease teething pain and reduce gum inflammation, making it more likely your baby will sleep through the night.
Rub a tiny bit of teething gel on your baby's gums before bed. These products will numb the area for a few hours, but may also cause increased drooling. Do not allow your baby to eat or drink anything after using one of these products, however, as they may also numb the throat and increase the risk of choking.
Never tie a teething ring around your infant's neck while he is sleeping, even if he wakes in the middle of the night wanting to chew. The ring could become caught on something and strangle your baby during sleep.
The Nemours Foundation cautions against rubbing alcohol or aspirin against your baby's gums. Both of these can make your baby very ill.