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Is my child teething or just overtired!?

Navigating those weeks and months of teething can be really challenging for some families, while others find teeth have just sprouted overnight with no fuss!

As a rule of thumb, teething generally happens between 6 -12 months BUT it's not unheard of for it to happen outside of this bracket. What I am going to focus on here is early teething, helping you to identify if that dribbly stage is really the start of teething, how to spot the signs, and what's not teething, so that you can manage sleep more seamlessly.

It can be really easy to get confused as to what is teething and what's actually just overtiredness from the developmental storm your little one is experiencing. Many parents feel confused at this stage because their baby wakes up just as often (or even more frequently) than they did as a newborn, having improved slightly after about the first 6 weeks.

It's easy to dash to the idea that this change in sleep, and being more grizzly, indicates teething and can lead to parents treating them with teething gels and medication.

Dribbling is often interpreted as a sign of teething beginning (which is true but hear me out!). As your child develops hand-to-mouth coordination, this coincides with the salivary gland maturing and this leads to a very dribbly tot. This combined with disrupted sleep can be interpreted as teething when in fact it is much more likely to be a developmental storm of lots of things occurring at the same time.

When parents assume teething prematurely we don't deal with the root of the sleep problems.

Below is a handy diagram to show you what overlap there may be between overtiredness and teething:

Any fever, lack of drinking, diarrhea, difficulty waking, excessive sleeping or irritability, are not signs of either teething or overtiredness and should be discussed with your GP.

So they are teething early!

If you've come to the conclusion your little one is teething, then congratulations on your milestone! You can support your child to sleep however they need and manage their pain accordingly.

Top tip: A dampened and then frozen muslin or frozen mini bagel can be a great teether to soothe inflamed gums before sleep (never unoccupied).

Ah maybe it's not teething, but sleep is still a mess!

So what can you do to manage sleep if you have realised your little one isn't teething yet?

  • First of all, disrupted sleep is normal; only about 20% of infants sleep through the night at 6 months (Sadler, 1994; Hysing et al, 2014)

  • Review your child's current sleep and work out if they may be overtired

  • Optimise daytime feeding to discourage 'reverse cycling'

  • Review the bedtime and bedtime routine.

  • Ensure you don't have any medical concerns

For more support feel free to message me or book a call. Happy sleeping!



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