Teething is painful for babies. When they develop their first teeth, they will experience a huge amount of frustration and pain as their baby mouths welcome brand new teeth – erupting from their sensitive gums.
Discomfort from teething can begin as early as 3 months and can wake a baby or prevent them from sleeping, according to the AAP. And most children will have all of their milk teeth by the time they are 2 1/2 years old, according to the NHS.
During this period, many parents wonder how they can help to soothe their babies, as well as whether there is a best sleeping position for teething babies that will make it easier for them to relax and fall asleep.
How to Identify Teething Pains
Before thinking about soothing methods or the best sleeping position for a teething baby, it’s important to know that it is in fact teething that you’re dealing with. Young babies experience all sorts of ailments and illnesses that can cause them to cry and look distressed. And each situation calls for a different approach.
Below are some common signs that your baby has started teething:
- Excessive drooling
- Red gums
- Flushed cheeks
- Constant rubbing of the cheek or each with their fist
- Increased biting and chewing
- Fussiness and distress
If you’re having trouble putting your findings on exactly what is causing your child pain, there’s no harm in consulting a doctor. It may be the case that your little one is teething, while simultaneously suffering from another illness – treating each problem separately is the best way to help your child recover.
Before thinking about soothing methods or the best sleeping position for a teething baby, it’s important to know that it is in fact teething that you’re dealing with.
The Best Sleeping Position for Teething Babies
If you always put your baby to sleep on their back, you’re doing a good job! However, you’re forgiven if you contemplate other options when your child is sick and in pain. Some kids simply look more comfortable inside or refuse to sleep until they’re in this position. And when they’re teething, it might be tempting to let them have their way so they can simply get some well-needed sleep.
The truth is, parents must stick to back sleep regardless of what their children are going through. The risk of SIDS and suffocations just aren’t worth it and it’s best to persevere with back sleep, even if it looks like your child doesn’t want this.
Side sleeping becomes safer as your baby grows and gets stronger. As they get more and more active, developing the ability to flip themselves into different positions, you will be able to let them sleep in whatever position they prefer.
Just remember to follow safe sleep best practices, such as transitioning out of the swaddle after 3 months. For more information about safe sleep, take a look at our post: Safe Sleep for Babies: The ABC’s and What You Need to Know
Tips for Encouraging Back Sleep
If your baby has a mind of their own and simply won’t take to sleeping on their back, there are a few things you can do to nudge them into complicity.
- Avoid softer mattresses that allow your baby to sink in slightly, which can make it easier for them to roll onto their sides
- If they’re young enough, swaddle your baby until they can roll over. This can help make them more comfortable and make it easier for them to sleep on their backs.
- If they’re above 3 months, try a swaddle transition product like our Zipadee-Zip that gives your baby some well-needed support and comfort without the same health risks as continuing with the swaddle
- Use a video baby monitor or put their crib next to your bed so you can see what position they are in and try to learn why they keep rolling onto their sides.
Hugging Your Baby to Sleep in Your Arms
Sometimes it feels like the only thing you can do is hug your baby to sleep when they’re teething. However, while this might seem like one of the best sleeping positions for a teething baby, it’s not something you should get too used to.
It’s completely fine for young babies, but after 3-4 months, it’s important that they start to get used to a more structured nighttime routine and focus on building their independent sleep skills – which will set them up well for the future.
It’s important developmentally for children to be able to sleep and soothe themselves back to sleep, so if possible, keep instances where you hold and hug your baby to sleep to a minimum.
Top Soothing Remedies for Teething Babies
When your little one is teething, there are a few things you can do to generally help soothe them and take their mind off the pain of their first teeth pushing through their baby gums.
Soothe Gums for Better Sleep
The actual gum area may be soothed to help alleviate some of the pain from teething. Some light pressure against the tooth trying to break through may help your baby. A few things you can try are:
- Give your baby your finger to bite or chew
- Gently massage your baby’s gums with your finger
- Rub your baby’s gums with a soft cloth soaked in water to make it less abrasive
- Give your baby something cold to chew on such as a teether that has been cooled in the fridge (creating a numbing effect)
Try Some Trendy Teethers
Many parents use teethers when their children are suffering during teething. This may help to alleviate some of the pain babies experience.
As your child is likely to put many things in their mouth anyway, whether it's their fingers, toys, clothes or blankets, giving them something clean and suitable for their gums is also a good move for health and safety, even if it doesn’t take away the pain from teething.
Try to look for good quality teething toys that are easy for your child to hold (ensuring they don’t fall and get dirty) as well as made from approved materials that won’t do any damage to your baby’s gums.
Give them the Right Food
Adjusting your child’s diet may help. If your baby is ready to chew solids, then the right food items can help give their gums some light pressure in the same way that chewing a finger or teether can help. This can include things like soft-boiled veggies or fruits.
If your child is too young for solids or if their gums are hurting too much to chew, you may need to give them much softer food options so they can get the nutrients they need without a struggle. This would include things that are easy to chew and digest, such as yogurt, mashed veggies or minced meat.
Generally, making sure your baby is comfortable and happy helps them sleep when they’re distressed or sick. Giving your little one enough hugs and attention while they are teething can make a great difference when nothing else will work and you shouldn’t feel like you need to hold back unless it is going to get in the way of their normal routines.
Even something as simple as getting the right pair of pajamas can help them to feel at home and comfortable while they’re suffering from teething pains.
For tips and advice on choosing baby pajamas, take a look at our post: Cozy Baby Pajamas: Shopping Guide
Making sure your baby is comfortable and happy helps them sleep when they’re distressed or sick.
A Strong Routine for Better Sleep when Teething
A good evening routine will seriously help your child to learn how to settle themselves at night and sleep on their backs. It's tempting to throw all structure out of the window when they’re in pain and teething, but doing so can set you back in the long run.
The bedtime ritual you create is completely up to you and can include several activities, such as giving them a bath or singing a favorite lullaby. The most important thing is consistency. If your child can get used to a certain pattern, it will be easier for them to recognize when they should start winding down each night before bed.
If you want to learn more about sleep training methods and how to encourage sleep independence, take a look at our post: “No Cry” Sleep Training for Your Crybaby!
Final Teething FAQs
While you’re wondering how best to handle your teething baby, the below questions asked commonly by parents may help you when it comes to understanding the best sleeping position for a teething baby and how you should approach this difficult period.
How Much Comfort Should I Give?
Providing a little extra comfort can go a long way as long as you’re not disrupting their sleep regime too much. Cuddling, rocking, stroking and anything else your little one likes when they’re fussy or in pain is completely acceptable when they’re teething.
Just keep in mind that sometimes there’s no amount of comfort that’s going to completely stop the pain they’re feeling and their crying and inability to sleep may still persist. In these situations, it would be wise to try and implement your standard bedtime rituals and give them some time to settle themselves to sleep, rather than holding them constantly.
What If My Baby Rolls Onto Their Tummy?
If your baby is old and developed enough to roll themselves from their back onto their side or fonts, they are probably old enough to be allowed to do so. However, there is a transitional period where parents would be wise to watch their children vigilantly and even put them back on their backs for complete peace of mind.
Giving them plenty of tummy time during the day to strengthen their neck muscles is one of the best ways to ensure your little one is strong enough to be left to sleep on their side or front.
Is It Ever Okay to Sleep a Baby On Their Front?
Guidance from doctors and health organizations is still that babies should sleep on their backs unless there is clear medical advice that says something different. When in doubt, put your baby on their back to sleep, whether they’re teething or not!