A baby who used to sleep happily all night and suddenly begins waking or having a hard time getting to sleep probably has a good reason for it. One of the most common disrupters of baby sleep is teething. The pain of teeth just about to break through the gums will make it hard for a baby to get to sleep and stay asleep. In addition, teething is often accompanied by congestion, making it hard for the baby to breathe easily and even harder to get to sleep. The only sure cure for teething is time; once the teeth break through, sleep should get easier again. But in the meantime, there are steps a parent can take to help a teething baby sleep.
Diagnose teething as the problem. Most babies are teething on and off from as early as three months until after age two. But if your baby is drooling at night, leaving a wet spot under his head, pulling at his ears or jaw, or has visible bumps or redness in his gums, then teething is probably the culprit. Mild congestion and runny nose is probably related to teething, but if it's accompanied by a fever, then your baby may be sick and not just teething.
Use cold to help the pain. Chewing on a cold, wet washcloth or a frozen teething ring may numb your baby's gums enough to help her get to sleep. Some babies prefer something harder like a cold spoon.
Try counter-pressure on the gum. Pressing your finger on the gum or giving your baby a pacifier or chew toy to take to bed can help relieve the pain by countering the pressure under the gum with matching pressure on the gum.
Use a humidifier to relieve congestion. Adding humidity to the air may make it easier for your congested baby to breathe and fall asleep.
Use pain medicine. Consult with your doctor before using any medicine on your baby. If your pediatrician approves, then one dose of baby tylenol at bedtime may be all your baby needs to get to sleep. You can also try home remedies like diluted clove oil on the gums or homeopathic medicine if you prefer.
Elevate the baby's head if possible. This will help relieve congestion. If the height of your crib is adjustable, you can raise one end and lower the other to place your baby on an incline. You can also use a baby sleep positioner designed to elevate the baby's head or a crib wedge designed to raise one end of the crib mattress. Never use a pillow under your baby's head as this can be suffocation hazard.
Follow your usual routine, but be flexible. Babies feel more secure in a familiar routine, so you should follow your usual bedtime routine when your little one is teething. However, be aware that the methods that usually get your child to sleep might not work when she's in pain. Be prepared to use additional comforting methods if necessary. Some babies will fall asleep more easily while being breast fed or having a bottle; some will be soothed by being held and rocked to sleep. While your baby is in pain from teething is not the best time to sleep train her. Once her teeth have come in and she's no longer in pain, you can go back to your usual bedtime routine.