Teething and sleep have one very big similarity to fire and cows, confused? Want to know what it is? Have you ever heard the story of Catherine O’Leary’s Cow?

Cows and fire, teething and sleep

Back in 1871, the Chicago Tribune reported that the cause of the great Chicago Fire was a cow, Catherine O’Leary’s cow to be precise, kicking over a lantern in the barn while it was being milked.

Unfortunately, the Tribune admitted later on that it had completely fabricated the story, but that didn’t stop people from blaming Catherine and her cow for one of the greatest disasters in US history.

What’s this got to do with teething and sleep, you ask?

Nothing really, except that they’re both victims of some unnecessary scapegoating.

The teething and sleep blame game

As parents, we tend to blame teething for just about every ailment imaginable when it comes to babies. Baby’s got a fever? Probably because she’s teething. Baby’s crying more than normal? I bet it’s sore gums from those teeth coming in. Baby’s got runny poo for a couple of days? I’ve heard that diarrhea can be caused by teething.

Now, all of those things are potentially the result of a tooth coming in, that’s true. But for the most, we are too quick to blame teething. It is our favourite scapegoat for any and all deviations from the norm. As soon as we notice that first tooth appearing below the gumline, teething becomes the ‘go to’ problem.

And this is especially true when it comes to teething and sleep.

As parents, we’re predisposed to preventing discomfort in our babies, and that’s a good thing, obviously. But the natural reaction when baby starts crying in the night is to go in immediately and do whatever we can to soothe them. Unfortunately, this can lead to baby being unable to get to sleep without that comfort.

So, let’s imagine that you’ve been sleep training for a couple of weeks. Everything’s going well, and then suddenly, you start to see a regression. Baby is suddenly waking up crying two or three times a night. Naturally, you’re going to look for a reason for why they’re slipping back into old habits. If there’s a tooth coming in, that provides a quick and easy answer.

And, of course, it’s not fair to leave baby to cry if they’re actually in pain and not just looking for Mum to come rock them back to sleep. So, you give in, rock them to sleep and decide you’ll get back to sleep training once this whole teething thing is over with.

Cut to a year later, and baby is still getting rocked or soothed to sleep. Every time they wake up, you’re back in the room, because, you guessed it, there might be a tooth coming in!

Some points to consider

First of all, teething symptoms only last for around eight days. If you’re little one has been crying through the night for 2 weeks, it could be one of 2 reasons. It could be due to some other ailment. If you think this may be the case, I would recommend making an appointment with your GP to get bub checked over. Alternatively, baby has once again learned that crying when she wakes up will bring her favourite person running into the room, and she’ll be helping her get back to sleep.

Second, teething symptoms are not nearly as uncomfortable as parents typically imagine. We hear about teeth “breaking” or “erupting” through the gums, it conjures up some cringe-worthy images, but nature is not nearly so heartless in this instance. Baby’s gums actually move out of the way to allow the teeth to emerge. According to many experts, teething doesn’t cause a significant amount of pain.

Teething does come with some uncomfortable symptoms like drooling, rashes, irritability, slightly raised temperatures and some sleep disturbances. However, these symptoms should only be short lived.

I’m not suggesting that you should ignore the teething altogether. It can most certainly impact your baby and their sleep. Just bear in mind that new teeth are not the villain they’re often made out to be.

And remember, baby’s going to be a lot happier while going through the teething process if she’s getting full nights of uninterrupted sleep. A rested baby is a happy baby!

The same thing goes for her parents!

If you need some help getting your little one to sleep, please contact me.

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