Is your baby teething or going through a sleep regression? Find out why your baby is struggling with sleep and if teething or a regression is the culprit.

Teething baby showing teeth

As a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I’ve seen teething get blamed for more than its fair share of sleep problems.

When parents don’t know why their baby won’t sleep, it’s helpful to place the blame on something. And that something usually happens to be teething.

When baby sleep gets tough, it is normal for us to try to figure out why.

Two of the most common culprits I see parents blaming tough sleep on are teething and sleep regressions.

In this blog post on teething or sleep regression, we’ll help you spot the difference between if your baby is teething, going through a sleep regression, sick, or if there’s another reason your baby isn’t sleeping.

Can Teething Cause A Sleep Regression?

Teething can certainly disrupt sleep. But, I wouldn’t go so far as to call teething-related sleep struggles a sleep regression just like I wouldn’t call sickness-related sleep struggles a sleep regression.

Sleep regressions are generally sleep disruptions related to something going on in your baby’s brain. They typically happen due to your baby growing or developing physically and mentally.

Teething, on the other hand, disrupts sleep due to a physical process that is causing pain. In this case, a tooth working its way through the gum.

How Long Does Teething Disrupt Sleep?

Sleep disruptions from teething typically only last about a week.

There is often a few days of pain both before and after the tooth pops through the gum.

If your baby has been having challenging sleep for weeks or months and no teeth have popped through, chances are that teething is not the culprit.

Unfortunately for sleep, sometimes teeth come in back to back which can mean multiple weeks of disrupted sleep.

If your baby gets a tooth and sleep stays challenging for more than a week with no sign of any additional teeth, that can be a sign that it is time to start thinking of other culprits, other than teething.

It could be a sleep regression, it could be that a change is needed in your baby’s sleep schedule, or it could be that your baby would benefit from sleep training (if your goal is independent sleep).

How Do I Know if it’s a Sleep Regression or Teething?

teething vs sleep regression graphic

It isn’t always easy to tell the first few nights if tough sleep is due to a sleep regression or teething. Here are ways I’ve found to try and decipher between the two.


  • There are other symptoms like increased drooling, gnawing, and chewing.
  • Your baby is also fussy during the day.
  • You see white mountain-top peaks about to pop through in your baby’s gums.
  • Within 4 to 5 days you’ll usually start to see a tooth poking through the gums.
  • Teething commonly starts around 5 months, but can start as early as 3 months or as late as 12 months.

Sleep Regression

  • Your baby is working on new skills such as rolling, crawling, or standing up.
  • Your baby is around the age when common sleep regressions occur.
  • You don’t see a tooth or any white popping through baby’s gums.
  • Baby isn’t generally fussy throughout the day.

One telltale way to know if your baby is actually teething is if they are fussy, drooling, and chewing on things throughout the day as well. If they only seem upset at night, chances are it’s not teething.

How to Help Your Teething Baby Sleep

If you’ve determined that teething is the culprit and you want to help your teething baby sleep. Here are some tips:

Offer Teething Toys

Offer your baby cold or frozen teething toys throughout the day to help with gum pain.

Massage Their Gums

Baby’s gums get really sore while teething. Provide some relief by gently massaging their gums with one of your fingers.

Ask Pediatrician About Pain Medication

Talk to your baby’s pediatrician about offering pain reliever medication if you’ve determined that your baby is teething.

If you’ve determined it’s not teething or a sleep regression, and you want help getting your baby better sleep, then check out The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System.

Baby D.R.E.A.M Mockup image

Get Better Sleep with The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System

If you want someone to walk you through the process of sleep training, let me help. The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System is for babies 4 months through 2.5 years old. I’ll walk you through how to establish daily routines, sleep schedules, and sleep training techniques to help you break the sleep associations you no longer find beneficial! Check it out here.

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