My second son, Max, was a contented little baby, but he did cry a lot in the night when he was younger. For weeks on end, I would be woken with inconsolable sobs as he stood in his cot with his fingers in his mouth, dribble everywhere. Yep – the dreaded teething. This went on for a couple of weeks each time, then I seemed to have a few days respite, before it started up again. Sure enough, after each period of unsettled sleep, a new pair of pearly whites would pop through right on schedule.
After his molars and canines came through, I was looking forward to more uninterrupted sleep again. However, it didn’t happen. I was panicking that perhaps he had formed bad habits through his wakings and would never learn to sleep through the night again. I would go to him, he would seem OK (no high temperature, no visible signs of pain), but it would take a serious amount of cuddling before he would settle down again.
Then, one morning, I did notice that he felt a bit warm. I took him to the doctors and discovered that he had a chronic ear infection, which had probably been going on for weeks. I was devastated! All those times he had been waking up, he really had been in pain and I had dismissed it as either teething or bad habits. And so he was put onto a course of antibiotics and promptly made a miraculous recovery.
As everyone says, babies don’t come with a manual, and even second time around, you can’t always know what’s wrong with them. Teething and ear infections have very similar symptoms, so it’s an easy mistake to confuse the two. My advice would be, if your baby is acting out of sorts, do take them to the doctor to get checked out. You don’t need to feel embarrassed if they tell you it’s just teething – at least you can feel reassured by ruling out illness.
Needless to say, when Max is acting a bit unsettled, I take him to the doctor now. And sure enough, he’s been diagnosed with two further ear infections since that first incidence. I’m generally a pretty laid back parent, but sometimes, it does pay to err on the side of caution.