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7 Reasons Why Babies Wake Up Crying Hysterically

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It’s normal and common for babies to wake up and cry, especially during nights. In fact, it’s unrealistic to expect babies to sleep eight to nine hours at a stretch during the first few months of their lives. A baby is used to being held in the mother’s womb 24X7. Post birth, for quite a few months, they feel comfort in being held close to a parent and sleeping independently for long hours is often a difficult milestone to achieve.

Apart from that, crying is the primary form of communication for all babies. The little ones have very small-sized stomachs where food is digested fast and it gets empty at much shorter intervals. And often like other humans, they feel hot/cold/wet/scared/thirsty/uncomfortable etc. Hence, babies wake up crying. Talk to a pediatrician if you suspect that the baby is crying due to pain or illness.

Babies may take time to learn how to sleep through the night without crying. Read this post to know about the causes and a few tips to stop them from crying when waking up.

At What Age Do Babies Stop Crying When They Wake Up?

There is no particular age when a baby stops crying when they wake up. Older babies tend to sleep for long without interruptions. However, if they are disturbed by anything during sleep, your baby may wake up crying.

Sleep needs may vary depending on the infant’s age. A newborn tends to sleep several times for a shorter duration.The duration gradually increases,while the frequency of sleep decreases with age (1).

Older babies tend to sleep for longer during the night. That means babies who are nine months old may have longer nighttime sleep than a three-month-old baby.

Most babies may sleep for six hours at a stretch and cry due to hunger when they wake up. Babies usually do not sleep throughout the night before the age of four to six months of age.

Why Does A Baby Wake Up Crying?

It is normal for a baby to wake up crying from sleep once or twice in the night. They tend to flail their legs and scream until you hold or feed them to calm them down. The reasons for a baby waking up crying canrange from something normal as a growth spurt or hunger to a health problem.

Always look for the reasons for crying and try to resolve them.

Most babies may wake up crying after night- or day-time naps due to the following reasons (2).

1. Sleep cycles

Sleep cycle changes throughout the sleep and may range from a deep sleep to a light state of rest. It is normal to wake up from sleep and fall asleep again. Babies struggle to fall asleep by themselves if they wake up during sleep and often cry for parental or caregivers’ assistance to fall asleep again (3).

2. Physical discomfort

An illness or physical condition can make it hard for babies to sleep due to pain or discomfort. Difficulties due to teething, infections, or other diseases could make your baby cry and wake up from sleep. 

3. Separation anxiety

The fear of being away from the parents or caregiver is called separation anxiety. Although it is one of the developmental milestones, some babies can be extremely clingy and have sleep problems during this phase. Separation anxiety could cause a baby to cry when they wake up from sleep. If your baby requires co-sleeping, feeding, or holding to fall asleep, they are not yet ready to sleep on their own.

4. New milestones

Babies may get excited when they learn new skills such as crawling, turning head, walking, sitting, etc. They tend to try their new skills in the crib at night and often end up crying since they may find it hard to fall asleep again.

5. Hunger

Babies who are not fed adequately during the day may wake up crying in the middle of the night due to hunger. You may often notice this behavior when they are growing and need more food than before.

6. Dirty diaper

Babies may cry if they have a soiled diaper, since it may irritate the skin.

7. Sleepy

Babies who wake up from sleep may cry if they are tired and sleepy but are unable to self-soothe to fall asleep again.

Babies may also wake up and cry due to general sleep disturbances, such as temperature changes in the room, mosquito bites, noises, etc.

When To Call The Pediatrician?

You may contact the pediatrician if your baby has trouble falling asleep after waking up and cries for several hours. You may also seek medical care if the baby has any physical symptoms. 

How To Stop The Baby From Crying When Waking Up?

You may try the following tips to stop your baby from crying when they wake up.

  • Encourage the baby to self-soothe; this may help them to put them self back to sleep if they wake up in the night.
  • Playing games like peek-a-boo or trying a short duration of separation each day could reduce your baby’s clinginess and separation anxiety.
  • Use a night light or pull the curtains a bit so that babies can stare at something when they wake up and sleep again.
  • If you discover your baby standing or sitting in the crib and crying, put them back in their sleeping position. Eventually, they will learn to do it them self.
  • If the baby cries due to teething, consult a pediatrician who can prescribe pain medications.
  • If your baby has a common cold, performing nasal suction before bedtime could open the nasal passages and help the baby sleep well.
  • Breastfeed or bottle-feed the baby adequately through the day to prevent hunger pangs at night. If you are weaning your baby, ensure they are consuming enough solid food.

Feeding to fall asleep is a common practice. However, babies who have this habit may eventually find it difficult to sleep on their own. Thus, you may encourage them to feed when they are active and self-soothe to sleep.

Ways To Ensure Your Baby Is Sleeping Safely

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following tips to make your baby sleep safely and also for you to sleep as much as possible (4).

  • Babies should always sleep on their backs, for naps and night sleep, until the age of one year.
  • Sleep on firm surfaces that are free of soft objects and bedding. A mattress with a fitted sheet is recommended.
  • Do not expose your sleeping baby to any smoke.
  • Avoid using alcohol, sedatives, or illicit drugs as this could prevent you from detecting the baby’s cry.
  • Pacifier at night or nap time may protect the baby from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Pacifiers should be in the baby’s mouth or away. Do not attach pacifiers to clothes or put them on a string around the baby’s neck.
  • Let your baby sleep in their crib placed in your room until their first birthday.

These essential tips can help babies sleep better and protect them from breathing troubles and causes of sudden infant death syndrome.

There can be various reasons for a baby to wake up crying. Carefully check for the likely reasons, and if you suspect some problem, consult a pediatrician. Remember, it is normal for a baby’s sleep pattern to vary. As the baby grows older, they will learn methods to self-soothe and sleep better at night and during day-time naps. 

References:

1. Infant Sleep; Columbia University Irving Medical Center
2. Why Is My Baby Waking In The Night?; The Sleep store
3. Baby crying at night: Normal or cause for concern?; Reid Health
4. Frequent Night Awakenings: Why Is My Baby Crying During Sleep?; Children’s Hospital Colorado