Baby Crying in Sleep? Help When You’re Not Getting Any (Sleep that is..)

baby crying in sleep Your baby cries to communicate with you. Because they can’t do anything for themselves, they rely on their parents for all the food, warmth, and comfort they need. When they start to cry it’s because one of these needs is not yet met, and they need to get your attention. Bringing a newborn home is an exciting time; if it’s your first child then be sure to check out this course and learn everything you need to know.

You can learn a little more in this course about getting your home ready for a baby, but you’ll also need to figure out what they’re trying to communicate. Luckily it will only take you a little time to recognize what your baby needs, and as they get older they’ll also get much better at communicating. Check out this recent post and learn what it really takes to prepare for your baby.

One common occurrence is that you’ll often find your newborn baby crying during their sleep. Typically this is just because they are young, and they don’t yet have full control over their body. As they grow and develop they’ll stop crying in their sleep, which is usually around the time they are three or four months old. Crying in their sleep is quite normal, as they are learning to do everything, and of course they need to learn how to sleep, quiet and still. If they continue crying as they get older, it could be that they are having a nightmare, or have woken and are trying to tell the parents that they’re hungry or need a diaper change.

But sometimes, you’ll find that your baby has inadvertently been trained to be a night crier. Your baby falls in this category if they:

  • Can’t sleep through the night (7 hours at least) and is over 4 months old
  • Wakes up crying one or more times every night
  • Needs you to hold them and rock them back to sleep
  • Is normally held, walked, or rocked until they fall asleep at bedtime
  • Doesn’t need to be fed, but still wakes up crying
  • Has been waking up crying since birth

What’s Normal for Babies?

From when they are first born, babies will wake at least twice a night to feed until they are 2 months old. From when they are between 2 and 4 months old, typically they’ll only wake up once in the night (in the middle of the night) for feeding. By the time they’re 4 months old, bottle-fed babies should be able to sleep more than 7 hours straight without feeding, and most breast-fed babies will be able to do the same at 5 months of age. Typical babies do not need calories throughout the night, and can sleep without being rocked or held.

So why does my baby wake up crying?

  • They want comfort to fall back asleep.

Normal children will wake up at least 4 or 5 times every night after they have had a dream. They don’t wake fully at these times, so many children simply go back to sleep themselves. But if you rock and hold your baby to sleep every night, you may have conditioned them to need your comfort to be able to get back to sleep. When your children have not learned to quiet themselves, they’ll cry for a parent, because they won’t be able to go back to sleep without your help. Babies that are usually asleep before they are placed in a crib expect that they will get help from their parents to fall back asleep. They haven’t yet learned to associate their crib and the mattress with going to sleep.

  • They want entertainment.

You’ll condition your child to awake more often, and cry more frequently if they gain from it. If you’re always picking up your baby, walking them, playing with them and giving them a ton of comfort, they’ll start to associate crying with pleasure. It can also begin after you’ve had a situation and have had to give more nighttime attention to your child. like a cold, discomfort in hot summer nights, or traveling. Many babies settle back into normal routine, but others enjoy the contact so much they demand it.

  • More serious problems are present.

While most cases are nothing to worry about, if the crying during the night persists, definite speak to your pediatrician. Your baby might be trying to tell you that something more serious is wrong. Typically, this is also coupled with crying during the day, but every case is different.

Remember, not all crying is harmful! When a baby is confronted with a change, whether it’s in their schedule or their environment they will usually cry. This is normal, and is called “protest” crying, as it is their only way to communicate before they have learned to talk. If they cry or a short period, it’s not physically or psychologically harmful. You’ll easily make up for their short term unhappiness as you change their sleep pattern with the thousands of hours of love and attention you give them at the appropriate times. If you want to learn to give them a bit more, try this course on baby massage and make sure you’re the favorite!

How Can you Fix the Situation When Your  Baby Who Cries During the Night

Depending on the age of your child, it can take about 2 weeks to see an improvement in their sleep pattern. The older they are, the longer it will take to change, and if your child is over a year old they will already be trying to fight off sleep – even when they are tired. This can mean that you have a little terror protesting the changes you make, and can see them crying for hours on end. The downside is that if you don’t fix it now, it will take them until they are 3-4 years old to learn to sleep through the night, and that’s a lot of lost sleep for mum and dad!

Here’s what to do:

  • Start placing your baby in the crib, before they fall asleep for their normal naps and bedtime
  • Having a bedtime ritual is of course very good, and you should always hold them and make the experience comforting. Once they start to look drowsy, put them in the crib. The goal is for their last memory before they fall asleep to be of the mattress and the crib – not you.
  • For especially fussy babies, rock them until they settle down and are almost asleep, but stop just before the doze off. Your baby needs to learn to put themselves to sleep. Once they develop this skill, they’ll be able to fall asleep naturally after they wake during the night,
  • If your baby starts to cry at naptime or bedtime, visit them briefly every 5-10 minutes. You want to pop-in before they get too upset, so this might be even more regularly for younger or sensitive babies. Start to lengthen the amount of time before your visits until the visits are not needed.
  • There will always be some crying involved as your baby learns to comfort themselves. This type of crying isn’t harmful. What you need to be careful of is if your baby gets scared, then you can hold them until they calm down.
  • After they are calm, put them back in the crib and stay in the room until they settle down.
  • You want to try to leave before they fall asleep.
  • Remember to make your visits brief, boring and supportive, and don’t stay in their room for longer than a minute.
  • You shouldn’t turn on the lights as this will wake your baby up even more.
  • All you really need to do is keep your visit supportive and reassuring. Act sleepy and whisper to them “Shhh, we’re all sleeping,” and be positive.
  • Never, ever show anger or punish your baby for crying during these visits.
  • Try not to hug them, as they will grab on and refuse to let go. Touch them gently, and help them grab onto their security blanket, toy or doll.
  • Never remove your child from the crib after they have been crying. Once you’ve put them in the crib, don’t continue to play with them, rock them, or give up and just bring them to your bed. Keeping the contact brief will not be enough reward for your baby to continue the crying behavior.
  • Remember that most young babies are going to cry for 30-90 minutes before they fall asleep.

Try to keep the middle of the night awakenings as easy as possible for everyone, and if they are fussing for only 5-10 minutes respond the same as you do at bedtime. If they are crying more than this, take them out of the crib and hold them, but don’t talk to them very much. Sometimes they’ll settle down much faster if Dad is the one going in, but if you need a little help check out this course on calming your baby, fast.

The Final Trick

After your baby is past 6 months of age, a security object is a neat way to help an awake child fall asleep. It’s a form of comfort, and also helps your child to separate from their Mum. A cuddly stuffed toy, blanket or a doll is perfect , but just make sure that you don’t do this too early. If your child cannot easily roll over both ways and is younger than 6 months there shouldn’t be any soft objects in the crib as this increases the risk of SIDS. It can take time for them to accept the object, so start to include it in your bedtime rituals. Eventually, they’ll be able to cuddle this instead of cuddling you, and fall asleep naturally. After a while, you can phase out the night time holding,

There’s no reason that your baby needs to cry throughout the night, so follow these steps and learn how to condition them to sleep without you, and you’ll also enjoy the benefits of a full night’s sleep. Having a newborn doesn’t mean your nights need to suffer! Get your routines sorted, and teach your baby the right ways to behave.