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why does my baby cry in his sleep at night

As parents, were wired to respond when our babies cry. Our soothing methods vary, but we may try breast-feeding, skin-to-skin contact, soothing sounds, or gentle movement to calm a baby whos upset. But what happens when your baby suddenly screams or cries in distress in the middle of the night, but is still asleep? Can babies have nightmares? And how can you soothe a baby who cries without even waking up? First, lets take a look at the unusual sleep patterns of babies its a likely culprit if your baby cries while hes still asleep. Having a better idea of the cause behind these nighttime disruptions makes it easier to figure out the best way to handle them. Whoever coined the term sleeping like a baby probably didnt spend much time around infants. Babies can be restless sleepers, especially when theyre new. Thanks to those little internal clocks that arent fully functioning just yet, newborns can sleep somewhere between 16 and 20 hours every day, but that breaks down into lots of napping. Experts recommend waking newborn babies every three to four hours until theyre showing steady weight gain, which is sometime in the first few weeks. After that, new babies may sleep for four or five hours at a time.

This will likely continue until around the 3-month mark, when babies usually start sleeping for eight to nine hours at night, along with a handful of naps during the day. But that nighttime stretch may have a few interruptions. Babies, especially newborns, spend about half of their sleeping hours in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. REM sleep is also known as active sleep, and its characterized by a few common traits:
Your babys arms and legs may jerk or twitch. Your babys eyes may move side to side beneath their closed eyelids. Your babys breathing may seem irregular and may stop completely for five to 10 seconds (this is a condition called normal periodic breathing of infancy), before starting again with a rapid burst. Deep sleep, or nonREM sleep, is when your baby doesnt move at all and breathing is deep and regular. While adult sleep cycles the transition from light to deep sleep and back again last about 90 minutes, a babys sleep cycle is much shorter, at 50 to 60 minutes. That means there are more opportunities for your baby to make those nighttime noises, including crying, without even waking up.

How Do I Soothe My Baby While Theyre Still Sleeping? While your natural response to your babys cry may be to wake them up for a cuddle, its best to wait and watch. Just because your baby is making noises isnt necessarily a sign that theyre ready to wake up. Your baby may fuss momentarily during the transition from light to deep sleep before settling again. Dont rush to scoop up your baby just because they cry out in the night. Pay attention to the sound of their cry. A baby whos crying in the night because theyre wet, hungry, cold, or even sick wont fall back asleep in a minute or two. Those cries will escalate quickly. This is your cue to respond. In these cases, try to keep the awakenings quiet and calm. Do what needs to be done, whether its a feeding or a fresh diaper, without unnecessary stimulation like bright lights or a loud voice. The idea is to make it clear that nighttime is for sleeping. Remember, a baby making noise as they move through the stages of sleep will seem to be in a semiconscious state. It can be hard to tell if theyre awake or asleep. Again, waiting and watching is the best course of action. You dont need to soothe a baby crying while asleep the same way you would when theyre awake.

Is My Baby Having a Nightmare? Some parents worry that their babies nighttime crying means theyre having a nightmare. Its a topic without a clear answer, though some babies may begin developing night terrors around 8 to 12 months of age. This kind of sleep disturbance differs from nightmares, which tend to start later, around age 3 or 4. Night terrors take place during the deep sleep phase. Your baby may begin crying or even screaming suddenly if for some reason this stage is disrupted. Its likely more disturbing for you. Your baby doesnt know theyre making such a commotion, and its not something theyll remember in the morning. The best thing you can do is just make sure your baby is safe. When Should I Call a Doctor? There may be other reasons that your baby is crying while sleeping. If it seems to be affecting your babys daytime routine, consult your doctor. It may be possible that something like teething or an illness is part of the problem. Yep - we ve experienced this too. Our DD is a couple of weeks older than yours and has slept through since she was quite young, but she went through a stage at just over 6 months where she was waking up to 4 or 5 times every night (sometimes at exactly the same times - very weird) screaming.

I used to jump about a metre because the scream was so sudden and loud! Sometimes she went back to sleep with the dummy but more often I had to actually get her out of bed to calm her down. Very out of character for her. It was pretty full-on for about 3 weeks and then she stopped for a few nights, started again for a couple, and then back to sleeping through for the last few nights. I wasn t sure if she was thirsty (wouldn t drink water), teething, hungry (she wasn t interested when I offered her a bottle), too hot, too cold, eating something that didn t agree with her etc but the nights she didn t wake up I didn t do anything differently. Sometimes I wasn t even sure she was fully awake. It actually started to happen when I went back to work - not sure if this is coincidence though. I also I found it was worse when she was overtired. Does your daughter sleep much during the day? Anyway, I can t tell you what it is, just that it s happened to us too! Hope your DD is sleeping soundly again soon. This message was edited by littlej on Tuesday, 8 March 2005 @ 4:43 PM

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