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Why is my baby crying in sleep?
Your babies cries are usually quickly rectified by giving them a bottle or changing their bum, however, when your baby is crying in their sleep it can be upsetting and a little bizarre. What is your baby dreaming about to make them cry? Is it possible for your baby to have nightmares and dreams just like us? Sometimes babies fight sleep too, we have an article on this.
Why does my baby cry in their sleep?
It is natural for newborns and young babies to grunt, cry or scream in their sleep.
This is because young babies’ bodies haven’t managed to master sleeping regularly at night for longer periods. This is why they may cry or make noises.
However, toddlers or older babies who cry and move whilst sleeping may be having nightmares or night terrors. Nightmares occur in the lighter, or REM (rapid eye movement) stages of sleep.
Night terrors, however, happens during the deeper stages of sleep (usually earlier in the night). Babies may become rather upset or restless after a night terror.
What does my baby dream about?
All young children have dreams but babies can only dream about what they know about. Babies don’t know about murderers and nasty people yet so they won’t be having bad dreams about that. Your babies’ dreams and nightmares are much more likely to be about their experiences throughout the day. Many scientists say that very young babies process any experiences they have learnt during the day when they go to sleep and a nightmare can be as simple as a memory of your leaving them for a point in the day.
It can be difficult if your baby is crying in their sleep at night. It is hard enough for the baby waking for feeds but if your baby is crying for no reason it can be frustrating.
When should we see a doctor?
There is a term called “Night Crier” this term is used if your baby is over 4 months old and cries at least once a night. If your baby wakes most nights, it could indicate a problem.
You should visit your doctor if:
- Your baby cries out in pain.
- Your baby’s sleep habits suddenly change.
- You are struggling to carry out day-to-day tasks due to your baby’s disturbed sleep patterns.
- You are having difficulty feeding your baby.
- Your newborn baby is crying for 2 hours or more a day. Babies cry for less than 2 hours a day, anything above that is unusual.
If your baby has colic, it can be particularly difficult to get them to sleep and cause many sleep problems. The good news is that the average baby with colic will grow out of it between 3-4 months of age.
How long should my baby sleep for?
Babies do not have a consistent sleep schedule during the first few weeks of life. They usually awaken frequently (every 2-3 hours) throughout the night for feeds or comfort.
Whilst your baby will most likely not be sleeping through the night at this stage, they are beginning to establish a regular sleep cycle, and sleep for stretches of 3-4 hours or longer.
As early as 6-8 weeks of age, babies can understand cues that can help them to figure out what’s going to happen next. Establishing a regular bedtime routine (baby sleep training) can be very beneficial to your little one, for example: Feeding your baby, changing your baby’s nappy, giving them a bath and reading them a bedtime story can all constitute a regular bedtime routine.
Exposing your 1-3month old baby to sunlight during the day, and keeping the curtains closed at night (especially in Summer) can also help to establish a sleep routine for your little one.
3- 7 months
Some babies may begin to sleep for longer periods of time at this stage.
Some babies experience a sleep regression around 4-5months of age which means they sleep less before settling into a routine.
At 8 – 12 months, your baby may be sleeping through the night. Most babies start sleeping through the night by the time they are around 9 months old.
At this age, your little one should definitely be sleeping through the night. Toddlers need a whopping 12-14 hours of sleep a day.
Tips to help your little one sleep through the night
We know that getting your baby to sleep through the night can be stressful. Here are some tips to make the process easier and reduce nighttime crying:
Get baby familiar with their bedroom.
A lot of new parents make the mistake of decorating the nursery, and then never going in the room with the baby until they are ready for their own room. It is important that your baby is comfortable and happy in their own bedroom. Make sure you change your babies bum in their bedroom from day one so that they get used to their surroundings.
Ensure nappies are clean before bedtime.
It is important that your baby’s nappies are kept clean, particularly throughout the night, when their nappy may not be changed for several hours at a time.
Changing your newborn’s nappy will help to prevent infection, and allow them to sleep comfortably.
Give your baby a bottle.
A bottle before bedtime can help relax your baby and help them stay satisfied for longer throughout the night.
Try and keep the noise down at bedtime.
Loud noises can disturb your babies sleep so it is important to be considerate and keep the noise levels low.
It is important to not appear stressed around your baby, babies can sense when their mother is upset and stressed and this is a contributing factor to sleepless nights.
You can listen to our podcast on creating the perfect bedtime routine.