Help! My Baby Wakes Up Screaming At Night!

baby wakes up screaming
joffi / Pixabay

It’s a terrifying thing. In the middle of the night your baby wakes up, crying hysterically. What do you do? What is causing this? Well, the good news is that it’s not a ghost problem (well, probably!), but what sort of thing can cause this? In this article we will review the potential reasons why baby wakes up screaming at night and what you can do to help to make sure that your little angel (and everyone else, consequently) are getting a fulfilling, good night’s sleep.

Why does my baby wake up screaming?

Actually, there are a number of reasons why your baby might be waking up this way. It could be something physical that is distressing them. Alternately, it might be emotional. We’ll give you a few examples of what to check for in order to determine the cause of your baby’s distress.

Physical causes

When your baby wakes up screaming uncontrollably the first concern is that something is physically wrong. While this might not be the case, there are certain signs that you can check for. Here are some common causes for this behavior as well as what you can watch for:

  • Stomach ache – If baby is screaming and curled into a fetal position then it could well indicate a stomach ache. A tummy rub may help in cases like this or if it is frequent you might seek pediatrician approval to give the occasional spoonful of ginger root tea to settle the little one’s stomach.
  • Indigestion – If your baby is perspiring heavily and tossing and turning, indigestion may be occurring. This can also be helped with ginger (if approved) otherwise you may want to check with your pediatrician for medicines that are safe for your baby at their particular stage of development.
  • Sinus trouble – If baby has a runny nose and can’t breathe very well this is certainly going to throw them into a panic. Be sure to clean baby’s nose a little with some soft tissue to help clear out some of the mucus so that your child can breathe a little more easily. If it continues your child may be sick so this is also a case to consult your physician.
  • Fever – Fever is never good, so this is a definite scenario where you will want to check with your pediatrician. Very few over the counter medicines are going to be safe for a baby and so it’s always best to consult first before trying any over the counter remedies.
  • Dehydration – If baby’s diaper has pellet-type, dry poops then your child might be dehydrated. If you are bottle feeding then you might want to switch to a faster-flow nipple (especially if they haven’t been finishing their bottles lately) and this should do the trick.

Baby woke up screaming and it doesn’t seem to be physical!

baby wakes up crying hysterically
jennyfriedrichs / Pixabay

If your baby wakes up crying hysterically at night and there do not seem to be any physical symptoms then it could be an emotionally driven response. Some emotional triggers that can cause this behavior are as follows:

  • Nightmares/Night terrors – Yes, your baby can have nightmares, just like anyone else. As the mind processes what we have seen during the day the process isn’t always neat and tidy and when everything is new (and sometimes scary) your baby can get nightmares. Night terrors are similar, they involve a state where the body is paralyzed but the mind is active. While rare, this can occur with your baby as well and there is little you can do besides to calm them. Rubbing the spot between the eyebrows can often soothe a frightened baby and hugs are always welcome as well for calming your frightened little one.

                   ” It could simply be separation anxiety…”

  • Separation anxiety – If your 1 year old wakes up screaming and inconsolable it could simply be separation anxiety (which can start as early as 6 months). Typically this will be focused on one specific parent, so if you notice that baby only calms down for mom or for dad specifically then this is likely the case.
  • Plain old fear – Everything is new and when you are young the dark is pretty darned scary (even sometimes when you are older, whether we admit it or not!). You can combat this with a night light or even a baby projector to give your child a soothing ceiling full of stars and soothing music to keep them feeling safe and secure against the night.
  • Baby wants to play – Babies can be little manipulators and they quickly learn that crying is the fastest way to make mom or dad magically appear. Rule out physical and emotional distress and if baby just seems to want to play then you may want a pediatrician-recommended strategy to discourage this.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask your pediatrician

While we might feel that we are being overprotective if we constantly pepper our pediatricians with questions the reality of it is that THIS IS A GOOD THING. This is your baby’s health and the pediatrician is dedicated to helping make sure that your baby is happy and healthy. They won’t mind it a bit. So don’t cheat yourself and your baby by trying to Google everything for days before breaking down and asking. If you are uncertain about something then contact your pediatrician and make a list of questions for your appointment. This way you can get them all addressed and get a check-up for your baby at the same time.

baby wakes up screaming uncontrollably
voltamax / Pixabay

In conclusion

In this article we have discussed reasons why your baby might be waking up screaming or crying hysterically. Take advantage of this information and soon everyone will be getting a refreshing, good night’s sleep. Lastly, don’t forget to ask your pediatrician if you need a little advice. They will be happy to be there for you. Until next time, sweet dreams for you and your little one!


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