Why Does My Baby Wake up Crying?

Why does my baby wake up crying? – A question I hear a lot – and the problem we’re answering in today blog!

Why Your Baby Wakes Up Crying

Well, for starters, your baby may wake up sometimes crying due to the need to eat (hunger is a powerful motivator!). Additionally, your baby may wake up with a wet or dirty (or leaky) diaper or may wake up because he’s too hot or cold. These are all perfectly reasonable reasons for a baby to wake up – and they’re all reasons that mum and dad need to address, either by feeding or changing baby. it is normal for a baby to wake up crying –  find out why.

A little less straightforward is the fact that many babies wake up due to their sleep associations. Some sleep associations are pretty straightforward. By naming the causes of crying upon waking is easier – for example, if your baby’s dummy falls out, he may very well be pretty frustrated that he can’t put it back in, and that then lead to tears!

However, some other sleep associations are less easy to spot as the cause of crying upon waking. If you usually rock or nurse your baby to sleep, she may cry when she wakes up because she’s no longer moving and or sucking. Similarly, if you typically hold your baby for sleep, she may cry if she wakes up in her crib, no longer held.

More than the apparent reason

Beyond these more obvious reasons, there is something to remember: we all wake up briefly between sleep cycles from time to time. Our babies are no different. Sometimes, your baby may wake slightly and cry between sleep cycles. It often the cause of those weird 2-minute crying spells that you sometimes may hear in the middle of the night, or during a nap. Do you know what I mean? Those times when you hear a cry. But by the time you’re up and moving toward baby, she’s already fallen back to sleep? The cause there is just brief waking during sleep cycles that happen to be accompanied by some fussing. It is normal to wake up crying for a minute – the trick is to be able to fall back asleep without you. 

It then goes hand-in-hand with the next point: for some children, this waking up crying is a sign that they aren’t done sleeping yet, and need more rest. We suspect this has something to do with temperament – while some babies might wake too early from sleep and be reasonably quiet and content, others will just wail. I was the case for Samatha:

“With my first-born, if he woke up crying, it 90% of the time meant that he had not finished sleeping. He may have awakened in between sleep cycles and had trouble going into the next one.”

Wait a minute or two.

So in these cases, it is best to wait a minute or two sometimes when you hear crying that you suspect just waking between sleep cycles – sometimes, your baby will go right back to sleep. Or, even if you ultimately to go in to comfort your baby. You’ll know that the goal should be to help baby get back to sleep because he not fully rested.

Finally, keep in mind that some babies and toddlers, for that matter, will even cry after waking although they have slept. Some babies will wake up from a marathon nap crying or will wake after a long night of peaceful sleep just wailing. In these cases, the problem is most likely that the child just needs a bit of time to wake up fully. ( I know adults like this – I’m one of them,? I don’t wake up crying, but I do need plenty of time and space to wake up fully!) In these cases, you can try merely cuddling your child, or offering a small snack or a favourite toy, and allowing your child to wake up slowly.

What does this mean

So, in short, if your baby often wakes up crying, you’ll want to evaluate the reasons. If it’s not something that requires immediate attention, like hunger, or an uncomfortable diaper or illness, then assess whether or not it may be an asleep association. To do that, you’ll want to think about how your child falls asleep (in your arms, in the rocker?), and then compare that to how your child is waking up a cot, alone?. Finally, keep in mind that temperament makes a difference, too – it may just be that crying is one way that your child lets you know he’s not done sleeping, or it may be that your child is one who needs to wake up slowly and is going to fuss a bit while he does it!?

If you suspect that sleep associations are causing the problem, you may wish to consider sleep training – this will help your baby gradually learn a new way to sleep, that will not involve negative sleep associations.

So what now

If you need help with sleep teaching, you can check out our website or Facebook pages; you can get one-on-one help with Lisa Gargaro Sleep Co expert sleep coach. Whenever you choose to change your sleep routines, know that you can overcome negative sleep associations and help your baby or toddler sleep through the night – and Lisa Gargaro can help. 

Book a call with her today to speak about your current sleep situation. Lisa can advise you on how you can start a journey to better sleep and how she can do this with you. In a gentle holistic family-focused sleep program.