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Why Do Babies Cry When They Wake Up?

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Babies are bright little beings. They've learned that it can be in their best interest to cry when they wake up. In fact, some demanding little ones may awaken more often if they know it leads to fun and comforting interactions with mom or dad, explains Children's Hospital Colorado. That said, babies can wake up crying for several other reasons

Trained Night Crier

If you've been holding or lying next to your baby until he drifts off to sleep, you may have inadvertently kept him from learning how to comfort himself. As a result, he resorts to crying out for you when he wakes up. If your infant usually cries when he wakes up you may have what Children's Hospital Colorado refers to as a "trained night crier" on your hands. To qualify, a baby must be older than 4 months and his nighttime wails have aroused you out of bed since he was a newborn. A "trained night crier" wakes up crying at least once a night and refuses to go back to sleep unless he's rocked, cuddled or walked.

Protest Crying

A baby may cry the moment she wakes up to express her dismay when the routine or environment she's come to depend has changed. For example, you may have moved your baby's crib out of your room into her own bedroom. Summit Medical Group, New Jersey describes this type of crying as "normal protest crying." It generally doesn't take too long for babies to adjust to changes and fall back into their earlier sleep habits. A baby may continue to wake up crying once she's recovered from a cold or flu now that she's come to expect more of your attention. She may cry out in protest that you aren't comforting or tending to her as often as you did when she wasn't feeling well.

Colicky Crying

If your baby wakes up crying and nothing you do seems to console him, it may be caused by colic, explains HealthyChildren.org, the official website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Colicky babies may scream intensely, stretch out or pull up their legs and pass gas. "Colicky crying" is usually a thing of the past by age 4 months although it may persist up to age 6 months. As is the case of the "protest crier," a "colicky crier" may come to expect the extra attention he's grown accustomed to even though colic is no longer a problem. Colic has no definitive cause.

Night Terrors

A few older babies from 8 to 12-months-old can experience night terrors. During a night terror your little one can mistakenly believe that persons or objects in the room pose a threat. Your frightened and inconsolable baby may cry out and scream during the night. Calmly reassure your baby that there's nothing to worry about. Night terrors last between 10 and 30 minutes. Night terrors are rare, occurring in only about 2 percent of children, notes the website AskDr.Sear.com.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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