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Why do babies cry in their sleep?

For most first-time parents, we focus on the pregnancy, reading “what to expect when your expecting”, religiously following the size of our fetus “grape, apple, pear, peach, grapefruit and “look darling! This week we grew fingernails – awww”.

We prepare ourselves for birth, knowing full well that birth will be painful – but when the time arrives, the pain is nothing like what people have tried to explain – and neither is what happens once your baby arrives and all the wonderful and untold things that come with our precious babies – like sudden crying during the night.

Let me play this scenario out for you. Your baby is fed, bathed, has a clean nappy and is tired, you place your baby in the cot and creep out…45 mins later – bub is crying…WHY!!!!!! Imagine this happening every 40 mins, why? This is the stuff that “What to expect when you’re expecting” doesn’t fill you in on.

Your baby has so many more needs than just “Eat, play, sleep, repeat” (thanks every “baby routine” book ever published). Your new bundle of joy has emotions, are developing at a rapid pace, they are changing every day. Things to consider when your baby suddenly wakes through the night are, and this will of course, depend on your baby’s age and development stage:

Emotional development

Emotional development is so important for babies, the feeling of security, the smell of their parents, the fact that they sleep in your arms fine but when you put them down they cry – WHY!? Because all they want is YOU, you have carried that gorgeous baby for 9 months, they have been wrapped tightly in your womb, kept warm and have heard your voice every day for 9 months – why would they want to be put in a bassinet or cot that doesn’t resemble all they know and love – right?

Your Emotions

Your baby is also in tune with you, lets be honest, being a parent can be hard, especially if you have other children to care for as well. If you’re tired, sorry, I meant exhausted, and feeling a little overwhelmed, your baby will pick up on these feelings and may become restless. Even though its sometimes difficult, the calmer you are, the more likely it is your baby will be calmer too.

Separation Anxiety

Now, this affects every child and separation anxiety comes and goes through different developmental stages. The baby will sleep in your arms and not in her/his cot, the kindy drop-offs or leaving your child with a babysitter for a night out and your child Is screaming for you not to leave…this is a normal developmental stage for a baby as well. This will usually happen from 6 months of age – peaking at 10 – 18 months.

REM Patterns

Babies REM sleep cycles are between 30 – 50 mins. The go from a “light sleep” to a “deep sleep” during the change in patterns, your child may wake and cry out. This is totally different to separation anxiety and nothing to do with emotional development. The above require you to soothe your child. With REM sleep pattern changes and cry outs, there is often no need to rush and pick your child up immediately, in fact, your baby crying out is very normal behaviour in a sleeping baby and often this is one of the ways a baby learns to self soothe. Listen to your baby and know the difference in their cry, remember, nobody knows your baby better than you, if your baby is not distressed, they will often drift back off to sleep on their own within a minute or two.

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