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Obviously, babies wake up crying to eat, because they are wet or dirty (sometimes), or to have their sleep association recreated (such as replacing a pacifier), but this Sleep Quick Tip is to discuss what it possibly means when your baby wakes up crying from a nap or in the morning when they are “done sleeping” (at least you think so).
From my reading, I have not found any definitive reason as to why babies cry when they wake up, but it is normal for them to cry between sleep cycles. With my first-born, if he woke up crying, it 90% of the time meant that he was not done sleeping. He may have awakened in between sleep cycles and had trouble going into the next one. My 2nd son had a much easier time going into the next sleep cycle, most of the time, but he still whimpered a bit, sometimes, between sleep cycles.
This tip is to encourage you not to run in at the slightest whimper because crying between sleep cycles is normal and expected. Babies might not do it every sleep cycle, but they do some. I am not saying you need to allow your baby to cry-it-out, but any amount of crying feels a lot longer than it is. My 2nd son did not have as much of a luxury to be attended to at the slightest whimper because I had my older son to take care of, too. I remember when my 2nd son was around 2 months old, I was fixing my first son lunch and #2 (his name is Nicholas, btw) woke up from his nap. I couldn’t get to him right away, but was walking to his room by the 3 or 4 minute mark and my hand was on the doorknob and he went back to sleep!! I would have disturbed his nap had I been in there any sooner. Of course, at 2 a.m. 3 or 4 minutes feels more like 30, but just keep it in mind and look at the clock.
As I said before, when my eldest son woke up from his nap, crying, it usually meant he was not done sleeping (whether he went back to sleep or not was hit or miss), so if he did wake up crying at least I knew whether to run in there or not. At the very least, I gave him 5 minutes to try to fall back to sleep…that is until I nap trained him. Having said that, I know one woman whose baby, 90% of the time, woke up crying and that’s just how he came out of his sleep cycles, so it didn’t have the same meaning for her.