QUICK SLEEP TIP: Why Your Baby Wakes Up Crying

Why Your Baby Wakes Up Crying

“Why does my baby wake up crying?”

That’s a question we hear a lot – and it’s the questions we’re answering in today’s quick tip article!

Why Your Baby Wakes Up Crying

Well, for starters, your baby may obviously wake up crying sometimes due too 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 mom and dad need to address, either by feeding or changing baby.

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

But some other sleep associations are less easy to spot as the cause of crying upon waking. If you normally 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, he may cry if he wakes up in his crib and is no longer behind held.

Beyond these reasons, though, here’s 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. This is often the cause of those weird 2 minute crying spells that you sometimes might 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, he’s already fallen back to sleep? The cause there is just brief waking during sleep cycles that happens to be accompanied by some fussing.

That goes hand-in-hand with the next point: for some children, waking up crying is a sign that they aren’t really 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 fairly quiet and content, others will just wail. This was the case for Nicole:

“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.”

In these cases, it’s sometimes best to wait a minute or two when you hear crying that you suspect is 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 she isn’t fully rested yet.

Finally, keep in mind that some babies (and toddlers, for that matter) cry after waking even if they’re fully rested. 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 fully wake up. (Heck, I know adults like this – I’m one of them, in fact!! 😉 I don’t wake up crying, but boy, do I need plenty of time and space to fully wake up!) In these cases, you can try simply cuddling your child, or offering a small snack or a favorite toy, and allowing your child to slowly wake up.

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 of an uncomfortable diaper or illness, then evaluate whether or not it may be a sleep 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 (in the crib, 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 kiddo 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 want to consider sleep training – this will help your baby gradually learn a new way to sleep, that doesn’t involve negative sleep associations. If you need help with sleep coaching, you can check out our library of do-it-yourself sleep coaching resources in our Members Area, or you can get one-on-one help with an expert sleep consultant. Whichever route you choose, know that you can overcome negative sleep associations and help your baby or toddler sleep through the night – and we can help!

Does your baby wake-up crying? What do you think the reason is? Have questions about crying upon waking? Ask, and we’ll answer!

bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOur Members Area is packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!
Essential Keys to Newborn Sleep Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep is THE newborn sleep book that will help you to not only improve your newborn’s sleep using gentle, sleep-inducing routines – it will also answer your feeding and newborn care questions. You can even buy a bundle package that includes the e-book AND a Personalized Sleep Plan™ PLUS a follow-up email to use for further support!
bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
bss_ebook_5steptoddler_smalFor those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.

Need help knowing where to start? Visit our Help Me Choose page for helping choosing the Baby Sleep Site® resources that are right for you.

Why Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution
Doesn’t Always Work

Pantley-No-Cry-Sleep-SolutionSometimes I hear from parents who have tried Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution and have not been able to get it to work. This article will discuss possible reasons why sometimes it doesn’t work for a variety of families.

First, let me say that Pantley’s book The No Cry Sleep Solution has a lot of good information in it in terms of how babies sleep and the most common sleep problems. As with most books about sleep, it is over 200 pages and has a lot of common sense information in it that you likely have already tried. As I strive to save you as much time as possible (new parents rarely have time to read multiple 200+ page books), I tend to try to extract the most useful information from a variety of sources in order for you to create your own personal sleep plan without reading 10 full-length books, millions of pages on the internet, etc. Today, I talk about one important piece that is missing from Pantley’s book and that is about your baby’s temperament and personality and why that leads to her methods not necessarily working for your baby.

Pantley does talk about one of the most common sleep associations which is “sucking to sleep” by either breastfeeding, pacifier, or bottle. I would say the majority of parents I work with on a daily basis have one of these issues. The remaining parents need to rock, pat, sway, bounce, or walk their baby to sleep. Some people have to do a combination: bounce on a ball while feeding with one leg up, for example. :) Pantley mostly focuses on the sucking to sleep association and, specifically, breastfeeding for the most part, as she is a big proponent of Attachment Parenting and co-sleeping.

In a nutshell, Pantley’s “Gentle Removal Plan” is to give your baby the pacifier, bottle or breast, but continually remove it until your baby finally falls asleep without it in his mouth. On the surface, this is good advice and for some babies, it will work…eventually. Let’s consider why it won’t work for some babies or take so long that you wonder whether your baby simply outgrew it.

Have you ever tried to break a long-term habit? Let’s face it, your baby may only be 6 months old, but if she’s been breastfeeding to sleep her whole life, this is a long-term habit. My mom has repeatedly tried to quit smoking. She just hasn’t been able to quit, unfortunately. Similarly, I’ve had friends who try to lose weight and they might lose some and then gain it back. I’m sure many of us can relate to breaking habits in one way or another.

One big thing about habits is that you can try to moderate yourself. You can try to smoke just one cigarette a day, for example, or allow yourself to eat one piece of cake a week, but what tends to spin us back into bad habits is that one leads to many. It isn’t that you are weak. It isn’t that you don’t want to change. Habits are hard to break and if you allow yourself one, you are giving yourself permission to say that it’s okay to “do” it. Therefore, it’s hard not to continue to do it. If something is not good for you and moderating yourself hasn’t worked, you have to tell yourself it’s never good for you and not allow yourself to have it even once. It’s in our nature to want more. That’s why some diet plans tell you to throw away all of your sweets, for example.

Wait, does this mean you should never give your baby a pacifier or breastfeed him?

No! I am not saying that at all. In fact, it makes me sad when moms wean from breastfeeding only to find their baby still won’t sleep well. :( But, I am saying, that when it comes to your baby’s sleep, you can’t “tease” your baby and give him the very thing you want him to stop waking ten times a night for. You can’t give it to him ten times at bedtime and expect him to “get” it that he doesn’t need it to sleep anymore. Granted, adaptable babies will often make quick changes that way, but this is where your baby’s temperament or personality come into play.

Some babies simply do not respond to Pantley’s method, because the only thing you are truly teaching him is that he does need to suck to relax and fall asleep. You are only delaying your baby’s sleep. Instead, you want to teach him how to relax AND sleep without the pacifier, breastfeeding, bottle, rocking, etc. You want to replace his sleep association with something else, not reinforce he still needs it. Going back to quitting smoking. My father, on the other hand, did quit smoking many years ago, but he replaced one habit for another. He now chews sugar free gum almost EVERY time he gets in the car, when he used to smoke. This has been over 10 years or more! (Side note: I am honored that what finally sparked my father to quit smoking is a paper I wrote when I was in High School. Who knew? :)). When someone is trying to change their chips-before-bed habit, they might try replacing carrot sticks (since they are crunchy, too). The idea is not to deprive yourself or your baby from a habit, the idea is to replace it with something more in line with your long-term goal.

Does this mean not to try Pantley’s No-Cry method?

No, it means it’s just the first step and you still need to keep moving forward. While Pantley believes in “No Cry”, I tend to lean towards “Limited Crying” and believe that when you attempt to stick to no tears whatsoever, you will generally have little success unless your baby is so adaptable that she only needed you to stop helping her so much in the first place. Sometimes, crying during sleep training is inevitable, but it doesn’t mean you have to do cry it out, either. I really hope people stop making it so one or the other. If you view sleep coaching as a continuum with no-cry on one end and full blown cry-it-out at the other end, your goal is to find the method that fits with your baby’s temperament on that continuum, not force your baby to be something he’s not. Embrace his uniqueness and you will have more success than you’ve dreamed of.

For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a personalized sleep plan you can feel good about!

What is Your Pantley No Cry Sleep Solution Story?

Controlled Crying, Cry It Out, No-Cry, or Soothe Baby to Sleep?

Controlled CryingControlled Crying. Cry it out. Don’t cry it out. Soothe your baby. Co-sleep. Don’t co-sleep.

The advice is endless and talk to one expert, say your baby’s doctor, and she will say one thing. Talk to another one and he might say do the opposite. Read this book or that book and it’s likely to say yet another thing.

This week I was quoted as one of three experts in Hudson Valley Parent in an article called Let Them Cry or Rock-a-Bye. One of my quotes reiterates how I believe all families and situations are different, so there isn’t just one solution. After you read it, make sure you comment on what your philosophy is as a parent.

What is the difference between Controlled Crying and
Cry It Out?

In my experience, when people think of “Cry It Out” they think of not going back in the room once they put their baby down for sleep at night and let them cry. Controlled Crying is when you go in at intervals to check on your baby and you may put a time limit on how long your baby cries in total. I do find many people consider Controlled Crying the same as “Cry It Out” and don’t want to do either. Everyone seems to have a slightly different definition. Some people think of Cry It Out as not even going in to feed or change a diaper while others recognize that they are not looking for a 12-hour straight sleeper or baby sleeping through the night, necessarily, they just don’t want to go in there every 1-2 hours to replace a pacifier, breast-feed, bottle-feed, or rock their baby back to sleep all night.

The Baby Sleep Site Philosophy on Controlled Crying
or Cry it Out

For those who are new to The Baby Sleep Site™, my philosophy is that there is not one method for everyone. All families should find their own path and even different babies within the same family may take a different path. Do I think controlled crying or cry it out works? In many cases, yes. Is it the only thing that works? No. Do I think it always works when used? No. Do I often recommend controlled crying or cry it out? No, not usually. I start with no-cry (or limited crying) methods 90% of the time unless the parent has already decided to pursue controlled crying or cry it out and just has “what if” questions. And, then, whatever method they actually take I support that parent through and through. Why do I start with no-cry methods? Because I am a mom, not a doctor, who knows that your baby crying is one of the last things you want in the whole wide world, that’s why. I am not philosophically against crying methods, but there are quite a few things to try between soothing your baby all the way to sleep and putting him down, leaving the room, and letting him cry. Many families can make a lot of improvement without controlled crying or cry it out.

How to choose between controlled crying, cry it out, no-cry or soothing to sleep

Your baby’s temperament, your parental philosophy and level of patience are key components in whether you decide to try controlled crying, cry it out, a no-cry method, or decide to continue soothing your baby all the way to sleep each time. Take some time to read a few other articles that may help you find your answer:

Baby Temperament and Sleep Series
Is Co-Sleeping a Solution for Baby Sleep Problems?
Teaching Baby to Sleep with No Crying
How Crying Can Lead to Babies Sleeping
Cry It Out Defined and Age to Do It
Are You Sleep Training a Tortoise or a Hare?
Knowing When You’re Done Sleep Training

I hope this article helps you find the solution that is right for your family. You might be surprised at what that solution really is. If you are too bleary-eyed to make sense of it all and come up with a plan, let me do it for you. Check out our Sleep Consulting Services, where I help you make a plan YOU can feel good about. You can read a few parent stories to the right, too, or read them all here: Parent Stories.