HELP! Toddler woke up screaming. very worried. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 09-30-2011, 09:06 PM - Thread Starter
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My son just turned 15 months old. Tonight he had a major screaming fit unlike any I have ever seen.

I put him down to bed at 8:00 per usual. We nursed, he fell asleep, and I returned to the living room to do some reading. At about 10:30 I heard him fuss on the monitor so I gave it a minute then went back in. At this point it was just fussing turning to whimpers. When I got to the bedroom he was standing next to the bed screaming. I picked him up, and laid him back down like I was going to nurse him.

This is when things got bad. He looked awake, but if I so much as went near him he screamed bloody murder. I was dumbfounded. After about 15 minutes I said to heck with it and picked him up anyway. He fought me the whole time. I checked him to make sure he wasn't hurt as I walked him in the backyard to soothe him.

Finally after about 45 minutes of hysterics he let me nurse him on the couch. Once he was half asleep he let me transfer him back to bed where he is sleeping soundly next to me.

He has NEVER cried like this before. I actually almost rushed him to the ER thinking something was seriously wrong. He usually craves my touch when upset. This time he physically pushed me away.

I have no idea what caused it. My DH is out of town for work, but that isn't anything new. He travels twice a month like clockwork.

Anyone have any insight? I'm not sure who will be more scarred from the incident DS or I!

(Sorry for any typos. I am on my phone doing this so I can stay in bed with him.)

SAHM to a boy (2010) and a girl (2012).
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#2 of 8 Old 09-30-2011, 09:28 PM
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I'd watch him pretty closely tonight.  I have 4, and they have all done weird things, too, so, don't worry Mama.  Just be watchful.


Does his belly hurt?  Did he have a bad dream?  Eat something unusual (like food dyes) that could have prompted a bad dream?  Is he getting molars? 


Was he recently vaccinated?  Can he put his chin to his chest?  Does he have a fever?  Anything else seem off?  Do his eyes seem normal?  Are his pupils normal size?  Responding to light normally?  If you have a negative answer or feeling to any of those, I would strongly recommend taking him in. And we're a "don't go to the doc unless absolutely necessary family". 


Hugs, Mama.  It's a hard business we're strong.

"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."

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#3 of 8 Old 09-30-2011, 09:53 PM
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Mine has done something like that a few times too.  He's almost one year old.  Occasionally, he wakes up screaming in terror (I think), and refuses to nurse.  He lets me pick him up though...I just walk around the house with him, showing him other sleeping people and pets, and saying soothing things.  Eventually he settles down enough to let me nurse him back to sleep.


I haven't read a lot about it, but apparently some toddlers and children suffer from something called night terrors.  What you described sounds like what I remember reading.  The child will wake up screaming and not be entirely awake or understanding of their surroundings.  Sometimes these episodes can last quite a while.  Supposedly, the child will grow out of it.  Maybe Google "night terrors" and see if it sounds like your babe.


Hope you all get back to sleep tonight peacefully!



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#4 of 8 Old 10-01-2011, 07:36 AM
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It does sound like it could be night terrors to me. DS has them & 'wakes up' so upset but he's not totally awake or not coherent or something. He often talks but makes no sense and he will be shaking like a leaf and crying. He's not comforted at all by the usual things & I can't get him to totally wake up & snap out of it. He has them about once a week, more or less. I've mentioned it to his doctor, and EI, and his neurologist, but none of them were worried about it, they just said it sounded like night terrors and moved on to other subjects. It's scary for me though, and I feel bad that I can't comfort him, though it does seem like my presence helps a bit even if it doesn't stop it.

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#5 of 8 Old 10-01-2011, 10:39 AM
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You've just described a textbook case of a night terror. I'm not saying that is what it was (I totally agree that you should do a good physical once over when he wakes and make sure all is well), but it really sounds to me like a night terror. We haven't had anything that severe, but our DS has woken up a few times screaming, seems awake, but won't let us near him. I've let him scream for a few minutes then I take him out and put on the TV (I know, not great but it seems to stop the screaming). After a few minutes he settles down, lets me nurse, and then falls sound asleep.

I don't think he even remembers these episodes - in fact he often wakes up in a great mood the next morning. Its usually me that is most traumatized.

Anyway, I second the suggestion of googling night terrors and I wouldn't worry as long as he seems healthy. Kids just do scary, strange things sometimes!
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#6 of 8 Old 10-01-2011, 07:12 PM
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Definitely sounds like a night terror. My DS (3) has had them off and on since he was as young as 8 months. They happen in the first few hours of the night, they are not consolable if you try to touch them/pick them up, intense screaming, whole body tense, etc., etc. What really tips me off in what you describe is how he never acts like that, always craves your touch, but physically pushed you away. This is exactly what happens with night terrors. Also, your DS is 15 months. I would bet he is starting to drop his second nap. That is key time for sleep terrors -- when they are sleep deprived or moving into new sleep patterns. We had a lot of them at that age, and they are back now that DS is 3 and starting to drop his one nap.


What I find annoying is that all the books say the children are actually asleep, and that they will go back to sleep on their own. This is not true for us. I mean, yeah, he doesn't remember the episodes the next day, but he will sometimes respond to us if we talk to him (even if it is yelling and screaming). Once it comes to an end, after usually 20 minutes or so (though we have had longer ones), that's when he will let me touch him and lay him back down, and he will go back to (real) sleep.


If it starts to happen regularly, the best (and only thing that has worked for us) way to deal with it is prevention: wake him ever so slightly about 30 minutes before the episode usually starts. This can be just re-tucking in, moving them slightly in the bed, etc. Just enough so their eyes briefly flit open and they reposition. That will re-set their sleep cycle and prevent the terror.


If it does happen again, the best thing to do is just be there to keep him safe, not touch him, maybe try singing or something sortof soothing (that has worked from time to time), but basically wait it out until he is ready for you to hold him again and lay him back down for sleep.


Another thing I found interesting is a website in which adults describe their sleep terrors (that they remember!) as young children. They describe things like seeing dark, fuzzy, eerie shapes, or seeing their mom, but she's distorted, etc. All very terrifying images! So, that may be why they seem to recognize you as mom, but completely and utterly push you away.

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#7 of 8 Old 10-01-2011, 10:07 PM
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My almost-two-year-old has done this quite a few times too.. I am pretty certain it was from bad dreams.

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#8 of 8 Old 10-01-2011, 10:32 PM
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It sounds like night terrors.  My daughter had them from 20 months to about 30 months or so.  She'd have them every few nights for a week then be ok for a month, rinse repeat.  It's awful, but there's not much you can do since they're not really awake.  I just laid next to her and let her know I was there.  She never remembered it in the morning so I really think they're harder on the parents.

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