Waking up crying - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 05-20-2012, 10:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Has anyone had experience with a toddler waking up crying? Not from night terrors, but just from waking up. My son used to always cry/tantrum when going to sleep...lots of drama there. We have worked through some of that and for the most part he can go to sleep without a tantrum now. But he still consistently wakes up crying and has a tantrum for anywhere from 5 minutes- 30 minutes depending on the day. It's as if falling a sleep and waking up are torture for him. He wakes up and calls for one of us, we go in, and he begins to cry. We try to soothe and he escalates. Nothing helps at first, silently sitting with him, cuddling in bed with him, talking, sometimes he can't tolerate any touch whatsoever, but still screams for us. In the end he wants to be carried. If we don't pick him up he will tantrum. If we don't carry him long enough he will tantrum. Once he is fully awake he's completely fine. Sometimes within 5 minute of crying he's fine, laughing, snacking, whatever.

But it's every day and it is very hard to contend with now that we have a one month old baby. 

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#2 of 15 Old 05-21-2012, 06:20 AM
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My thoughts are is it a vacc reaction???? Or other thought that comes to mind is testing 123 of you. Terrible 2 are not age 2 as many think, they are 2 years. from 1 1/2 to 3 1/12. with slow start to high testing to slow down over that time if parents keep at the I'm in charge not the toddler idea.

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#3 of 15 Old 05-21-2012, 06:52 AM
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My four year old still often wakes up crying and up until a few weeks ago she almost always woke up crying when she was in her own room.  Starting around 2 1/2 she began spending the first part of the night in her own room in her own bed and then coming to us when she first woke up (3-4 hours later).  She almost always cried at that first wake-up.  Sometimes she'd just be whimpering and sometimes she'd be screaming at DH as he brought her in to me.  She was never in pain and she could always be comforted by nursing and cuddling back to sleep. 


My daughter is a really bad sleeper.  She has always been hard to get to go to sleep.  Needs lots of comfort and physical contact.  And, she actively resists going to sleep.  She'll announce routinely that she hates sleeping.  I think she hates cries because she's disoriented and can't figure out what's going on.  That feeling of being out of control combined with being apart from gets her very upset. 


Recently she has started turning on her own nightlight and walking to me in my bed.  I think the fact that she can see everything and that she's in control of her own transition has greatly improved her feelings about nighttime wake-ups. 


So, that's all to say that I know what you are dealing with (bedtime fights are common around here too) and I don't think there is anything wrong with your son except that those nighttime transitions are harder for some kids than for others.  My advice is twofold... like all things with sleep, it will improve eventually!  But, maybe in the meantime you can try a bright nightlight or having a parent get into the room before your son escalated into a total meltdown?  

Partner to DH and mom to DD1 (3/2008) and DD2 (born 1/2012).
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#4 of 15 Old 05-21-2012, 03:38 PM
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we had the same problem *(still do) with our 3 year old. we put him back in our room in a twin next to our bed to eliminate the full waking and wanting milk to get him back to sleep. We realized he just does not like being alone. this tends ot happen when he is overtired or overstimulated or did not eat well that day. We found that BACH's Sleep remedy has been wonderful for him; you can personalize the remedy but it's really expensive with multiple essences so we tried the sleep remedy first.  we tried P's&Q's and No More Monsters as other remedies but they never wored, BACH's has been great, we are only up to maybe one waking per night every couple days as opposed to multiple wakings every night.


GOod luck!thumb.gif

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#5 of 15 Old 05-22-2012, 07:29 AM
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I have the exact same problem with my 3 year old DS that also started when our new, now 2 month old DS arrived.  I have found that spending more one on one time with him during the day, making a big deal of it when we do and also giving lots and lots of cuddles before bed and when he wakes up is helping.  He still is waking up once during the night crying and it is always for "mommy", if daddy goes in, its a whole other tantrum.  But I keep the lights off, curl up next to him and wait till the crying is over and then just cuddle with him until he goes back to sleep.  Then he is fine till morning.  I think it is just seperation anxiety that will hopefully get better as the baby gets a little older...hopefully!  :)  

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#6 of 15 Old 05-22-2012, 07:32 AM
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I'm having the same thing with my 23 month old son! And we have a six week old daughter as well. Just last night he was hysterical for no apparent reason at 1am and even when he came into bed with us, he was still crying uncontrollably. It took a change of scenery for him to calm down (a trip to the bathroom) and lots of massage and soft singing. We're suspecting teething (two year molars?) but maybe it is overexhaustion and not enough calories on board, as noted above. You're not alone, and we're still coping with this as well! I blog about sleeping (http://www.wholeparentingfamily.com/category/sleeps/) on my natural parenting blog, but need to put up a more recent post about this new phenomena. 


It has to get better, right?

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#7 of 15 Old 05-22-2012, 07:56 AM
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My oldest did this same thing until about age 3 1/2.  She was usually okay in the am after a few minutes, but day time naps were horrible - both planned and accidental falling sleep in the car.  She would literally cry for over an hour sometimes - it was worse around 20 to 28 months.  We just had to follow her lead - hold her if she wasn't pushing us away and sitting close to her if she pushed us away.  Knowing that other kids did this same thing helped us cope.  Suddenly one day we noticed she wasn't doing it anymore and hadn't been for a while.  Best of luck!!!

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#8 of 15 Old 05-22-2012, 08:30 AM
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My son was like this when he was smaller.  I always had some super favorite snack and drink ready to immediately hand him the second he woke up.  Some kind of treat worked best, sort of interrupted the melt down.   He would sit to eat and then I would read to him until he was fully awake and matriculated into the day. 



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#9 of 15 Old 05-22-2012, 08:42 AM
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my daughter, who is now 2, has been whimpering and crying in her sleep ever since she was born. She had a terrible forcep birth, and I am not sure if babies can still experience the memories of going through things like that through their sleep.. 


Have you had him allergy tested? my dd was allergic to a few things and got better since we cut them out. I Nursed her for 2 years and nursing was/is the only thing that gets her back to sleep, if we try and rock her she will scream and throw a fit.. I am preggo and my milk dried up 2 months ago and she still wants to nurse to sleep! she is learning to sleep on her own though.. she also sleeps way better when she hasnt watched tv that day and has a full stomach before bed.. 


if he use to cry lots before bed, he might still not be out of that habit or feel comfortable in his sleeping situation. I think crying and tantrums is common with toddlers, at least we have noticed that the older our daughter gets the bigger the tantrums get.. we just try and make her feel safe and loved as being a toddler is overwhelming and they cant quite communicate their emotions or what is wrong with them yet.. something might be bugging him but he cant let you know. how old is he?

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#10 of 15 Old 05-22-2012, 09:33 AM
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How is your son falling asleep?  Are you in the room with him when he closes his eyes?  Is he falling asleep somewhere (arms, your bed, etc) and then being moved into his room later?  If so, you may want to consider gently changing those routines to match more what your family needs.  You may try talking to him, if he is falling asleep in one place & waking in another, "It looks like you are really sleepy, after you fall asleep I'm going to hold you for a while, then I will take you to your comfy bed and kiss you" Maybe in the waking hours telling him stories about how he falls asleep and where you are when he's sleeping.


My daughter occassionally will wake up with night terrors.  Often something big has happened that day, wether it is a toy she really wanted to play with at a friends house & the friend wasn't willing to share or me having a big day and not as much time to cuddle, read a book or play bubbles.  These things will add up and she will waking up *screaming*.  She sleeps with me, so I can quickly comfort her using the words I have since she was a baby "everything's ok, momma and daddy are here, everything's ok"  Sometimes we have to back up a bit and do some of our nighttime routine to ease her back to sleep.  Rubbing her back, cuddeling her.  I will sometimes say a prayer for protection outloud because I don't know what is wrong and I want her to feel protected and safe.


Blessings to you as you help your little one...

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#11 of 15 Old 05-22-2012, 10:34 AM
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Our youngest son used to wake up  crying every single night. Sometimes screaming! We think he had headaches both from food reactions and birth trauma. We quit gluten and soy and he was still waking up screaming/crying every night. We went to a naturopath/chiro and he had cranio sacral therapy for birth head trauma. After the second session our son slept through the night for the very first time at age 3 1/2.

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#12 of 15 Old 05-22-2012, 11:03 AM
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My sister is 4 years older than me. I think she was about 4 and would wake up, sit up in bed crying and screaming in the middle of the night. Mom would come in and hush her. Finally I just rolled over and said, "Carrie! Go back to sleep." She did. Lol Every time. No idea what was wrong, but we did have some dolls in the house at the time that supposedly had a curse or something on them. We burnt them and that stopped, and my brother who was about 6, had dreams of clowns with wolf heads chasing him almost every night. That stopped too. A little spooky, but weird that it seemed to stop after those were out.

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#13 of 15 Old 05-22-2012, 09:15 PM
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Same situation, our DS has also been a challenging sleeper, rarely going to sleep easy or waking happy.  He wakes up SO upset and also does not want to be touched and will actually hit us if we try.  We are just there for him, say comforting words and are ready for when he eventually wants to cuddle and/or falls right back asleep.  After reading a VERY interesting book called "Tears and Tantrums" (I highly recommend it!!), I believe that he is processing events from the day that caused him stress.  I think it's easy for adults to overlook what is stressful to a child but something as simple as bumping a knee can cause great stress for them.  That being said, the seemingly unexpected tears can be a very healthy way for them to process the event unlike most adults who shut off our emotions and bottle them up.  Does your kiddo eventually go back to a nice deep sleep?  Ours usually does and we have come to terms with the fact that sometime he just needs to get those big emotions out in safe, loving environment.  Just a thought!

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#14 of 15 Old 05-22-2012, 10:35 PM
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Hi, You sound at the end of your tether and I can appreciate why, listening to your story. It sounds as if you have tried some of the right approaches but I'm not sure for how long you have managed to bear the tantrum before moving on to the next strategy.

Toddlers can soon subconciously get into a habit with some behaviours, not because they are calculating little devils but because they respond  very spontaneously to the attention we give them. I would say that keeping him in bed when he wakes, sitting by him on a chair or the floor so you are within cuddling distance and giving continuous reassurance (verbal if physical contact is rejected) is the best strategy. The least stimulation you can provide the better, so no trying to distract him with books, drinks or getting in bed with him  and definitely no snacks (even when he is laughing after the event).  Consistency and perserverance are the key and it might take a while. Perhaps looking at what he eats and when, just before going to bed might help as diet might play a part in the wakefulness. (Sugar, preservatives etc). I realise how tired you must be having a fairly new baby to care for aswell, just out of interest did the problem start during your pregnancy or after the baby was born? Toddlers are very sensitive to the arrival of a sibling even if they seem to love the new arrival there is often a sense of missing out on whats happening when they are out of sight of the parent and new baby. Perhaps asking your toddler to help you put the baby down to sleep before he goes to bed himself and making a big deal of him saying goodnight, see you in the morning etc, will reassure him that he is not going to miss anything whilst he is asleep himself,it might help. (Even if you get the baby back out of bed for a feed once your toddler is asleep he won't know). Again this is not a quick fix and might need consistency and perserverance. Can't hurt giving it a try!  I have looked after hundreds of women and families in my 25 years as a nurse and midwife and nearly everyone has their own unique story to tell about how their toddler became the devil incarnate at some point! Even my own son had his moments! Keep your chin up, it will pass as long as your toddler knows he is loved come what may. Good Luck and let us know how you get on.

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#15 of 15 Old 11-30-2012, 02:06 PM
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My DD has always been a "bad" sleeper. Currently (she's nearly 3) she usually only wakes once & its to call to come into our bed. But sometimes there is the screaming/crying for an age, usually she is unresponsive & doesn't want to be touched or held. It's different to when she has nightmares. I usually just sit beside her til she calms down & try to reassure her I'm there & she's ok. Anyway, the other day when she calmed down she was pretty awake, though still dozy. I asked her why she cries like that when she wakes up. She said because she's "really really tired".

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