"Night terror"-like behavior in 3 month old - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 01-09-2007, 10:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello everyone,

I'm new, so please bear with me.

I have a high need 3 month old daughter who is, we believe, emerging from major colic symptoms. However recently she's been doing a strange thing where she "wakes up" (usually after only sleeping a half-hour or so) crying and almost screaming. Her eyes stay closed, and if I can get my pinkie or nipple in her mouth, she'll calm down and settle back to sleep. I don't think she actually ever wakes up, and from what I've read about night terrors, the signs are the same, although of course she's much too young for that.

Usually, though, I can't catch her in time, and she eventually wakes up, meaning she's sleep-deprived and taking about 4-5 naps during the day. When she's napping in the sling, that's cool, but this happens when she's in bed, at night and during naps. (We've been trying to get her more settled for naps because I'll be going back to work and DH will be the primary caregiver. DD doesn't care for his fingers OR his nipples.
The doctor just says it's more of the lingering colic, but I think it's very strange.

I would appreciate any help you can offer. She seems so tired all the time and it's making me wonder if we should try to move her to a crib or something ...

I just realized I forgot some information. We are not trying to "force" her to sleep. It's just that she's clearly so tired - - yawns, rubs eyes, fusses, etc., and while we are committed to following her cues, she's cueing that she's tired and needs to sleep. I would have no problem if she seemed to thrive on half-hour naps, but she doesn't. And she often wakes up like this in the morning, too!


P.S. Now I'm getting worried. So many people have read this but no replies. I hope I haven't violated any guidelines or rules. I'm a dedicated AP first-time mother who's really having problems trying to help my child ...

If this is all very normal for a 3 month old, please somebody tell me!

Trying to be a joyful Catholic wife and mama, and taking it one day at a time!
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#2 of 10 Old 01-09-2007, 07:49 PM
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I don't have any advice but I just wanted to say that my little guy has woken up like that before but its not as frequent as your daughter.

Taryn-31 Crunchy Conservative Catholic SAHM with DH-32
DS 7.5, DD 5 (vbac), DD 2.5 (vbac), and DD 12/30/13 (vbac)

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#3 of 10 Old 01-09-2007, 08:49 PM
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I did a bunch of research on this myself last year when my little one (4 months at the time) started having what appeared to be nightmares, or even a form of night terrors (or confusional arousals - where they get caught between two stages of sleep). She would started whimpering in her sleep, then start moving a little bit which quickly turned to thrashing around, then she'd wake up sobbing wildly ... the scariest thing was she would look at me in such a daze, like she was possessed or something and didn't recognize me - it was clear she was still asleep! I'd try to nurse her, comfort her, sing to her, rock her - you name it - as soon as she started to become distressed, but many times it would take her several minutes before she seemed to "recognize" she was safe with mama.

My little brother used to have horrible night terrors ... but he never remembered them the next morning. Anyway, our ex-ped told us that she didn't think babies that young had night terrors (although she did say they could very well be nightmares) ... but I've since read differently. Sometimes she would actually wake herself up crying and cling to me needing comfort, clearly scared from a bad dream. It broke my heart! Luckily, it has passed for the most part. However, she CRAWLS AND WALKS IN HER SLEEP now! We co-sleep on a mattress on the floor and I have to grab her and roll her back to her side, and she usually stays in a deep sleep. If I don't catch her in time she'll start crawling or walking and sometimes begin to cry, which wakes her up ... all with eyes closed sleeping. I can usually keep her from waking by nursing her back down.

Check out Dr. Greene's info here:

The Truth About Dreams, Nightmares, and Night Terrors
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#4 of 10 Old 01-09-2007, 09:02 PM
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Welcome Beth! I see that you are new. I bet that many people read your post and didn't respond, not because you violated any rules, but just that they didn't have any experience or suggestions. Your post was fine IMO!

My DS is almost 3 months old too. He wakes several times a night but usually just makes some little noises, then I nurse him, and he goes back to sleep. Every once and a while he cries out in his sleep during the day and at night. I attribute it to gas pains or a bad dream. It is a really sad sound and I always feel bad for him. He doesn't open his eyes and pretty much stays asleep however when it happens. DD (who is now 2.5YO) used to do this too on occasion when she was a young babe. Anyway, it sounds like your little one may be experiencing something similar. It may really be the lingering colic that the doctor has suggested. Since it is happening when she is upright too, I would think that it is probably not reflux.

In terms of her being "sleep deprived," I'm not sure how many hours she is sleeping in a 24 hour period. The No Cry Sleep Solution book by Elizabeth Pantely is a great resource. You can see how many hours of sleep a 3 month old is supposed to get. I don't actually know. But keep in mind that every child is different too, so don't get too hung up on the numbers. I would say to just continue doing what you are -- trying to comfort her the best you can. And obviously DH is going to have to find a way to do that too if you are going back to work. Does she settle down when he holds and rocks her? Can he wear her too? In terms of sleeping location, she probably really needs to stay in your bed (I'm assuming that is wear she is). If she is high needs, is crying out at night, has lingering colic, ect. I think it will only make it worse if she is in a crib or other room. She needs to be close to you more than ever. Hopefully she'll out grow this soon and start to group her sleep in longer clusters. (My DS never sleeps for more than 3 hours straight at this point). It is most likely normal, but I'd keep an eye on her and make sure that it is not a sign of any other health problems. Sounds like the doctor doesn't think so, but you are with her a lot more of course and YOU know best.

I just re-read your post . . . does she really never stay asleep for longer than 30 minutes or is this just happening some of the time? If it is only sometimes I wouldn't worry to much, but if she can NEVER sleep for more than a 30 minute stretch in a 24 hour period (meaning you are NEVER sleeping for more than 30 minutes either) I'd probably talk to the doctor again. That would make me think something is really causing her pain and interrupting her sleep cycle. (The Pantely book explains about baby sleep cycles too.)

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#5 of 10 Old 01-09-2007, 09:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the replies!

To clarify, she sleeps for more than 30 minutes at night, sometimes after one of these waking episodes. She will only sleep for more than 30 minutes during the day if I "intercept" her. Today I did a bit more experimenting by lying with her while she napped, and managed to get her 20 more minutes. At night, she usually manages 2-3 hour stretches, even before DH and I come to bed. This has never happened when she naps in the sling or other carrier.

I've checked out the No Cry Sleep Solution, but thought I would reference it later when/if we transition her out of the bed. I'll take another look.

And I'll definitely check out the other reference--thank you Paint the Moon. This sounds EXACTLY like what is happening to my daughter usually at least once a day, sometimes more. It's the blank, still asleep look that freaks me out.

I just figured with all the knowledge and experience on this board, I was bound to learn something!


Trying to be a joyful Catholic wife and mama, and taking it one day at a time!
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#6 of 10 Old 01-10-2007, 01:19 AM
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Sorry, haven't read the other posts...

But I wanted to touch on a couple things... the first being that if it were colic/gassy symptoms I think she would be behaving differently... for instance when our ds woke with stomach cramps/colic he had his knees up at his chest. He took would calm down with the breast.

Something I have heard about sleep cycles is that after about the first hour of sleep that kids sort of become more concious before going back into a heavier sleep cycle. So I'm wondering in your case if dd sleep cycle is shorter for the first part.

Night terrors.... I don't know much about these but I always tended think that if there were something bothering my baby that young that it was more of a physical ailment and not a bad dream situation. But that doesn't mean it's true.

good luck
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#7 of 10 Old 01-24-2007, 05:00 AM
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Hi there Whittaker,

I hear your concern, which mirrored my own when my now 6 yr old dd was a young baby. She did exactly as you are describing, primarily at night time, and frequently throughout the night, (usually the first 2-3 hours of sleep), and was inconsolable. Over the years it continued on a regular basis, maybe stopping around 4yrs, and during that time I read a great deal and discoverd that babies can indeed experience Night Terrors. (unfortunately I didn't gather that information till she was well out of the baby stage). I knew she wasn't teething or anything else since she was a darling super happy girl during the day and obviously not in pain, but of course tried all the remedies, just in case, since she was my first.

It was extremely disconcerting at the time and all I could do in the end was to hold her and rick her since anything else used to distress her more since she couldn't really see me, although her eyes were open some of the time.

Thanks Paint the Moon, really helpful information from your link, (I wish I had found that when I was going through it).

:SaHM to 3 *DD* DD2 * DS
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#8 of 10 Old 01-24-2007, 03:27 PM
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My DS is 6 months and has done that also... sometimes I find it's gas, so try burping.

Happy Momma , sharing life with my of a DH, DS Rumi (Aug '06) and DD Leela (July '09)
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#9 of 10 Old 01-29-2007, 05:59 PM
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She is NOT too young for night terrors. When I was reading about them, there were some cases with babies only DAYS old having them while still in the hospital, where they were recorded and confirmed by medical professionals.

I mentioned in another thread the tips I read for avoiding them.
* bare and exposed feet when sleeping
* don't put her to sleep in an environment where she feels suffocated (ie: too many toys, pillows, or heavy blankets.)
* don't put her to bed over tired
* reduce stress and new things
* time how long after she falls asleep they occur...it tends to be the same each time...disturb her sleep a few minutes before they occur (only seems to need to be done once per night, then the night terrors don't usually happen the rest of the night. Some children will have them repeatedly in the night, but usually once.)
* if one starts, a cool washcloth on the feet seems to help
* in older children, if you put them on the toilet and they pee it seems to snap them out of it

I know that last one sounds bizarre, but night terrors seem to be related to the same brain thing that triggers both sleep walking and bed wetting. There also seems to be a connection with claustrophobia. It seems as if the mechanism that makes us wake up when we can't breathe or need to pee is effected, and either triggers too much or doesn't trigger.

None of my info is from medical sources, since medical science supposedly considers night terrors to be not dangerous/harmful and something that goes away with time.

My info came from the stories of individuals about what they experienced, what they tried, and how the child responded.


For the OP....you said it only happens in the bed. Maybe the key is the claustrophobia link. Maybe she feels trapped there.


My sister had night terrors, sleep walking, bed wetting, and claustrophobia. She would walk right out of the house if nobody noticed. If we said "go back to bed" she did. Her night terrors were atypical because her fear response is not to scream, but to withdraw within herself. Consequently, my parents had no clue and she suffered alone until she was old enough to explain to me what her friends had perceived during sleep overs and I did research.

Originally Posted by jaidymama
Night terrors.... I don't know much about these but I always tended think that if there were something bothering my baby that young that it was more of a physical ailment and not a bad dream situation. But that doesn't mean it's true.
From what I have read about night terrors, I don't think they are bad dreams at all. They seem to be entirely physical. Probably related to a hormonal or neurotransmitter imbalance due to the brain still forming and probably being in a stage where not all of the functions have fully kicked in. They are very common, from what I hear.

Leigh, mama to Rostislav homeborn Aug 9 2007, and Oksana homeborn Feb 24 2011.
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#10 of 10 Old 10-26-2013, 06:09 AM
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Hi there

Don't panic i'm experiencing the same strange thing. My 3rd child is now 6 months old and still having them and it started at 3 months.it seem to be getting worse ! She goes to sleep very easily and about 20 minutes to 2 hours later she starts crying and sometimes screams and cries real tears. She seems like she is petrified of something ?? I used to pick her up and try and comport her but this seemed to make her even more panicked ? I now just stand near her and watch her until she calms down which she does. I find the thing very disturbing but she seems completely normal when she wakes up so it is not affecting her in any way ?

My first child did the same but it was a very mild little whimpers and he would sleep through them so i never really worried and now he sleeps through with not a peep. I'm just gonna watch my little one for a couple of weeks and if nothing improves i might take her to a "body talk" lady i was recommend to see.

I hope yours is improving


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