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5 Reasons a Baby Wakes Up Crying Hysterically at Night

That gorgeous dress you saw at the store around the corner is just within your arm’s reach

or that sundae you devoured the previous night is being brought to you by the waiter

OR everyone is applauding the presentation you slaved over at work.

All of a sudden, a shrill, high-pitched sound wrenches away those flimsy dreams and your eyelids fight your nerve impulses to remain closed, like they try and fight your alarm clock.

However, the apple of your eye, your precious snickerdoodle wrapped in a baby fragrance is bawling.

If you find that your baby wakes up crying hysterically, what do you do?

You love your kid, but why must he cry when you’re trying to sleep after three sleepless nights?!

Or, can he be feeling sick?

You probably ask these questions in a far milder fashion than I just did, but I understand your exasperation.


    1. Why your baby wakes up crying at night
    2. How to react
    3. When do babies start sleeping through the night?

So, I am here to explore the reasons as to why a baby wakes up crying hysterically at night

#1 – Physical discomforts

Babies are a lot like puppies – they love to cry for everything. (well at least it’s better than the rebellious phase where the urge to talk back is always present, hello puberty!)

The primary reason could be myriad forms of physical discomfort:

-Temperature too hot or too cold (if plants can have green houses, your baby deserves the ideal temperature)

-Eating or drinking too much or too little (you grumble about it too, maybe the mashed veggies were extra delicious that night!)

-Nappy is too wet and itchy; this sometimes happens only during the night. (For this one of you can hold the baby like Rafiki held Simba in Pride Rock and see if Sniffling Simba feels better with the nappy off)

-Being in the same position for too long which causes stiffness (rolling over is an extremely onerous affair)

-Being too tired (looking cute can be exhausting, you have no idea.)

-Not being tired enough (Whoops! I slept all day.) For this, make sure the child plays and does enough activity to remain asleep at night. Routine is key, and once internalized runs smoothly (Pavlov could tell you more about this.)

#2 – Emotional and psychological discomforts

It’s a scary world out there, even for the little guy who has mastered the art of saying “Mama!” and “Vroom!”.

Sometimes your baby cries just because the poor pumpkin is feeling scared or lonely and wants a little bit of attention.

Even nightmares can be very bothersome for babies and lead them to tears, especially when they wake up to find themselves alone.

Rubbing the forehead between the eyebrows normally helps calm the baby down from emotional disturbances (remember how quickly that head massage at the spa day put you to sleep? I thought so.)

#3 – The Scary causes: (not actually scary, but you probably will panic the minute you see them.)

Disorder and diseases can have an exacerbated impact at night and since the baby can explain this in no other way, he/she howls.

The reasons why your baby wakes up crying hysterically at night include, but are not limited to:

Indigestion owing to food stagnation: You can distinguish it by an irritable cry that is not very loud, closer to a wail than a waterworks parade.

The often toss and turn in their and perspire heavily too. (Heavy by baby standards, of course)

Stomach pain (more fancily called a liver-spleen disorder): the distinguishing feature of this disorder that begins suddenly with sharp cries.

(It’s a lot like bird-watching, every call means something, as you can see) The child is usually seen curling up, in order to relieve any abdominal pain.

Blocked nose and sinus: a common cold can leave not-so-common repercussions for your baby.

If there is mucous congestion that will be made more apparent by the phlegm in their cries, that’s when you know what’s bothering your biscuit.

None of these causes are cause for fear and worries, medical care when detected will relieve your child, and soon baby dearest will be back to her beauty sleep.

#4 – Night terrors (they will terrorise you forever, but your baby will not remember the next day)

Night terrors are sleep disturbances that are different from nightmares.

It may cause your little one to sit up in bed and thrash and cry with their eyes open, but in reality, they cannot see you.

They will be more hysterical in a lot of cases if you try to touch them.

During night terrors, your baby is somewhere between asleep and awake (a dusk of sorts).

This will terrify you, but unlike a nightmare, your child will not remember the next day.

There are no definitive causes of night terrors, which probably makes them scarier: but sleep deprivation and fever increases their probability of occurrence.

In case your baby is in the midst of a night terror, (they may last as long as half an hour), it will be hard, but it is best not to wake the child up.

#5 – For some extra loving (on a happier note)

Before the cogs in your head produce the most horrific of circumstances that spiral into paranoia

sometimes your baby wakes up screaming uncontrollably simply because they want to play with you (any time is playtime after all.)

Spending time with your child at odd hours of the night should not be made a habit

but can also provide for some lovely memories (when else is your little star going to greet the moon?)

So as you can see, there can be a number of reasons why a newborn or a baby wakes up crying hysterically.

However, you and I both know it’s all part and parcel of growing up, and if it’s nappy change time, you did it the last time, so the other person has to go.

And if you happen to be the only one, you know who the baby will love the most with their heart! Sweet dreams to you and your little squishable cinnamon roll!

What to do when a baby wakes up crying at night

What to do when a baby wakes up crying at night photo

Parents often feel anxiety when their baby wakes up crying at night.

It is very important to stay calm and avoid making a big fuss about the situation.

The first step is to keep the lights off and do not make any loud noises.

Parents should slowly build the habit of letting the baby learn to self-soothe and not provide any comfort right away.

This will teach the baby steady sleep patterns as he or she continues to grow.

If the baby continues to cry, try providing comfort without picking the baby up.

The more time the baby is picked up at night, he or she will continue to be restless and expect a reaction.

Knowing what to do when your baby wakes up crying is an important step towards creating good sleep habits that will continue as he or she grows.

If the baby wakes up crying hysterically on a consistent basis, it is time to search for alternative ways to provide comfort.

It is important to narrow down the overall cause of the hysterical crying and consider that it may be due to teething, illness, infection, or an uncomfortable temperature in the room.

Narrowing down the root cause will help parents to strategize and come up with a plan the will help the baby sleep better at night.

If the baby is teething or currently has an infection then the sleep patterns will stabilize once the issues are addressed.

Take some extra time to make sure the temperature in the room is not too hot or too cold for the baby.

Keeping the room at a steady temperature is an excellent way to help the baby sleep all night long.

When do babies start sleeping through the night?

When do babies start sleeping through the night

One of the top things parents look forward to is the first night the baby sleeps for eight hours straight.

At three or four months old, some babies will begin sleeping longer throughout the night.

Once the baby is over six months old he or she should begin to stay asleep all night long.

It is important for parents to remember that each baby is different and will transition into regular sleeping patterns in their own time.

If the baby is drinking formula, they may sleep longer throughout the night.

Babies that are breastfeeding often need to be fed more often.

Parents should pay close attention to how long the baby is napping during the day.

Limiting the time the baby naps will help to increase the number of hours he or she sleeps throughout the night.

One of the best ways to help the baby build good sleeping habits is to create a consistent bedtime routine.

The first step is to schedule a bedtime that is not too late at night.

An over-tired baby will often lead to a restless night and parents often make the mistake of keeping the baby up too late.

Create a routine that works well for the entire family.

A consistent night time ritual may include a bath, singing a song, cuddling, reading a book, or rocking in a chair.

Take some time to experiment with what will work best for the baby and focus on making it a soothing and enjoyable experience.

Throughout the process of building a bedtime routine for the baby, it is important to be flexible.

It may take some time for the baby to adapt to the changes but consistency is the key to helping babies build solid sleep patterns that will last for many years.

Parents should be patient and focus on long term results as they continue to plan out the best possible bedtime routine.

Additional information:


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Wednesday 29th of April 2020

I appreciate the read. I experienced it with all my babies while they were very young, under 12 months. I'm more worried because she is almost 18 months and its not getting better. Thanks for the tips!

Clara Johnson

Friday 1st of May 2020

Hi Kandace, That can be night terrors. My friend's son is going through similar thing. It’s probably night terror. If she is consistent with the time that she wakes up, wake her up 15 mins before that time (for example my friend's son screams bloody murder after he wakes up at midnight so she wake him up at 11:45pm intentionally) Change her diaper, and puts her back in the crib in a quiet, dim environment. My friend did this for a week and her son slept through the night.


Tuesday 24th of December 2019

So thankful for this article. After baby woke up at 2 a.m. hysterically crying, I need this article.

I love the way you write.

Thank you!!

Clara Johnson

Tuesday 24th of December 2019

Thank you very much Danielle, hope your baby will be okay soon.


Tuesday 5th of March 2019

My Dear son was under medication for cough and cold for two weeks. For the past week he has been waking up at 3 am howling and crying for no apparent reason. He would not calm down whatever we do. It was not pain, gas or teeth related as he would point these out and the cry would be different.

Turned out that he was having acidity due to the two weeks of medicines earlier. Some rantac before bed for two days and the problem ended.

Carla Tracey

Thursday 10th of January 2019

This is wonderful...and has calmed me down, made me laught, made me feel loved .... it’s just a great article ... very helpful on many levels xxxx much love xxx

Clara Johnson

Friday 11th of January 2019

Thank you Carla for the positive comment. I'm glad it helped :D


Friday 2nd of November 2018

Very helpful my baby woke up after being asleep for only 10 to 15 minutes asleep. Screaming and crying historically for no apparent reason, I calmed her and gave her calpol in case she was in any pain she’s 4 months old today god bless her it really frightened me how historically she was crying she had a cold runny nose no temperature feels normal to the touch can any one explain in more detail what’s the reason for this and great article by the way very calming

Clara Johnson

Tuesday 6th of November 2018

Hi Margaret, I'm suspecting three reasons (but keep in mind that I'm not a doctor): 1) I don't think it is anything to worry about, as long as the child can be calmed down quickly. A lot of times he just needs to burp. 2) If you gave her a pain medication and she didn't do it again, I'd imagine it's pain likely from teething. 3) If it happens again, it could be an ear infection. Nothing makes a kid scream bloody murder like an ear infection.

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