Baby-Toddler Always Wakes Up Screaming
My first daughter was a really happy baby, intense, but happy. I once took a video of getting her up from a nap because I wanted to record her huge smiles and laughter as I entered the room and she pulled herself up in her crib to greet me.
My last child, my son, didn’t express the same sheer joy upon waking up. In fact he was consistently so much the opposite, for so long, that I found myself searching this title phrase on the internet in desperation for some understanding and solution.
He didn’t just wake up with the newborn “I’m hungry” cry, but a blood-curdling, everything-he’s-got wail that would send me flying out a bed and racing down the hall. His cry was the pitch and intensity that set off every ‘mom alarm bell’ in me that something was wrong. However upon arriving at his crib I found him perfectly fine, no stuck leg, no lost toy, no messy diaper. He wasn’t just waking up this way in the morning, but middle of night too and from all naps. Through every stage of growth from birth, this was our normal.
I tried placing his crib right next to my bed, same wake up call.
I tried leaving a range of toys in his bed.
Music and/or lights.
Blackout vs light-filtering curtains.
Water and/or snacks.
I couldn’t let him continue screaming, my cortisol levels can’t handle that spike first thing in the morning. Plus for the first 18 months his two sisters were asleep in the SAME room. I wasn’t going to risk starting the day with my other two kids awake too early and short on sleep.
Yet even in his own room, same results, and being only a wall away of his sisters I still rushed to quiet the siren.
This lasted for about 20 months. Right now you probably have two thoughts…”Oh no this could go on for 20months” and “Wait you mean this ends?!!”
I am writing this post to tell you, YES, this ‘phase’ ends. It’s earned a spot in my top least favorite phases, right up there with ‘kicking and flailing through EVERY diaper change’, and ‘spitting out all food’. Like those awful stages however, this one ended too.
What helped? Honestly my best guess is that as his speech became more developed he used words instead of wails. We tried to help him with this, using desired phrases as we approached his room “Say Momma! Daddy! Up!” and I did my best to always show the happy, smiling face and warm “Good Morning!” that I wanted to see from him (not always easy).
The funny thing is, despite my desperation for an instant fix solution, I can’t recall when exactly the screaming wake-up call was replaced with quiet chatter and smiles. There was not an epic day where I woke up to silence, or even a week where I noticed it peter out. Much like the changing of a seasons, the change was gradual. Slow but steady. You see the signs of change if you look hard enough but there are still temperature swings and late season snow storms. Ultimately it’s when you look back and remember those cold winter days that you suddenly realize you’re in the middle of a warm full-blown Spring and you made it through.
How to keep your sanity if you’re in the middle of this now? Don’t let those screaming wails be YOUR alarm clock. I realize this can be incredibly difficult for some. You’re exhausted, you need all the sleep you can get whether you have a day full of kids or a full-time job ahead of you. Those extra 5 to 60 minutes of sleep can be priceless. I personally am NOT a morning person. Yet what helped me the most, was setting an alarm and getting up before the baby. Some days I only succeeded in 5-10 minutes early, other days as much as 45 minutes. Start the day on YOUR terms, whatever that looks like to you. Maybe it’s a shower, some coffee, the morning news, or maybe you just stay in bed a savor the silence. Try it and you may be pleasantly surprised like I was, on just how much of a difference that can make in your attitude, patience, and in helping to put your best foot forward for a positive day.
Hi there! I’m Kaley, prevailing parent and wife, but also just me; stubborn lover of DIY everything, outdoors, and chocolate. Read more about myself and my family under the “Parenting” > “About My Family” tabs.