Skip to main content

How to soothe a baby crying in their sleep and get your rest as well

Babies mean cuddles and that addicting baby head smell. But they also mean a lot of sleepless nights for everyone involved. It doesn’t matter if it’s one fussy night or a bad week, there are many reasons a baby cries in the night.

Sometimes it’s as simple as their pacifier falling out before they’re in that deep sleep cycle. Other times, it takes a bit of going down the checklist to see why your baby is crying in their sleep. Whether your little one normally snoozes soundly or seems to be having a few cranky nights, soothing a crying baby is a good skill for every parent to have. We can help you comfort those baby cries in the night and help everybody get back to sleep.

A father soothing a baby in a crib.

Proper sleeping procedures

We won’t get into all of the sleep rules and regulations specifically, but we want to point out that it’s important that every parent knows them. If you have a baby that isn’t sleeping properly or is starting to constantly wake up crying in the middle of the night, revisiting these tips is a perfect place to start. Doctor Maya Bunik, the medical director of the Children’s Hospital in Colorado says that for a “baby to sleep as much as possible, making sure they are safe is the top priority.”

Why a baby cries during sleep

Unfortunately, there are quite a few reasons your baby cries in his sleep. We’ll go over some of the main reasons.

They’re hungry

Babies have tiny stomachs and need to eat all of the time. If your little one cries in the night, it could be for a midnight snack.

They’re having a night terror

Baby night terrors aren’t as cute as they sound. Your baby can scream and thrash around in their sleep during an episode, but you don’t want to wake them during a sleep terror, as it can lead to confusion and disorientation.

They are too cold or too hot

Just like you can feel miserable when the temperature in the room isn’t right, your baby will cry to let you know they aren’t comfortable either.

They are sick

You can’t get a good night’s rest when you are sick, and neither can your baby.

They’re teething

Teething babies have the worst time staying asleep. You can’t blame your tiny tot for crying when they’re cutting teeth.

It’s the only way they know how to talk

Your baby can’t talk to you yet and tell you what’s wrong. They have to get your attention somehow. For them, crying is the only mode of communication they have to work with.

They lost their comfort item

If your baby hasn’t hit that deep cycle of sleep yet and their pacifier falls out, they might cry right back awake.

They farted or pooped

Laugh all you want, but you know you have woken yourself up in the middle of the night with a bodily function before.

What you can do to soothe crying babies

The goal is to keep it gentle and soothing. You don’t want to pick up the baby if possible so you don’t have to start the whole bedtime process over again. We all know that leads to a 2 am hang fest that lasts for hours.

Try these tips:

  • gentle patting/rubbing of the back or tummy
  • white noise
  • soft singing
  • nurse the baby

Some gentle rubbing and patting can soothe your baby back down. Sometimes, just a little light pressure is all the comfort a baby needs to go back asleep. White noise machines, the ceiling fan, or other gentle noisemakers can help your baby drift back to sleep. Try singing your baby’s favorite song softly to them a few times. Babies who breastfeed often find comfort in a nighttime nursing session, but you have to be careful about completely waking that babe up.

Find what works best for your baby. Some babies love one type of comfort and some babies want a new one every time they are fussy. It’s all about finding what your baby wants to be soothed to get back to sleep so you can too.

A mother putting her baby down in the crib.

It’s okay to be concerned

If you have tried everything and still cannot figure out why your child is crying at night, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your pediatrician. It’s always better to get your child checked out, as some patterns of sleeplessness are predictable. Never apologize for being your child’s advocate. Pediatrician Noah Schwartz says, “always feel free to check in with your pediatrician if something doesn’t seem right to you.”

Sometimes parents, in a sleep-deprived state, can miss small things they could try. The doctor can help point these things out. It’s never a waste of time to have your child checked. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first baby or fourth, new and different things happen with every kid. Waking up to a baby waking up crying isn’t ideal, but it can be a common and normal thing.

Know you are not alone and there are parents everywhere waking up to baby cries in their sleep right alongside you. But also know we want nothing more than for everyone to have a peaceful night. So don’t be too hard on yourself while you and your baby figure out the best way to get a quiet night’s sleep.

Editors' Recommendations