Why Does My Baby Wake Up Crying Hysterically?

(Last Updated On: August 12, 2019)

Sometimes my daughter wakes up crying hysterically and I had no idea why it was happening. Have any of you other parents experienced this? It made me very concerned, so I researched it. I have found reasons as to why this happens, and ways that you can fix this.

Also Read: My baby gets fussy all of a sudden  – what causes this?

Some Common Reasons For Babies To Wake Up At Night

Startle Reflex

I had no idea that this kind of reflex even existed until I started doing my research. This reflex is very normal in babies, this reflex typically causes a baby’s arms to stretch and their legs to flex. This can happen because of a bad dream, a loud noise, or even from touching your baby while they are asleep. While this only lasts for a few seconds, some babies are wide awake afterwards; while others peacefully drift off back to sleep. Read about the Marpac Dohm

Prop Dependency

If you baby is used to falling asleep with a pacifier or by being rocked to sleep, these are called sleeping props. Your baby can wake up because they have either realized that their prop is gone or has stopped. There are many other forms of sleeping props; if your child is used to being put to sleep a certain way, they can form a prop dependency.

Also Read this post about your baby arching his/her back


Now this can be difficult to determine if your baby is waking up because they are hungry. If they wake up screaming at the top of their lungs, chances are it is not because of hunger. Typically if a baby becomes hungry in their sleep, they will wake up and start whimpering or whining softly. The whining will become increasingly louder the longer you wait.

If you have a set feeding schedule throughout the day, they might wake up at night to keep theirself on a schedule. If they only wake up for one feeding at night, that is normal in smaller babies. If you are breastfeeding and your baby wakes up multiple times a night to nurse, they can be cluster feeding in they are still in the newborn phase, or comfort nursing. Which comfort nursing multiple times a night is fine in my opinion, although every mother makes their own choices.

Also Read: These glass baby bottles are the most popular ones

Spurts and Leaps

Many people know what a growth spurt is, and they can cause babies to wake multiple times throughout the night to eat. Developmental leaps can also cause the same thing. If you do not know what a leap is, it is just a phase where your baby’s brain is learning new things; such as: being able to see at a farther distance, recognizing faces, and learning new motor skills. Both of these can last anywhere between a few days and a few weeks.

Also Read: Why these are the top pacifiers to buy for your little one? Read here!

Why Your Baby Might Wake Up Crying

Nightmares and Night Terrors

Yes, babies can experience nightmares and night terrors, although I have no idea what a little baby can possibly dream about that scares them! There is a difference between the two though; nightmares typically happen within the second half of the night and babies might just softly moan or whimper while experiencing a nightmare. With night terrors, it is completely different. My daughter experiences horrible night terrors in her sleep, about four times a week sometimes. If your baby is experiencing night terrors, they will scream hysterically while still being asleep, it usually can last about a minute or so, and they will be back to sleep. Try to not wake a baby during a night terror, as you can make it worse by startling them awake.

Dirty Diaper

Some babies wake up in an angered state due to a soiled diaper; but can you blame them? If your baby wakes up screaming, it can be that they are sitting in a dirty diaper and it is causing them discomfort.

Also Read: These are the ‘life saving’ top overnight diapers!


If your baby is anything like mine, the temperature needs to be just right. Your baby can wake up and be grumpy if it is either too hot or too cold for them. After all, crying is the only way that they know how to communicate.

Also Read: Why these thermometers are the best for infants specifically


Whether you rock your baby to sleep, bed share, or place your child in their own crib, your baby might wake up and realize that they are alone and become sad. Many babies don’t like the feeling of being alone in this big and scary new world in the first few months of life.

What You Can Do


You can comfort your baby in different ways. You can either hold them until they fall back asleep, rock them, or let them comfort nurse if you breast feed. With my daughter, I realized that bed sharing has helped with her night terrors and has made them lessen a little bit. If you want to bed share, make sure you follow the Safe Sleep Seven.

Sleep In The Same Room

If you notice that your baby is waking up due to separation issues, you can always move their crib or bassinet into your room. This way you are closer to your baby which will make the time you get to them shorter. Plus, if they wake up and can see you, they might not throw a full on fit.

Plenty of Sleep

If your baby wakes up due to being overtired, try and make sure they take enough naps throughout the day. Some babies will become so overtired, they will just end up fighting sleep or have serious issues falling into a deep sleep.

Self Soothe

While I advise against this method, there are some mothers, such as Violet Giannone, have received results from letting their babies soothe their self alone. With smaller babies, this can be difficult because they don’t have many motor skills developed to grab things or rub a soft receiving/swaddling blanket.


If your baby tends to wake up and cry in a hysterical manner, there can be many reasons as to why. Once you determine the reason, you can come up with a solution. The solution you choose depends on your own preferences and parenting methods.

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