16 answers

Baby Nightmares

I have a 5 1/2 month old boy who has been screaming/yelling in his sleep. He'll be sleeping peacefully for hours and then all of a sudden just start screaming. It's pretty sporadic. If I let it go he can start crying real bad, and I try talking to him but his eyes don't really open right away, so I'm not sure he's "out of the dream". Sometimes it just lasts for a few seconds and I kinda pat his back and it soothes him.

Can an infant have nightmares? I've read the phrase "night terrors" but don't really understand the difference. Then it makes me wonder what "things" he sees through out the day that scares him. I'm just basically asking for some info that I can run with. Maybe some book or web site suggestions.

He's breast & formula fed (my supply is running low - and I've tried all the tips, from previous questions posted - thank you ladies - however, not working for me). Just starting some rice cereal. Sleeps pretty much through the night. Loves his daycare provider. All in all a very well rounded baby - and gets lots of compliments on how he's mellow and happy all the time.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you so much for all the advise/info. A few new things I will be trying and a few new sites I'll be visiting :)

More Answers

Hi M.,

I had the same thing with my (now) 2 year old. Everything was
fine and then he started 'waking' in the middle of the night screaming. My husband and I realized he wasn't really awake. Then we found out about night terrors. Part of the difference is that the child is still asleep with night terrors.

We solved the problem with a couple of things. First of all, we eliminated spicy foods from his diet. (The night terrors started when he was a little older than your child). Then we made sure he wasn't too warm at night because night terrors in Auyervedic Medicine (Deepak Chopra) are associated with too much heat.

Then we started playing classical music very softly while he sleeps.

He hasn't had any problems since we implemented these things and we were relieved because he had suffered from them for a few months...he usually had them a couple of times a week.

Anyway, good luck and best wishes.


1 mom found this helpful

I know i have responded to one much like this. It was about a child having nightmares.

My grandson and early on my son were waking up with nightmares, so i told them that if they said their prayers at night that they had a guaridian angel that would look over them and they wouldn't have the dreams and be safe etc. It worked for both of them

in fact my son reminded me every night about his prayers. Then the morning after i told my grandson he said grandma there were a lot of guaridian angel not just one. This really surprised me.

1 mom found this helpful

hi M.,
this is a long shot, but my curiosity was peaked to ask, how was your labor and delivery of your baby? if it was very long and/or scary in any way, this could be affecting your baby's consciousness. there are many practitioners and researchers out there who believe that the birth experience makes more of an imprint on infants than we have imagined.

if you think this might be the case, look for cues from your baby that remind you of the birth, especially in the 'nightmare' moments and around feeding. review the birth yourself. did you hit a difficult point during the night that your baby might be remembering?

if this comes up, talk to your baby about it. may sound silly, but i have seen it work. give your baby time to review the birth story in his own way. it's very hard to imagine and describe over the internet, but if you are intrigued by this info or think it might apply, look up Mary Jackson and Ray Castellino and their "About Connections" services. They are based out of Ojai and Santa Barbara, and are a great resource for birth story integration and communication, and strengthening bonds between mom and baby.

I hope this helps, and i'm wishing you the best of luck!!

- J.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi M..

Don't worry. This is normal. Their little brains have SOOOOO much information to process they just can't do it all while they're awake. My son did the same thing when he was a little older and it lasted for a few months, about once a week. It then stopped but still comes back periodically (he's almost 5 years now). Don't let my "a little older" statement trouble you either. My son was a month and a half premature so his timing would be a little behind most kids'.

I noticed, with my son, that he would seem happy as a clam all day but, if we'd been busy that day or he was overtired, the night terrors would happen. When they do this, they aren't even conscious of it and won't remember it in the morning. You're doing the right thing to just rub his back or do something that's physically calming for him. Don't bother to try to wake him up. Just comfort him, soothing voice and touch are perfect.

Also, I really doubt that something's actually scaring him during the day. If it were, he'd react THEN, not later. My son was also a very mellow baby. We realized very early that he was (until about age 3 and a half) a "watcher". He'd sit back and just take everything in. He'd also sometimes hang back before joining in on an activity. It sounds as if your son might be somewhat the same. I'm blessed with a group of 11 mamas who all have kids within 9 months of each other. In our group, those who sit back and watch first are also the ones who have the night terrors. They just have to work through stuff in their own time and sometimes that time arrives in the middle of the night.

Good luck and don't worry. Enjoy your little guy!


the first response to this is the one i believe is the most accurate. seeing as how that is why my son had night terrors.

my husband used to let him watch the computer game Doom III. and if you have ever heard of that game then you will know why my son had night terrors, if you haven't heard of it, it is basically a shooting game where you and all your targets are grotesque monsters and when shot you explode into a mess of bloody guts. yes i was mad when i found out he was letting my son watch that game. our son was two at the time, he would be screaming in his sleep and a few times he would scream sentences like, "NO, don't boom(meaning shoot) Mommy!" one night he woke up and said that the skeleton scratched him on his neck, he had scratched his own neck while he was sleeping so there were long red marks on his little neck. the skeleton was a character from that game. he was getting pretty intense about it. after that we made sure to strictly sensor what he watched in the media.

but some things that scare kids you never would have thought, like my cousin wasn't allowed to watch sesame street as a toddler cause the Muppets gave him nightmares!! you just have to closely observe what goes on during the daytime to figure out why they are having these nightmares. it could even be a person that comes to visit. like if a child is not used to someone with a large beard i know those can be very frightening. clowns are scary for some kids. you never know sometimes.

There are many homeopathic remedies to use in his case. Without knowing all details (normally takes ~2hours of appointment time) very imperfect suggestions is Calcarea Carbonica 30C one liquid dose. If next nightmare comes, give the same - Calcarea Carbonica only this time 200C, also one liquid dose.
Good luck to you and your baby!

Hi M.,

Yes, babies can have night terrors. As far as I know, this is very normal, and I don't think it's a result of things your baby is seeing during the day--I think it's just part of normal brain development. (Two recurring nightmares I had when I was a child were about not being able to find my parents and being alone--I think these were just normal fears and not a result of what my parents did or did not do--my mom stayed at home and my parents were always around).

The good news about night terrors is that they are rarely remembered--obviously, your 5 month-old baby will have no memories of them at all. My son always went back to sleep pretty quickly afterward--so I'd just keep patting your baby's back after they happen like you have been doing.

Dreaming is healthy--even bad dreams must serve a purpose somehow...

:-) D.

Usually night terrors occur at a later time for little ones - 2-3 years. I would probably guess that your little one is teething. My two little ones are teething right now - lots of drool, chewing on fists, and, yes, waking up and really crying hard. I use the homeopathic teething tablets - hyland's - and it has really diminished the number of times they are really fussy or in pain.
Hope this helps -

Our son had night terrors at around 10 months old, sounds very similar to what you're going through now. He wouldn't fully wake up, this happened for a couple of weeks and scared and worried us immensely. After doing extensive research online after a couple of days of this behavior, I realized it was night terrors and read that keeping his feet uncovered and cool might help. We stopped putting him to sleep with socks, and when he did wake up with the terrors we ran his feet under cool water, this helped to fully wake him up and then we were able to put him back to sleep. (Night terrors are essentially when a child gets stuck in between being awake and fully falling asleep, so that they're not fully either and hard to wake up.) This all worked beautifully, along with giving him a bottle of water once he was awake to help him fall asleep. He's now 14 months old and hasn't had night terrors since that strange 2-week period. Good luck!

I don't have a book suggestion - just wanted to let you know you are not alone, my daughter does this sometimes - she's about the same age (just now 6 mos.). Same thing - I just soothe her a bit, or give her a binky, and she's fine. I think it is normal. Also, I wanted to say, hats off to you for being a single mom and working and still breast feeding! You do a lot. :)

I just recently read something about this. If I understand it correctly, nightmares are dreams where you wake up, are upset, and have trouble getting back to sleep. With night terrors, you don't wake up. I also read that children, even as young as your son, can be affected by things on TV. Even though they don't understand what is on the screen, they can still sense human emotions such as fear, terror, sadness, etc. I was surprised when I read this, but after thinking it through, it made a lot of sense to me. Since then I try to be aware of what is on the TV, even if it is just background noise. My son has had a few of these night terrors, although it doesn't sound as intense as your son's. I just would stroke his back to soothe him or pick him up and hold him. He would always just fall back into a peaceful sleep. Good luck and best wishes.

Could he be teething? This is how my son was when he was teething. He popped his first tooth at 4 months.

My son had night terrors when he was two. My doctor told me that the most common reason for children to get them is lack of sleep! Make sure your baby is napping well during the day and goes to bed before he gets overly tired. If it truly is terrors and not bad dreams (terrors he won't be able to be woken up from and would never recall) there is nothing to do for him while he has them except be sure he can't harm himself. You are not supposed to hold them down or force them to be quiet or stay still. Good Luck!

I was curious so I googled "infant nightmares." I was surprised to see that this is not that uncommon. Many seem to think it is gas or teething. That may account for some of it, but I doubt that is the whole answer. I did find a site called sleepnet.com that has a forum where a mom posted a question just like yours. There are a few answers from other mom's who've experienced the same thing, but no real answers as to what is going on. Bottom line, I don't think there is a definitive answer. Here's the link. If nothing else it is assurance that does happen to others and as disconcerting as it may be it doesn't appear to be anything to get too upset about.

yes babies do have some form of nightmares. it going be about a toy that they dont like or not being able to get their bottle who knows what they dream about. my daughter did the same thing and still does when shes in a growth spurt. shes 20 months now but when she was younger i would just go into her room calm her down as best i could give her a little formula and put her back to bed. good luck

Hi M. -
There is a book I highly recommend, that includes specific examples and useful advice regarding children's nightmares called "Children's Past Lives," by Carol Bowman. She was featured on Oprah and the book is outstanding.

Good luck to you, L.

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