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Two Year Old Waking up Screaming After Nap Each Day

Hi Moms,
I have a little miracle preemie who is now 2 years and 3 months old girl who is normally a happy toddler during the day. However, after her nap in the afternoon she always wakes up in a tantrum of rolling around crying, doesn't want to open her eyes, doesn't want me to hold her but also doesn't want me to ignore her... This waking up process until she calms down takes from 30 min. up to an hour. I wonder if she has any neurological issues being a preemie? The doctor said they're called "night terrors" and that she'll outgrow them, but this has been going on for 6 months! It saddens me to see her torture herself and feel miserable and I feel powerless to help. Any ideas how I can help her wake up happy from her nap and/or anyone else have this issue with their child?

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Both my boys went through night terrors. It's horrible for the parent but the child doesn't remember a thing. It takes quite a while to outgrow it but they do eventually. Both my boys were full term.
Dr Sears' website has a wonderful article about them here:
It's got suggestions and such on things that might help lessen the amount.
Good luck! It does pass.

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My son was 8 weeks preemie and I'm pretty sure any neurological issues are usually caught in the first year, especially is you keep up with the post-OT/PT that is usually prescribed for preemie infants.

As for the night terrors, yes it's totally normal and can last for a while. Definitely do some research on-line and see what the best solution is for you and your little one. With my son I usually just sit and let him work it out, and then hold him while he comes down from the upswing of emotions and fear. It can be more disturbing if we do something and intercede than if we just let is pass until they really know we're there and can accept the comfort for what it is.

Good Luck.

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My son (not a preemie) did that until he quit napping. TOTALLY discombobulated, tantrum throwing, hugely pissed off...the list could go on and on.

We found out early (around 1.5), he was just hungry. If I could pop a bottle in his mouth, as soon as he started swallowing...the "possession" ;) would pass...and I could pick him up and take him out of bed and into the livingroom, sit him in my lap, and get him to eat some real food. Instant happy, lovey boy back. Milk would hold off the beast, but unless he got something more substantial into him...he'd be cranky cranky cranky until he went back to sleep again.

This whole thing started a few months after switching from his major source of nutrients being milk or formula, to solid foods.

I'd like to say he clued in eventually...but no, Until naptime ceased to be, he'd wake up flying apart, Mornings I had more time, for some reason...He'd wake up (but actually be awake and not in a fit), I'd make him scrambled eggs, he'd eat. Naptime though, was a MISERY until we figured out what was up for him.

How you described your daughter was a dead on example for us, so I'd definately try seeing if the warm-milk + food thing helps. Can't guarantee it, of course, but that was our experience. Oy. And what an experience.


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My daughter was like that, and so is my friends daughters.

For us, we "let" my daughter wake up according to HER rhythm and timing. We "learned" to not rush in or pick her up or even to talk... until she was ready to interact. As she got older, she grew out of it... and then would actually tell us that us interfering in her "waking" was just irksome. She explained she needed her own way, to wake up... and to wake up fully, then she was "ready" to engage.
If we "rushed" her out of it... it just triggered her negatively.

Lots of kids just do not wake up very "happy" or pleasantly. My sister was like that too. Many people just are not 'morning people' or what not.

And yes, read up on "Night Terrors"... online. It is developmental based. And yes, it can last more than 6 months.

Try to go according to your child's rhythm... if she does not want to be picked up or held right away, then don't. It is her "telling you" what she needs, at that moment.

For my daughter, from a deep nap.. .it would take her about 1/2 hour to fully become "perky" again... and she just liked to have quiet... and her own "space" upon waking. BUT... like your daughter, she liked our "company"... in other words, just knowing we were nearby or in the room with her... just like a lamp. Then when she was ready, she'd start talking to us and being her regular perky/fun self again. She was just not always a good "waker-upper". But now that she is older, she is not like that. She matured out of that "nap/sleep" TRANSITION upon waking.

It is them, "transitioning" from sleepfulness to wakefulness. Not every child, NOR adults... wake nicely or calmly or pleasantly.
My sister is like that, still.

Don't feel YOU "have to wake her" from her slumber. Let her wake in her own way. Letting her 'cue' you....

All the best,

1 mom found this helpful

Both my boys went through night terrors. It's horrible for the parent but the child doesn't remember a thing. It takes quite a while to outgrow it but they do eventually. Both my boys were full term.
Dr Sears' website has a wonderful article about them here:
It's got suggestions and such on things that might help lessen the amount.
Good luck! It does pass.

1 mom found this helpful

My son (2 1/2) used to do this too. It honestly felt that he was mad that he got tricked into taking a nap. I would tell him to call me when he was ready for me, and then I'd leave the room. After screaming for up to half an hour, it would be like a switch went off, and he'd calmly call for me.

Even so, it was really tough to go through day after day. I finally broke the cycle by giving him milkshakes as his reward for napping. They were really little milkshakes and they were mostly milk, but it really helped. If he woke up cranky and I offered the milkshake, he'd instantly snap out of his bad mood. More often than not, he would wake up and just sweetly ask for it. I ended up only having to do this for a couple of months, and now the crabby wake-ups are rarely an issue.

Hi G.,
Wow, that must be difficult to go through every day. I have a 27 month old girl and she used to wake up from naps crying. I would go in there and she would push me away and not want to get out of her crib. Now, I have learned to wait and not go in there until she calls my name. It was so frustrating for me cause I didn't know what to do.....so I ended up leaving her alone. Is your daughter in a bed or crib? If she is in her crib, then that's what I would do. If she is in her bed, does she get out of it? Just don't go to her, and let her figure out how to calm down on her own. Hopefully, she will grow out of it eventually. My toddler had some wierd things she used to do. All of a sudden, in one day, she would stop doing it. She also started sleeping through the night after waking up at least one time a night for 2 years. Last month she just started sleeping through until 6:30am....Ya for me!!
Oh, I also don't think they are night terrors. Just a bad habit to get attention.
Hopefully, your situation will change soon.

I went through the same thing with my oldest, as did my sister in laws sister.I have no real advise, just can say I understand how you feel and all you can do is be there for her and I am sure she will grow out of it. I can't imagine that it has anything to do with "night terrors", I never got that feeling when my son did it. If she has other things like sensitivity to loud noises, aversion to touch or gets overwhelmed with too much stimulus you might consider taking her to an Occupational Therapist for a consult. Good luck!!!!

my son is 3.5 years and if he naps he wakes up cranky ..throwing tantrums too..the only way he doesn't do that is if he naps in the car and we are somewhere good when he wakes up...now i dread naps and try to have him not nap! He's been a cranky waker upper since he was an infant..not a preemie..he was a week late..i think a lot of children are like that.

My son is 2 1/2 yrs and he does the same thing. I think he does it when he is overtired and the nap just wasnt long enough. Sometimes he will go for weeks waking up screaming and jerking around and he does not want me to touch him, but like you said he does not like for me to leave him.I never go in right away,i wait a bit.Then,I just peek in and in my sweetest voice i ask him if he wants me to pick him up and he always says NO!So i say okay, tell me when you are ready and i leave the door cracked and go back to what I am doing.Sometimes this is very long and drawn out, so I peek in periodically, eventually he softens up and I can pick him up, although he is usually still crying.If a person is in REM sleep and they suddenly awake, they can feel very disoriented, almost sickly, and have headaches.Try giving a snack with Alot of carbs, it can help shake the funk! Maybe our kids are feeling this way and freaking out is how they deal with it!! Hope this helps, A.

Our daughter will be three in November and frequently does this. There is just no reasoning with her until she snaps out of it. I have found if I go rushing in while she is in the middle of screaning and crying, it prolongs it for up to an hour or more. Sometimes the bad mood lasts until bedtime. However, if I leave her alone until she works through it on her own in her room, then she is perfectly fine when I go in to get her up fifteen minutes later. It is like it never happened. We think of it as though she isn't really awake yet and then doesn't remember it. Maybe this will help.

Have you tried bach flowers or any homeopathic remedy? I've tried Rescue Remedy and it has worked for my 20 month old girl. I mix four drops in her sippy cup with water and set it right next to her before she wakes up. I also try to put some relaxing music or nature sounds in the backgroud and sometimes a picture book that gets her attention. Like the other mom said I "act as a lamp" and just stay in the room without interacting until she's ready to interact.
Good luck

My son did this around 15months old and I absolutely believe they were "nap terrors". The only thing that would snap him out of it was to take a nap in a new environment for a day or two (grandparents' house, daycare). He would be fine for a couple weeks then they would come again. He eventually grew out of it, but now he gets actual "night terrors" - it is easy to snap him out of the night terrors by immediately carrying him outside to see "Mr. Moon". Keep trying new techniques to find something that will work for your daughter!

My son did the same thinag and did grow out of it. He would wake up crying and be horrible for the same amount of time. AND, the freakiest part is tht his eyes would be open! I couldn't touch him when he did this, only sit by him until it got better. I think a more accurate name for it is, "Mom Terror"....sheesh! He did completely grow out of it and will tell me about his dreams, etc. Hang in there....time will pass!

My 4 year old son has something like this occasionally at night. The doctor says they are "night terrors" and that he is really still asleep, so I try to soothe him in a way that he can get back to peaceful sleeping. It doesn't happen very often so I do not deal with it regularly, and sometimes it takes something different to calm him down. I do not try to wake him. If I softly ask him a question and he does not respond, I assume it is a night terror (he has woken a couple of times in a similar way but only needs to go to the bathroom). So if he does not respond, I try to lay him down and pat his back. If he fights that and will not lay down, I pick him up and hold him while I whisper softly in his ear that everything is OK, Mommy is here, etc. He usually calms down within a few minutes, but we did have a couple of times that lasted much longer. This was before we had talked to the doctor about it and we were unknowingly trying to wake him up - those times he would scream for a long time. But when we only try to soothe him back to sleeping, it lasts only a few minutes.

The doctor said that it is possible that too much stimulation, especially from movies, may be causing it. We have always been very careful about what he watches and we don't let him watch much at all, but I just try to be mindful of overly stimulating occasions, and remain super careful with what he watches. Every kid is different so what works with mine may not work with yours.

I'm also wondering if her trouble may be because she has been woken before she has had enough sleep, since it only happens at nap times. If you can figure out that there is anything that might be waking her up - maybe she gets too warm, or who knows what - but both of my kids get extremely upset if they are woken from a nap. They are miserable for at least an hour. Another thought - my older sister cannot take naps, even when she returned from a trip halfway across the world. No matter how tired she may be, if she naps, she wakes up feeling worse than ever, every time. I don't know if she was like this as a child (I would ask my mom, but after 42 years and 7 kids, the memories can be pretty hazy), but I wonder if your daughter may be like that. I am never one to stop small children from taking naps (I still require my 4 year old to stay in his bed even if he does not sleep at naptime) but I thought I would mention that to you. Just my thoughts.

I hope this helps and I really hope you find a solution! :)

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