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August 24, 2008 5:05 PM   Subscribe

Why do babies cry when they wake up?

Nine times out of ten, my 7 month old daughter will cry upon waking. I mean, give a wailing cry and directly upon waking. Why does she wake up crying so often?
posted by vermontlife to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Assuming no medical issue, most behaviors are learned. I would look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs and see if there is some need being met as a result of the crying (i'm guessing on the first three levels)... Ask the question, what are you/someone else/the environment providing as a result of responding to the crying.
posted by HuronBob at 5:18 PM on August 24, 2008

Maybe she's disoriented. I often am upon waking, and if I had as few intellectual resources as your daughter does at present, I'd probably resort to wailing too.
posted by orange swan at 5:19 PM on August 24, 2008

Maybe she suddenly realized that she was hungry or had a wet, uncomfortable nappy.

Or both?
posted by Ky at 5:20 PM on August 24, 2008

Hey, I cry when I wake up.

I'd suggest it's the snap transition from "dark/warm/safe/blissful" to
"why is my eyes hurt?/god-damn it's cold!/i'm all alone!/poop!"
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:25 PM on August 24, 2008 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: There's no apparent reason for the crying. It's almost like she's having a bad dream. I'm asking more generally, why do BABIES cry upon waking. They all do it... as far as I know. Sometimes they go right back to sleep, others it's time to wake up. Sometimes she wakes up happy as can be, but most of the time, it's cry cry.
posted by vermontlife at 5:37 PM on August 24, 2008

"Things used to be one way, and now they're another way!"
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:49 PM on August 24, 2008 [6 favorites]

I like Desmond Morris's explanation, from his "Babywatching":

"Loneliness is a crucial factor in many instances of crying, especially in those cases where the more obvious causes such as hunger are absent. If a baby feels isolated from his parents he may cry until he is in close physical contact with them again. Being alone too much can make a baby feel insecure, the repeated need for close physical contact may be inconvenient for many busy parents, but the fact is that a baby’s need for close proximity to his protectors is something that has been programmed into a baby’s instincts during the course of evolution. A parent is a baby’s window to the world and nature has designed the baby-parent relationship to give the baby a communication link with his environment. When this relationship is nurtured a basic trust is formed which enables the baby to experience his world with security and confidence." (My bold.)

You are your daughter's link to all that is stable and familiar, especially in the hazy moments between sleep and being awake. Consider her "Where the heck are you, Mama?"-cry a compliment. You're the center of her little universe. Enjoy it while you can.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:05 PM on August 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

By 7 months I think your baby should be done with crying upon waking--I think that's a newborn type behavior. In newborns, as you know, it's all about ME ME ME such as, I'm hungry, my diaper is wet/uncomfortable, I have to burp and the bubble in my tummy hurts, etc.

But maybe she's always been a crier? Some babies cry more than others.

Do you put any toys in her crib? Mirrors work wonders with babies--they love looking at themselves. What is her favorite toy? Would it be OK to put in her crib? Maybe that will distract her from crying upon waking.

My baby, at 3 months, doesn't cry anymore when she wakes up... she does, however, cry almost every time her diaper is changed. (?)
posted by FergieBelle at 6:07 PM on August 24, 2008

Absent any other sign of trouble, just don't worry about it.

Babies have personalities -- they behave somewhat differently. Some wake up sunny, some are crabby.; don't get too hung up on comparing what are essentially trivial behavioral quirks.

My oldest son always woke up from his afternoon nap in tears, quite why we never figured out . As soon as he'd had a cuddle and something to drink he was fine so perhaps it was thirst or loneliness. It went on like that until he was well into his second year, and indeed as long as he took naps he would wake up from them a bit grumpy. Our second child never showed this particular behavior (he had his own quirks).
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 6:48 PM on August 24, 2008

I'm not sure I agree with your statement that "all babies do it." Mine didn't. When they were newborns, everytime they awoke, they were either being held or in a sling or lying next to us in bed. As they got older and transitioned to sleeping on their own, they would wake with some sounds, coos and just baby babble. Now, my children have both been VERY easy and I realize how blessed I am but I just don't agree that it is something that all babies do. I agree with the poster above that it is probably a learned behavior and she just doesn't know any other way. It might be something you can change but if you know that she is not in pain or distress, don't worry about it. She'll grow out of it.
posted by pearlybob at 6:49 PM on August 24, 2008

I'll guess that she cries because she knows you'll go to her when she cries.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:17 PM on August 24, 2008

you suggest that all babies cry on awakening...i can attest that isn't the case. some do, some don't. some do some days and not others.
the reasons are most certainly of a varied nature.
posted by dougiedd at 8:39 PM on August 24, 2008

My guess is that either a) it's just her personality. Or b) it's a learned behavior with her knowing that you'll come get her when she starts crying.

I have a bio son who ALWAYS cried upon waking (and just in general cried a lot...he was a very fussy baby!) Then we adopted DD (who lived the first 6 months of her life in an orphanage) and she almost NEVER cries during waking. She is a much more laid back baby, but also when she was in the orphanage her cries probably were not immediately responded to she probably did not learn that cause/affect relationship. My guess is that it's a bit of both.
In fact I had to put a noisey toy in her crib, so when she does wake up I can hear b/c she starts playing that toy. HUGE difference from my first child!
posted by texas_blissful at 8:42 PM on August 24, 2008

MonkeyToes has got it, as far as I'm aware we're the only animals who don't sleep with our babies.
posted by symbollocks at 10:08 PM on August 24, 2008

i'm with monkeytoes: "Being alone too much can make a baby feel insecure, the repeated need for close physical contact may be inconvenient for many busy parents, but the fact is that a baby’s need for close proximity to his protectors is something that has been programmed into a baby’s instincts during the course of evolution"

i live with several indonesian families with newborns, and a) the babies are in close physical contact with their mothers almost constantly b) the babies almost never cry, not nearly as much as the american babies i've known anyway, and c) when they do cry, it's almost always when the mother isn't holding the baby, and if the baby is held and paid attention to, it eventually stops crying.

it's just personal theory based on observation, but i get the impression that, because the babies recieve near constant attention, they don't freak out and cry so much on the rare occasions when they aren't actually being held for a few minutes.
posted by messiahwannabe at 12:31 AM on August 25, 2008

I can not only speak from experience...but also from experiment.

I bet your baby gets attention when she cries. Some parents subscribe to that "let them cry it out" philosophy...you do not.

Your baby has learned that. In the morning (after X number of hours where it has received no care), it either needs a diaper change, feeding, or just some companionship. She cries because she knows you will attend to her.

If you are REALLY slick, get to the baby MOMENTS before it wakes up, and go to the routine: pick it up, change its diaper, give it a feeding. There will be NO crying then.

Tested and worked...you just have to know EXACTLY when to pick the baby up...not to early as to startle it, but not so late that its already winding up for the bellow.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:50 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

She doesn't cry when she wakes up. She cries when she's tired of you not being there. She's been happily awake for hours.
posted by nax at 4:26 AM on August 25, 2008

My son still cries upon waking, or shortly thereafter, because he wants to GO GO GO! He goes from sleeping to action time very quickly and is frustrated that he's still in his crib, in his PJs, without his mama and his good morning bottle, etc. He calms down as soon as I go in and get him. In my case it seems not to be a problem.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:58 AM on August 25, 2008

Our 8 week old doesn't either, probably because we're need-meeting machines from it just being us and our dog for so long. We're there with a bottle and a diaper change every two hours early on and now about every four hours. She sleeps in our room but not in our bed. When she wakes up, she just looks around. If it takes too long for us for us to be aware of her, she'll give a quick hiccupy cry, but that's it, and it's more a HEY!!! kind of sound.

We're pretty sure were instilling a sense of entitlement that will never go away.

About the dog thing...typing this, I realize our dog almost never asks to go out--we just have set times to go out based on our schedules and that's when she goes. If she needs to go out in the middle of the night or something she'll come over to my side of the bed and look at me until I wake up (which is surprisingly effective).

We probably ruined them both.

On the other hand, it could be that 'parenting' isn't as much of a factor as the baby's personality--how quickly they expect things to happen in general, and how acutely they feel minor discomforts.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:03 AM on August 25, 2008

I'm with Monkeytoes/Morris.

I have a 1yo. She hasn't cried at night since she was a newborn; I sleep with her. She does sometimes screech on waking up from naps during the day when I'm not in the room.

She still gets toted around in slings and carriers a fair bit, and, interestingly (to me) will go from awake to asleep and back in total contentment when carried.
posted by kmennie at 8:13 AM on August 25, 2008

Waking up is probably the worst thing your child can remember ever happening to her. Followed by you changing her diaper, which is the worst thing she can remember ever happening to her. Then you change her clothes, which is the worst thing she can remember ever happening to her. Then you play with her for a bit, which is....
posted by leapfrog at 10:47 AM on August 25, 2008

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