Newborn Wakes up Screaming: Do you need to be worried?

Taking care of your newborn is both rewarding and challenging in equal measures. As you bring her up, you strive to do everything possible to make her comfy all the times. There is just a small bit that is challenging. Newborns are just impossible to please.

One of the challenges that you will have to face (or is facing) is when your newborn wakes up screaming. In the midst of the night as you are struggling to get some sleep after missing it for three nights comes your baby’s shrill voice. Why does she cry and how do you handle it?

It could be annoying, but there could be a reason behind it. Is she sick? Is she perhaps hungry? Is she just being a baby? In this article, we will figure out all these together, so that you get to know what to do the next time she cries in her sleep.

Possible Reasons Why A Newborn Wakes Up Screaming

All those myriads of questions racing through your mind have possible answers. Just calm down and let us understand the probable causes.

1. Discomforts

This is the number one probable cause of baby cries. There is no way the newborn will tell you “mom I don’t want this” or “daddy this is pressing me right here.” How then does she attract your attention? She will do this by crying. The discomforts troubling your cute baby can result from numerous sources such as:

  • Wet diaper: If the baby happens to wet her overnight diaper in the process of her sleep, be sure she will wake up screaming when the irritation becomes unbearable. It mostly occurs at night. Since she is not able to walk up to you and request for a diaper change, she does what she knows best.
  • Hunger: Well, here comes the main issue that makes babies cry. When the craving for milk becomes too much in her sleep, she would wake up and let you know immediately. It could be because she slept before finishing her bottle of milk or any other reason only known in babies’ land.
  • It is too hot/cold: Babies find it hard to have any sleep when the room becomes either too hot or cold. The discomforting state may make her wail when she wakes up.
  • Too much sleep: If the baby spends the whole day sleeping, she is most likely not to have any sleep in her at night. After sleeping for a short while, she most definitely will wake up and may scream because of too much sleep. You could think of it as the headache one feels after sleeping too much. To prevent this, ensure she plays (with you) and be active during the day so that she can sleep at night.
  • Sleeping in the same position for hours: This style of sleep causes the newborn to become stiff and uncomfortable. You should encourage rolling over once in a while to change positions as the baby sleeps.

2. Sleeping habits and environment

Most moms and dads have their ways of putting the baby to rest. The little things you put around the baby for a comfortable sleep all contribute to the behavior portrayed when the baby wakes up.

If you normally sleep beside her when tucking her to bed, then she is likely to scream when she wakes up and realizes that you are gone. The same happens when you have her pacifier on by the time of going to bed. Pacifiers tend to drop in the process and inviting the screams.

Conditioning your baby to sleep should be discouraged as doing so makes the baby develop sleeping patterns. Take the case of the pacifier; she might develop a habit of not sleeping without it or waking up in screams when she realizes that it has dropped.

3. Psychological Reasons

The world out there can also be scary for your little champ who has not mastered the arts of the world. Newborns too have nightmares if you didn’t know. If she freaks out in the middle of her sleep, then expect some wails here and there.

These nightmares are more worrisome when the bay wakes up and finds that she is all alone in the room. If this happens, you are advised to rub her forehead (between the eyebrows) gently. This gentle massage calms her emotions just as a massage soothes you to sleep at the spa.

4. Health issues

These might sound scary, but there is no need to panic as they are issues you can easily handle. Newborns explain any disorder or disease in the best way possible: Screaming. If this occurs in the course of her sleep, she would wake up and scream about it to get your attention.

  • Stomach pain: (In a more fancy term, it is called liver-spleen disorder) Sharp cries normally accompany this health issue. Besides the creams, the baby tends to curl up to get some relief from the pain.
  • Indigestion: When milk stagnates in the baby’s stomach (for some weird reasons), an irritating feeling is initiated inside the baby. The newborn tosses and turns in the sleep, accompanied by heavy perspirations.
  • Stuffy nose: A newborn who still does not know how to handle a common cold will scream if the baggage in the nose becomes too much. Phlegm in the baby’s cries characterizes the mucous congestion. You can use Baby Nasal Aspirators to handle this problem.

5. Insect Bites

This could be a little far-fetched, don’t you think so? But you should not rule it out either. Newborns attract lots of insects because of their milky smell. It looks like it is not only your friends who want a piece of your bundle of joy.

Mosquitoes and ant bites produce a sharp piercing pain that your baby will not be able to withstand. It worsens if the baby was asleep and unaware of her environs. Always keep the champ’s room tidy at all times.

A bath before sleeping will also rid the baby of the insect attractive baby milk scent.

6. Sleep cycles

During a newborn’s sleep, several sleeping cycles and transitions occur. The shift in Brainwaves, as well as change cycles, occur as the baby changes from Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleeping cycle to other non-REM sleep stages.

During the transitioning, newborns tend to wake up screaming. The screams last for a while, and the baby goes back to sleep.

Important Tips

It not a new phenomenon if a newborn wakes up screaming. It could be nothing serious except the case of diseases and health issues. Some of the reasons that could probably cause the screams can be prevented or the screaming will stop after some time. Always remember the following tips:

  • Do not immediately run to the baby’s rescue when she screams. It could be something she can cry out and then go back to sleep. Wait for a couple of minutes and if the screaming persists, go check on her.
  • Remove any situations that might cause conditional sleeping in babies.
  • Regularly change the baby’s nappies as she goes to bed.


When your newborn wakes up screaming, it is important to stay calm and wait a while before coming to her rescue. Remember that crying is part of being a baby and unless the situation is too serious, she will be just fine. This issue of cry-it-out vs. not cry-it-out is a complicated one and will not end soon.

Letting the baby handle whatever is making her scream contributes to her general development. I hope you have learned a thing or two that will help you improve on how you take care of your baby.

Kristi Cathey

Hi everyone! My name is Kristi Cathey and I’m glad you found your way to my blog. I am a mother of 3 beautiful angels. This blog was created in order to share my personal experiences in baby care and general health care for pregnant women. If you'd like to get in touch with me, please contact me by sending me an email via Welcome to

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