Just as bedtime had become (somewhat) predictable, something went bump in the night. Or more accurately, something made Baby H scream frantically after being asleep for almost 2 hours last night.
Hearing the abnormal cry made my and Hubby’s hearts race. Dashing into his room we found him arching his back, eyes still shut, screaming and panicked. Not a normal, “I woke myself up and I’m grumpy” or “I got me some gas” cry – a gutwrenching and bloodcurdling cacophony so alarming I was sweating and panicking myself.
I picked him up and tried to comfort him but found him to be inconsolable. He kept peeking his eyes open and staring wildly around, arching his back, eyes glazed and not really seeing us. It took about 40 minutes of hugging, breastfeeding, comforting, speaking to Grandma and Granddad on speakerphone, and lots of cuddles with daddy to get the poor little guy settled enough to go back to bed.
We had stripped him down, ensured he seemed physically fine, took his temperature. We changed his diaper and fed him. But his poor little body was still shaking with sobs until he finally settled.
I went online because I remember reading about night terrors in babies and toddlers but I thought it happened when they were older.
What are they? Night terrors are different from nightmares – they occur in the earlier third of the night as opposed to the last third which is when nightmares happen. The occur when a baby/child is in non-REM sleep to about 5% of children. They will flail, toss and turn, cry and appear otherwise completely freaked out. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour. They say the baby doesn’t remember it afterwards, whereas with nightmares the child will wake up and remember what frightened him/her.
What to do? Obvs my first instinct was to pick him up and comfort him. Apparently the best thing to do is just keep an eye and ensure the child doesn’t hurt themselves since waking or startling them can freak them out even more. Experts (?) say that the child isn’t aware of your presence which would explain when Baby H seemed not to care that we were hugging him and comforting him. The child should go back to sleep after the episode is over. This is hard for me – I think I’ll probably still react the same way I did last night – too hard to watch my child spazzing out and scared and not do anything!
How to prevent them? Ensure babe is getting enough sleep throughout the day. Extend naps, try to make bedtime earlier, try to make wakeup later. Make sure your bedtime routine is calming…(Ours involves some playtime with daddy who he doesn’t usually get to see during the day so we may have to tone the excitement down a bit). Overstimulation and overtiredness can lead to night terrors.
I’m generally known to be a calm person and there is little that can unnerve me but I have to say I was completely thrown by last night’s episode. I felt powerless and frightened. It may seem trivial to some, but seeing your babe so scared is a terrifying experience. However, praise be to the internet gods for allowing me to find some great tips and some explanations for what was happening. Hopefully this post helps somebody out there too to know it is ‘normal’ and that you’re not alone!
I feel much more prepared to face the boogyman tonight…he can get ready to feel my mama-wrath 🙂