My ten week old has nightmares and very active sleeping which make her cry while asleep

by An.

Question: Hello! My ten week old baby girl has a very mellow temperament, is generally very relaxed around visitors and extended family and does not startle easily. Her current schedule is basically to eat every three hours during the day, with 1.5 hour awake times, followed by 2 or 3 hr naps (usually on someone or in the bounce chair, she doesn't sleep in the bassinet too well in the day right now - luckily she is a great bassy night sleeper so far). At night, she usually eats three to four times, with a long sleep stretch after the first feeding (usually around 8:30 pm), lasting from 4-6 hours, then eats every 3.5 to 4 hours. She does not always cry to be fed; often I wake up at her feeding times (1 or 2 am and 5 or 6 am) and she is awake there waiting for me, or I hear her sucking her hand and fussing and she wakes up soon after. This can be hard sometimes since I will wake up when I don't have to to see if she is awake since she isn't a big cryer!

My issue is that almost every night during the 3-7 a.m timeframe she will be loudly crying while asleep. Sometimes this is accompanied by frantic 'pinwheeling' of arms and legs - I often use a Halo sleep sack and add the arm swaddle in the nighttime to keep her arms controlled, but she will still kick her little legs up and down like crazy while crying. If I pick her up she will remain sound asleep and will rest more peacefully since her arms and legs are pinned against my body, but I have not allowed for any extensive sleeping on me during the night as she is such a good bassinet night sleeper, I don't want to start that habit. She has also had nightmares while sleeping on me, I have watched her cry loudly while asleep and usually try to wake her lightly to break the dream or whatever it is that is going on. Anyway, is there anything we can do aside from let her flounder and cry in her sleep? It's heartbreaking! Thanks so much!

Heidi’s Answer: Hi there, and congratulations on your wonderfully relaxed and in-all well sleeping baby girl, she sounds so lovely! Hearing her cry and scream in her sleep like that and the floundering can be quite heartbreaking indeed, I do know what you mean.

I agree, it's a good idea to avoid having her sleep on you, now that she is in such a good habit of sleeping well in her bassinet. Especially sleeping on you apparently does not guarantee to avoid the nightmares.

What you can do, is to go to her and instead of picking her up: hold her arms while she stays in the bassinet. Gently stroke her head or place your hand on her belly, whatever you usually do to comfort her. Do not wake her though, but simply try to soothe her in this way. Rest assured that she is not in pain or panic, otherwise she would truly wake by herself.

Also go through your days and the activities she does or has around her. Is there often a TV or radio on around her? Lots of people around? Stress in people around her? Are you often out in a busy town? There are many activities that seem normal and quiet to us, but can be quite exciting for a little baby (and that includes innocent baby cartoons on TV). And these kinds of triggers can all cause her restlessness at night.

Also, you could consider true swaddling. However, I would personally not be a great fan of that, given that she is such a good sleeper without being swaddled, and she actually even sleeps through the crying and floundering.

So for now, I would start with comforting her while in her bassinet and avoiding exciting triggers, especially from the afternoon onwards.

Let me know,
Take care,

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