My toddler son has recently discovered how to scream at the top of his lungs, it seems. It sounds like he's being murdered or something. When he cries and wants something, he does this usually now. He's about 16 months old and this started about a week ago.

Also about the same time he started waking up constantly at night when nobody is with him. We've actually had him sleeping in his own room in his crib since he was about 8 months old and it's never been a big issue (occasional wake-ups, especially when teething, but nothing major).

We did a little traveling right before Christmas time, so he slept in the same room as us in a crib provided by the hotel. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with his sudden attachment to having us in the same room.

As of 2 nights ago, he only will be quiet and lay back down if his mother is the one who comforts him. I used to be able to, but not any more.

By "comfort" I mean, just be present in the same room as him. As soon as he sees either of us (well now just her) he would lay down, close his eyes and go to sleep. This makes me think that he's not in pain or sick or anything, but I could be wrong.

I've never gotten angry with him, but last night I found myself yelling at the top of my lungs partially out of anger and frustration but also just to get my voice over his and I finally had to just walk out of the house. I don't know what has changed with him. We had a few nights back in town (since traveling for xmas) where he was fine by himself in his crib.

summary / tl;dr; in the last week my son developed the following annoying behaviors:

  • Screams at the top of his lungs
  • Needs someone in the room with him while he sleeps (and has an uncanny ability to detect when we're not there and wake up)
  • The last 2 nights he has only responded positively (by shutting the h*ll up) when his mom is the one to enter the room.

A couple other things to note:

  • We noticed him tugging on his left ear today during the day. I thought possibly it was an ear infection, but I haven't noticed him doing it at all at night while this mayhem is occurring.
  • I think he might be teething (he seems to always be teething and it's usually pretty manageable with some Tylenol - but that's not preventing him from waking and screaming his head off)
  • I haven't gotten angry with him besides tonight, and I can't think of anything that would have changed that is making him demand Mom only. We usually take turns but the last 2 nights it's been her only because if I enter the room it's just as bad, if not worse, than before.

Anybody know what I can do to calm this behavior? Or what I can do to help my wife? Or what could be causing such a behavior?

Btw, it's 7am right now and we've hardly slept more than an hour maybe tonight. He's screaming as I type this and somehow my wife has slept through it (pure exhaustion is my guess), but if I go there it changes nothing. At worst, he was waking up about 5 minutes or less after she leaves the room. There was one point tonight where he maintained his sleep for about 1.5 hours straight but he just woke up a few minutes ago.

Thank you

  • The book “The Self-Calming Baby” may be useful.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 12:44
  • The first time we stuck to our plan to not go in and clean up our daughter (until the next morning when she was supposed to get up) when she'd scream and cry herself into such a state that she'd throw up on herself. trying to force mom to come in, was also the last time she did that. It was insanely difficult to do that, as parents. Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 21:21

2 Answers 2


I would suggest dealing with the symptoms first. Use something for the teething and maybe have his ears checked. We have 5 and the 2nd born was a rough delivery. She had a rye neck. We had no idea what was wrong for 6 months. When we started making her sleep on both sides she slowly settled down. This same daughter would cry and hold her breathe until she nearly passed out. There are times when there are physical issues and when they are just trying to "train you". If you have checked the symptoms develop a consistent plan for dealing with the attitude. For example: After applying something for teething and you know it is not ears, a dirty diaper or hunger then turn on some light music and allow him to cry. the most difficult thing you are going to have to do at this age is "out stubborn" your son. Take it from the biggest softy you would ever meet. Good luck and God bless.

  • Thank you this is great advice. Regarding the symptoms, as a last resort we always turn to Tylenol for teething fussiness, and we've turned to it every night this week (due to his extreme fussiness) and it doesn't seem to phase him (usually works great). So I'm kinda thinking it's not the teething this time. I asked my wife and neither of us have noticed him pulling his ear today. It's 11pm right now and early in the night, so we'll see here very soon how it goes tonight. The thing that has disoriented us so much is just how sudden all these behaviors started. We had no warning lol
    – user28038
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 7:10

I'd add this as a comment to @LazyBonz but I don't have the reputation for it. - Please see a doctor. There might be something causing him pain - I do not think so, as he immediately stops when your wife gets in his room, but better make sure. (My son slept through every night since he was six weeks old - except one night some weeks ago, he screamed the whole night. At 5am we decided to go to the hospital to let the kid be checked. He had a painful ear infection, we thought it was just a sniff. He got some nasal spray and after a week he slept through again. - He didn't pull his ears or anything, but screamed when laid down.)

If he is physically okay, get a mattress in his room for your wife. Good luck.

  • I'll second this. My oldest developed a sudden weird sleeping glitch at about the same age, also when travelling during the winter holiday—basically, wanted to wake up and play in the middle of the night, and needed to be rocked and sung to for what seemed like hours to get back to sleep. I thought it was purely behavioral, but it turned out to be our first ear infection.
    – 1006a
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 18:19

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