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I have an 11-month-old son. He wakes up screaming. This is relatively new. Sleep training was going so well. All of a sudden, my son started waking up at around midnight, screaming.

The scream is a scream which I can only describe as ear piercing, ear plugs do not help whatsoever. Not crying, but full on screaming.

I can sometimes get him to calm down shushing him in my arms, but when I even try to move him horizontal, he flips out and starts screaming.

We use a white noise machine (always have) and a humidifier to keep the room super comfy.

Can't even leave him to cry it out, as he is not crying, he is screaming a horrific scream. Surprised no one has called the police yet.

Any advice? His early colic seems like a walk in the park compared to this. After a few hours of trying to get him back down (switching on and off with my wife), my wife gave up and just had him sleep on her.

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    Not an answer, but I find it odd that you say your wife gave up rather than finally found something that worked. It may not be what works next time, but I would find it a reasonable consolation for a distressed toddler. – David Hedlund Sep 23 '19 at 6:56
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    Also not an answer: You may not find out the root cause (we never did), but you can treat the symptoms. Here's another thing that "worked" in our case besides having him sleep snuggled against us: Pick him up and carry him around, calm him down, till he falls asleep in your arms (yes, that might easily take an hour). Put him back to bed. Repeat if necessary. Telling yourself that it won't be like this forever helps. – Pascal says Talk To Monica Sep 23 '19 at 11:12
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    Also, as regards "can't even leave him to cry it out", well, I'm glad, and I'd suggest don't ever, even when you feel you "can". I don't know why your particular child is having this particular experience, and I don't mean to pass blame, but I certainly think a child who learns early on that they have one or two loving parents who will attend to them while in distress will eventually feel safer than one whose parents are absent, or perhaps sees them standing in the doorway but not coming to their aid, in their perceived time of need. – David Hedlund Sep 23 '19 at 11:17
  • Thanks is for your comments. By "giving up" I only mean going backwards. Having a baby sleep on you is not ideal, as no one actually sleeps. Cry it out method is a tried and true technique, with proven results. Leaving your child to cry teaches them to soothe themselves. Our infant was a very large baby (for two small adults), so our backs cannot hold him for extended periods. We used to hold him until he fell asleep, only reason we stopped that was I pulled my back holding him! I guess I'll keep trying and hopefully this resolves sooner than later! – Shinobii Sep 23 '19 at 12:29
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    This is getting off topic, so not sure this is the place, but just want to throw in that crying it out has "proven results" as measured on the method's primary outcome, i.e. sleep. My objection (and that of others - it's a heavily criticized method) was not that it doesn't work per se, but that it works at a high cost. Giving your kid sleep pills also works, yet we don't medicate non-medical sleeplessness because it's a normal condition and we don't like the side effects. With crying it out, the side effects are only hidden. – David Hedlund Sep 23 '19 at 12:55
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The sudden step back might have a physical cause (tooth breaking through, coming down with a fever, stomach cramps from a change of diet, whatever), in which case the problem will be short-lived and go away once the physical cause disappears.

If not, read on.

Any advice?

Yes: Do whatever works. Don't fall for all the parenting advice that tells you that your child needs sleep training, needs to sleep alone, needs to cry it out, needs to fall asleep feeling your body pressed against his etc. In our case, what "worked" was:

  1. We bought a babybay crib that attaches to your bed and lets the baby sleep right next to his parents.

  2. When he didn't go to sleep, I carried him around for hours at a time in the middle of the night.

  3. We took turns - when he woke up, I took care of him from 8 pm to 2 or 3 am and my wife took over at that time, so we both got some sleep. We did that for months.

This was the best solution we could come up with that allowed us at least some sleep and gave us a clear conscience, even though I would have preferred the baby sleeping in his own room. But that just didn't work.

We tried letting him cry in his own room, but as you describe, this soon turned into full-fledged, terrorized screaming which was so heart-wrenching that we stopped that experiment almost before we had begun it.

We tried for so long to get him to sleep on his own that it became a real strain on our family, and this is when we decided to stop trying to force something that only created conflict and bad feelings all around and went with the three points I mentioned.

Once he started sleeping through the night in our bedroom, points 2 and 3 became unnecessary. We finally happened on the solution to get rid of point 1 when we put him in the same room with his younger siblings. He shares a room with one of his younger brothers to this day. We've offered a room to himself, but up to now, he's not interested. We now think he just needs company to feel safe at night, and we see no reason to fight that, since it's not causing any problems whatsoever.

In hindsight, we could slap ourselves for not having thought of putting him with his siblings as soon as possible. We've become a lot more relaxed about "parenting rules". I have also become sceptical in regards to parenting advice that tells you it's important to teach your child something now because it will harm him down the line if you don't. In my experience, children simply don't work like that.

As the "cry it out"-method was discussed: I don't know if the "Every child can sleep" / "let him cry it out" method really works. I don't know whether, like David Hedlund says, it has hidden costs or whether it's teaching babies to self-soothe. But frankly I don't care, because it wasn't an option for us. We simply couldn't even contemplate listening to our child screaming his lungs out until he was blue in the face and near fainting from oxygen deprivation.

So if your child takes a step back and something that used to work no longer works, don't adhere to a fixed program. Kids aren't computers. Be flexible. Try different things, and once you happen on something new that works which you can live with for now, go with it. Your child is growing fast, so whatever the solution looks like now, you won't have to live with it forever.

  • Thanks for your reassuring answer. The main thing I have heard is "do whatever works". Last night was a bit of a success. I let him cry for longer periods of time (2 mins up to 8 mins, had to wear earplugs, used a stopwatch and watched the monitor.). It appeared to work (took about 2 hours of going in, calming him down, repeat, etc.), as he slept solid for 4 hours, once he put himself to sleep. It is just reassuring to hear not everyone has the perfect sleeping baby. Nearly all my colleagues have babies that sleep "too much", must be rough for them. . . – Shinobii Sep 24 '19 at 15:11
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That's about when mine started having teeth pop out, so check your son's gums for new baby teeth! If that's the case what we did was give ours a size/age appropriate amount of baby tylenol, and that knocked ours out cold and he would sleep for the rest of the night. Occasionally if the baby was crying before bed, we would give a half dose of baby tylenol before he went down as a preemptive measure, but only rarely.

if you cannot find an obvious issue, you may want to have your son's 1 year check up early so the doctor can take a look for anything out of the ordinary.

Good luck, and remember "this too shall pass"

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