If Your Baby Has a Nightmare

We've all had nightmares. A lot of people still experience nightmares, which disturb their sleep patterns and get to be a headache. But how many moms remembers their first nightmare experience. Or, for that matter, how many recall their first 50 nightmares? Probably no one can, and it's because they all occurred in the first year of their lives. So when your child awakens in the middle of the night visibly and audibly upset , your child cannot tell you what happened, so you have no way of knowing whether it WAS a nightmare that awakened the baby in the first place!
If the child were older and could tell you so, and you knew it was a nightmare for sure, it would be much easier to proceed with your consoling. So what to do? What are the signs?
One way to figure out whether the baby has had a nightmare is to take note of her regular sleep patterns. Then make certain the baby isn't sick or ill with fever, causing wakefulness. If the baby awakens suddenly at a time when she is most often sound asleep and then resists attempts to soothe her back to sleep, odds are she may have just experienced a nightmare. Adults usually dream most vividly after one half-awake period in the middle of the night, and babies are no different. If your child sleeps through the night, the nightmares could happen in the very early morning hours.
So if the signals are there and you believe it's a nightmare you're dealing with, one possible reason could be separation anxiety. If the baby is away from the parent for too long, it will create stress, which is a leading cause of nightmares at any age. Another reason, also a cause of nightmares throughout out lives, is the result of something disquieting or upsetting witnessed by the baby occurring somewhere close to bedtime. So whatever the reason, you've now encountered an agitated child who won't go back to sleep so easily.
Now back up a bit if you think the quick answer is to take the weepy toddler into your own bed. It could very well work as a short-term fix. But it's generally known that the child could get too attached to the option. Try staying with the baby, talking to reassure, and don't forget the all-important therapy of physical reassurance. Hold, stroke and rock the child until the terror has lifted and the good night's sleep can be resumed.