Many parents, whether or not they’ve had other children, can be baffled when they realize something is wrong with their child. There are feelings of frustration and despair, as well as deep concern and indecisiveness with how to handle your child’s sleep problems.
Whether your child’s sleep problem is nightmares or wetting the bed, your child is at the forefront of your mind. When your baby wakes up with a blood-curdling scream in the middle of the night, it’s frightening. More frightening is a baby who will not be calmed with a touch, a bottle, or a new diaper. You’ll wonder what is hurting your child or if he has mild (or severe) discomfort of some kind.
Some children wake in the middle of the night and bang their heads against the rails of the crib. Your child’s sleep problems are not at always apparent, and it is not your fault that you can’t figure out what is wrong. Some children sleep all night, others cry all night. A big myth is that a child will cry if left unattended but will eventually fall asleep.
This is, however, not true of a child whose body cycle does not cause him to become sleepy. If your child is crying at the same intensity all night, he’s not looking for attention—he is indicating that something is wrong; it’s time to ask your doctor about your child’s sleep problem. Look for signs of sleepwalking or head banging. Think back—does the child eat on a regular schedule, or do you have to feed to create a schedule?
Children who do not eat or become hungry on a regular schedule may be indicating their lack of a cyclic metabolism. These infants and children are prone to migraines, which can occur when a child is hungry. This is not to imply that the child is neglected or unfed. It is more indicative of a situation where the child does not complain of being hungry, so a bottle or feeding isn’t given. If the child goes to bed without eating on a regular schedule, he might sleep himself right into a migraine that will appear if his body decides he’s hungry, or if his blood sugars are low.
Don’t assume that a migraine headache is impossible in an infant, or that a child would obviously wake up and cry if hungry. If you’ve worked for years to determine what is wrong with your child, one night he may come to you holding his head—and only then that you as an unsuspecting parent might think to investigate headaches as potential source of your child’s sleep problem.