I was recently asked by Catherine from Cat & Nat a great question and one that I’m asked frequently.

“If my baby wakes up crying does it mean that they are still tired?”

Why Your Baby Cries When They Wake Up

If your baby wakes up screaming and crying there are likely 3 things going on:

1) Yup, your baby is still tired. A fussy and crying baby is showing us that naptime was too short and baby still needs some more sleep. This is where we need to encourage a longer nap and help baby work on the skill of consolidating their nap by transitioning into their next sleep cycle.

Check out Alanna’s new book – This Baby Loves Sleep – helping your baby from 0-12 months of age sleep better!

2) Which brings me to another reason why your baby may be waking up crying. They don’t have the skill of falling back to sleep on their own figured out yet. Picture it – how your baby falls asleep at bedtime or at naptime is how your baby will need to fall asleep when they wakeup after one sleep cycle. If you’re doing it for them you are going to have to keep doing so. A natural sleep cycle is only 30-45 minutes for a baby and while you may think your baby only needs 30-40 minutes of naps throughout the day, they are likely waking after that amount of time and unable to transition into the next sleep cycle on their own. This is such a common sleep struggle and naps take time to lengthen out.

3) If you feel like your baby is napping well throughout the day and sleeping through the night but is still waking grouchy and crying you may just just have a little bear on hand. A cute adorbale little grouchy bear. It can happen. I always talk about my son and he was just that kid that need time to get his sh*t together after a great nap. I would wake him but give him his space because man oh man he could be a grouch monster upon waking. After 10 minutes or so he was good to go! Every kid is different.

Alanna explains how to lengthen your baby’s naps on her podcast – This Girl Loves Sleep

If your baby is waking up happy – hallelujah!

1) Your baby has had a great nap and is well-rested! That is wonderful!

2) Your baby feels safe and secure in their sleep environment and doesn’t need you right away. This is such an important skill to teach our kiddos as well. Of course we want them sleeping as much as possible in their cribs or beds but another important skill for them to learn is to be happy and content in their sleep space on their own. There is nothing I love more than hearing that from the clients we work with.

So if your little one is waking up consistently unhappy take a look at how they are sleeping at night and how long their naps are. What steps do you need to add to your sleep plan that can help your baby or toddler wake up happy and feeling well-rested?


Alanna McGinn

Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through her FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep SiteJoin our movement and #BringBackBedtime.