Why does my child cry a lot at night?


Dear Doctor,

My 3-three-month-old daughter is normally peaceful during the day but she cries a lot during the night and it’s beginning to worry me. What makes it worse is that medics tell me she has no ailment whatsoever. What could be the problem? Umutoni

Dear Umutoni,

Small children can cry during night for multiple causes. She may be suffering from tummy ache or discomfort due to flatulence in the night. As they are unable to precisely describe their discomfort, crying remains the only means to say she is feeling sick. She may feel nauseous but cannot express it, hence will cry. If she has not eaten adequately in the evening before sleeping, she may wake up feeling very hungry at any odd time in the night. Again this is the only means for her to express her need. A child may get up and cry in night to seek attention from parents. This is more likely in case of working parents, where he/she does not get to be with parents for long time and does not get due attention and love. A tragedy like loss of a favorite toy, sickness or death in the family may make a child get up and cry. Occasionally it can be due to a bad dream.

Among other medical conditions a child can cry due to ear pain secondary to ear infection or a toothache. A blocked nose may cause difficulty in breathing compelling her to cry. Sudden rise in fever with joints pain may also be a reason, making her feel sick and cry.

If she is not sick, eats and plays well, is not losing weight, there is nothing to worry. Ensure that her diet is rich in fiber, so that digestive problems do not occur and bowels are cleaned regularly. In case of suspected flatulence, try giving her some anti flatulent after dinner. She should receive a filling full meal in the evening. Spend quality time with her, whenever you are home. In case of a tragedy at home, console the small child as well and support her emotionally. Check on her at a fixed time each night, preferably before her time of getting up and crying(if that is fixed one), so that she feels supported. Get her examined for any ear infection, because sometimes ear pain may be the only feature. Gradually with these measures, she should stop to wake up and cry.