Our son was sleeping comfortably in his swing while we were making dinner, when suddenly he started screaming for no apparent reason. He did not need to be changed and was not hungry. My wife wondered if he'd had a nightmare.

Now I pose this question to you all: do newborns have nightmares?

asked 25 Nov '09, 15:01

Matthew%20Jones's gravatar image

Matthew Jones
accept rate: 18%

According to "The Baby Book" by William and Martha Sears and "Your Baby's First Year" by G. Curtis and J. Schuler, newborns spend the majority of their sleep in REM sleep. Since REM is when dreaming occurs, it is possible that the baby is having dreams/nightmares. But, it may also be that your baby was just coming out of a deep sleep when something startled him.

Here is a quote from "The Baby Book":

"Stand adoringly next to the bassinet or bed and watch your nearly motionless baby in peaceful slumber. After about an hour she begins to squirm. She tosses a bit, her eyelids flutter, her face muscles grimace, she breathes irregularly, and her muscles tighten. Baby is reentering the phase of light sleep, and during this vulnerable period many babies awaken if any upsetting or uncomfortable stimulus occurs."

On a personal note, our baby often smiles, laughs, whimpers and even cries while is asleep. Sometimes he wakes up, but sometimes he just continues to sleep. Whenever he laughs out loud in his sleep, I think, "I wish I had the kind of dreams that would make me laugh out loud in my sleep!"


answered 25 Nov '09, 19:53

cat_g's gravatar image

accept rate: 25%

+1 for straightforward explanation, I loved watching my daughter sleep when she was a baby, and loved catching the smiles!

(25 Nov '09, 20:11) Emi

My son is three months old and he still does this every now and again. I have wondered the same thing, is he having nightmares?

However, I feel as though babies don't have enough life experience to develop actual nightmares (i.e. of drowning, fires, ghosts, etc)...the kind of stuff that haunts adults' dreams.

Perhaps they're dreaming about being hungry and the bottle / boob is juuuuust out of reach...


answered 25 Nov '09, 17:38

DazedandConfused's gravatar image

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I don't know. Birth seems like it might be pretty traumatic to me :) When my son would whimper in his sleep we would say he was dreaming about when he got stuck and banged up his head trying to get out.

(25 Nov '09, 18:18) Kiesa ♦

I'd noticed the same about my son, and it usually occurred when his neck was at a funny angle, the I started to wonder if it was just a stiff neck.

That being said, I have no doubt that they dream. The first part of their life is very scary, so it stands to reason that they do have nightmares.


answered 25 Nov '09, 18:58

DarwinsMom's gravatar image

accept rate: 5%

My daughter's first nightmare stands out very vividly in my mind. She woke up in the night crying about "Snakes" and "Daddy couldn't save me." Hearing that as I entered her room was my most heart-wrenching experience as a parent so far. She's 4 years old now, but at the time she had recently turned 2. I think we had watched "Aladdin" with her earlier that week, so the part at the end where Jafar turns into a snake may have been too scary for her. Prior to this she had always slept like a log.


answered 25 Nov '09, 19:01

Joel%20Coehoorn's gravatar image

Joel Coehoorn
accept rate: 18%

I am not sure about the nightmare theory but I can tell you that sometimes babies do this from gas pains. A couple of times my daughter would cry out, I would pick her up and she would let out either a big burp or a big fart and then smile again while she drifted back to sleep.


answered 26 Nov '09, 03:14

dreamerisme's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%

I do not know what the general consensus is regarding nightmares and newborns, but my grandmother always told me something about newborn babies crying and laughing, that has remained in my mind. I am certain that its just an old wives tale, and I have never thought it to be true.

I will share it with you; the story is this,

Apparently when newborns are asleep, the angels whisper to them in their sleep, and say that mummy and daddy have gone away, at which point the babies get startled and scream and sometimes cry momentarily. As they get a little older, when the same action is repeated, the baby just smiles because he/she knows not to believe what the angel is saying and instead the baby just smiles contently in their sleep.

Perhaps I found the story amusing and thats why I have remembered it. But I do remember seeing my daughter smiling in her sleep when she was very young.


answered 25 Nov '09, 17:30

Emi's gravatar image

accept rate: 19%

edited 24 Dec '09, 08:06

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Asked: 25 Nov '09, 15:01

Seen: 37,702 times

Last updated: 24 Dec '09, 18:45