What Is Known About Nightmares In Babies
There are those who say that the idea of nightmares in babies is somewhat absurd, and others who firmly believe that babies can and do have nightmares. Just who is right is difficult to say, and the babies themselves are in no position to tell us whether they have nightmares or not.
What is known is that babies sleep a lot and that during much of their sleep they experience rapid eye movement (REM) which we usually associate with an active brain and with dreaming. Just what babies might dream about is another unknown but there seems little doubt that whatever it is, very young infants dream about something.
What Could Babies Have Nightmares About? - The argument could them be, if babies dream, why shouldn't some of those dreams be nightmares? One answer could be, that if even the very youngest babies have dreams, there's no reason they could not have nightmares. The response might well be, “what on earth could happen, short of dropping a baby on its head, that would provide substantive material that would enable nightmares in babies to actually occur?”
As it turns out, there are plenty of traumatic events, from the baby's perspective, in the first hours and days of life that provide "material" to feed a nightmare. Consider the process of being born, leaving the comfort of the womb (where it is also believed that dreaming occurs), to the pushing and pulling through the birth canal to the outside world of noise and bright lights, and the unfamiliar touch of hands, water, towels, and blankets. That's enough to scare any kid and give him or her nightmares as the days and nights go by.
Memory Is There To Begin With - We tend to think that at birth a baby starts with a clean slate, its brain remembering nothing. That, as it turns out, is not exactly true, and a baby even remembers, in a rather abstract form perhaps, things it experienced during and even before birth, and certainly some of the events it experienced following birth, most of which it most likely found to be quite frightening.
As a parent, it can be a little difficult to deal with any thought of nightmares in babies, especially since a parent will feel rather powerless to prevent them or do anything about them. Those who believe in nightmares in babies will tell you however that such occurrences are a normal part of a baby's early mental development, and that the nightmares, however abstract or primitive they might be, are actually a part of the healing process a baby undergoes as it experiences frightening or unfamiliar things, which it will do practically every day during the first days and weeks of its post-birth existence.
No Monsters Involved - Babies probably don't have nightmares like most of us do, whether it is being chased, falling, or simply experiencing something that is unpleasant, unsettling, or sad. Babies may not have nightmares, at least not at first, where they relive events, as they have not accumulated a great deal of them, but may relive some of the emotions they experienced in the events which did occur, such as birth, blinding lights, etc..
It was mentioned previously that babies aren't born with a blank slate for a brain. The truth is, the brain of a newborn baby is about a third of the size it will eventually grow to and is already a rather powerful organ in terms of what it can accomplish, including the act of thinking. The thinking may be primitive by adult standards but the brain is still capable of assimilating a huge amount of information very rapidly, providing fodder for dreams and nightmares in babies soon to come.