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Waking at night after illness

I have a 19 month old that used to sleep about 10 hours a night (asleep by 8 pm and up at 6 am).  Recently, she started waking up screeching and standing up in her crib at some point in the night.  I go to her because she seems so upset but she doesn’t seem to fall back asleep after this fit.  The waking up started when she had her last ear infection/cold.  It seems like it is now a habit as she is no longer sick.  Is it possible to break this habit and how long is it ok to leave her alone crying?

I agree this sounds like a bad habit. Illness, travel and visitors often disrupt our children’s good sleep habits.

Can she fall asleep on her own? When you put her to bed she should be placed in her bed awake. Too often parents are in the habit of rocking or nursing their children to sleep and then placing them in their cribs. These children wake in the middle of the night and do not have the ability to put themselves back to sleep.

The typical 19 month old takes one nap a day. Our children usually slept for about 2 hours. If she is taking more than one nap a day or sleeping more than 3 hours I would wake her up during the day.

If she has learned to fall sleep on her own and is not napping too much this will get better with persistent training. You do not want to reward this behavior with attention.

When she wakes at night you need to make sure she is safe and quickly get out of the room. Do not feed her, do not turn on the lights, try not to make eye contact and minimize your time in her bedroom. Lay her down and give her a pacifier and walk out. At this point there are two strategies that should work. Either repetitively going in the room at increasing longer intervals or letting her “cry it out”.

For more information about see "crying it out".

We have been through this at the Gordon home in the past. It is exhausting and feels like it is not going to get better. The longer the bad habit has persisted the longer it will take to get better.


Written November 2010 by
Dr. Gordon, Windermere Pediatrician






gregorygordonmd.com is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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