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15 month old sleep problems

15 month old sleep problems

My 15 month old daughter has always been a great sleeper. I used to give her a bottle in her cot and she would go to sleep without a peep. I realise I created a bad habit so I have started to lay in bed with her while she drinks her bottle and then put her in her cot to sleep. She now gets hysterical every night. I thought I would let her cry it out because she was just adjusting to the new routine of not having her bottle to help her fall asleep but after 2 weeks of full on screaming for a very long time it's actually getting worse because now she wakes in the middle of the night screaming so I am at a loss. I think that letting her cry during the last couple of weeks have made her anxious causing the night wakings. When I walk back and lay her down she stops to scream straight away, she is not even crying but just screaming her lungs off. If I walk away she starts again. If I just sit there next to her crib and wait a few minutes until she falls asleep she is fine but I am now worried that I am replacing a bad habit with another. What do I do? Do I just give in and let her sleep with a bottle, do I stay every night in her room until she falls asleep or is there anything else I can try? 

As I state on my “cry it out” page you can’t cry it out halfway. If you set limits and only cry it out for 30 minutes or an hour you are effectively teaching your daughter to cry. In that way, you send the message “keep crying, eventually you will get your way”. Based on your question, I don’t think that you are ready to “cry it out” right now.

I agree that she needs to learn to fall asleep on her own. Children that are consistently rocked or fed to sleep often cry in the night when they want to go back to sleep. Currently, she thinks that she needs a bottle or you to fall asleep. Our job is to figure out how to empower her with the belief that she can fall asleep on her own.

First, you do need to end bottle feeding. Beyond a year, bottle feeding can lead to cavities and other dental problems. Feeding children bottles in bed has shown to increase their risk of ear infections. For now you can feed her milk in a sippy cup at bedtime, but eventually the milk should be moved to mealtimes. See milk for one year olds

In your daughter’s case, I would try gradually removing yourself. This idea often sounds easy, but is difficult to implement. Go through your regular bedtime routine but end with a sippy cup of milk, brushing teeth and you sitting beside her bed. Initially, you can rub her back and talk to her if needed, but do not pick her up. As she gets use to the new routine, begin to minimize your involvement. Stop touching her and stop talking to her. Once you can sit beside the crib and she settle down with minimal involvement, begin to move the chair toward the door - such that the chair move a foot or two every night. Eventually, the chair will be at the door and she will be able to settle herself down by herself.

The big question that you need to answer is, “What are you going to do when she cries?” Suppose during week one she begins to cry and want to be held. Try walking out of the room for 10 clock minutes and then returning to your seat beside the bed. Do not pick her up!

Initially, I want you to work on getting her to fall asleep at the beginning of the night. Once she has mastered falling asleep on her own, the night wakings should resolve on their own.




Written October 2012 by
Dr. Gordon, Windermere Pediatrician


See all sleep questions and answers in sleep for children






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