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16 month old not sleeping

16 month old not sleeping

My 16 month old has been a great sleeper since we let her cry-it-out at around 5 months.  She normally sleeps for about 12 hours at night and takes two good naps during the day.  Now we are trying to transition to one nap a day, but for the last month or so she has been waking up a lot at night or waking up really early in the morning (4 or 4:30).  She is obviously tired when she gets up this early but will not let me put her back to sleep.  She doesn't seem to be in pain, she just will not let me leave her by herself.  Even if I rock her to sleep (which we haven't done since she was a baby until recently) she wakes up as soon as I put her in the crib and cries unless I stay with her with my hand on her back.  I let her cry-it-out two nights recently and it seemed to help at first, but now she is back waking up and wanting me to stay with her.  I am expecting our second child due the end of August and really need her to sleep again!  Do you have any suggestions?

There are many reasons your daughter may be waking at night. Teething, schedule changes and even her own new baby concerns may be the root of this sleep problem. Unfortunately, it sounds like her waking is becoming a bad habit.

When is her nap? At 16 months, a single nap should be close to noon and last 2 to 3 hours. If her nap occurs too early or too late this could cause the schedule disturbance you describe.

Does she sleep better at night with two naps? I agree that most 16 months require only one nap a day. However, your daughter may still need two naps.

Does she fall asleep on her own? Children beyond 4 to 6 months of age should be place in their beds awake. Children who are consistently fed or rocked to sleep often cannot put themselves back to sleep after waking. Children need to learn the “skill” of falling asleep on their own.

Overall, it sounds like you are doing the right things. When children first begin to wake at night you need to go to them and comfort them. They may be sick, hurt or having a bad dream. After a few nights, this no longer an acute issue it is a chronic habit.

Stay with your daily and bedtime routine. At night, minimize your interactions. Picking her up and rubbing her back is making this worse. If she is not in pain, I agree you should let her cry it out. Stay consistent and this sleep problem will end.

Follow up 3 months later

We let her cry it out for a few nights and she started to get back to normal, but then she started teething and waking up again during the night. At the time it was hard to tell whether it was teething that was waking her up or just habit, but when all of her teeth came in she started sleeping normally again. At the same time she was teething, my second baby was born, so I think she was also adjusting to having a new baby in the house. She is sleeping great now! She takes one nap during the day for an hour and a half to two hours and sleeps around 11 or 12 hours at night. Thanks for your advice!



Written July 2012 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician






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