15 month old daughter has never slept through

by Chanel
(South Africa)



Question: My daughter is 15 months old and never slept through She is a very restless sleeper, tossing and turning the whole night, waking up 8 – 12 times a night. In the beginning I tried to keep to a strict bed time routine making her sleep in her cot but eventually I could not do it any more and just let her sleep in the bed with me and her dad, as it was easier to just lay next to her and pat her back to sleep, than get out of bed 8 times a night.

I am now trying to get her to sleep in her cot again but I am not having any luck. I am letting her fall asleep in her cot and not in my arms, but this is very frustrating and the process contains a lot of tears. She then sleeps for maybe ½ an hour – 1 ½ hrs and then she starts waking up and crying continuously. I try to pat her back to sleep, sometimes it works (but not for long) it usually does not work as she just cries & cries & cries and I eventually give in and just put her back into bed with us, where she still continues to wake up through out the night.

Savanna goes to crèche during the day and they say that she has a nap between 10 & 10.30am and she usually sleeps for about 1hour to 1 1/2 hours she then has another nap at 2pm and usually sleeps for 1/2 an hour.

Then when I pick her up at 5pm we go home, she has her dinner (that’s also a problem, because she is very fussy and usually does not have much to eat in the evenings, sometimes nothing) then bath time is around 6.30 / 7 and then a bottle (formula) and bed. I have spoken to the crèche about her eating and they say she eats very well during the day.

I don’t mind co-sleeping but her dad gets a bit irritated as she is so restless and keeps him up. But we will try anything to improve her sleep!!

Also she had a dummy from when she was 3 days old and I took it away about 3
- 4 weeks ago... I cut the tip off and she eventually would not take it anymore, I don’t now if that may also be the reason why she is so restless, but even when she had her dummy she still did not sleep.

What else can I do to get her to sleep in her cot and through the night ( I don’t mind if she wakes up 2 – 3 times a night but not 8 – 12 times!!)

Kind regards

Note: There is a follow-up post at 17 months here:
17 month old daughter still won't sleep ...

Heidi’s Answer: Hi Chanel,

There’s a number of possible reasons for Savanna’s restless sleeping. She may be in a sleeping schedule that does not fit her well and so have developed irregular sleeping patterns. She may be having food during the afternoon that keeps her from sleeping well. She may have a structural bone/vertebrae problem which often remains hidden during the day but results in difficult sleeping (because lying down is not comfortable). The co-sleeping will not be the single cause since she sleeps restlessly when in her cot too. Still, even if your presence may be enough to reassure her, it can also wake her up from time to time. Also not having the dummy anymore may indeed play, even if she did not sleep much better before, it can still be a factor.

You have been doing very well with keeping a regular schedule and having a recognisable evening routine. The patting and putting back to help her sleep in her cot was good too, but as you have noticed it is not guaranteed to work.

To help you find better sleep for Savanna, I suggest the following:

1) Change her sleep schedule: You will need the crèche’s help here because it would be best to shift the afternoon nap to later, say at about 3.30-4pm, when she’ll probably sleep a bit longer and then come home less tired so she can have a good meal. I know crèches do not always have enough flexibility for different nap times but you should be able to negotiate a temporary change in the schedule, just so you can test the effect on Savanna’s sleeping at night (which may be quite important).

2) Avoid stimulating food or drinks like sugary (fizzy) drinks, sweets, chocolate, … Keep in mind that the stimulants take several hours to leave the body so do not offer them from the afternoon onwards.

3) Decide on one sleeping place: I think both her cot and co-sleeping can be good for her to sleep well but it is important to pick one place and stick to it consistently. If you choose co-sleeping then decide to keep it like that for now (and do not try the cot irregularly). Or, if you choose the cot, be consistent with that and do not transfer her to your bed at night, ‘giving in’.

From your story, I would be in favour of the cot. Babies who start co-sleeping at a later age (i.e. later than birth) often sleep restlessly in their parents’ bed because they are less used to sharing the bed. So you may be waking her up more than she would in the cot. On the other hand, she may need your presence for reassurance and therefore be scared when alone in her bedroom. A cosleeper (side car bed, such as the Arm's Reach Cosleeper) or placing the cot in your room may be a good middle solution then.

4) Work with self soothing: Let me refer you to this page on self soothing. Work with the gentle progressive method (putting down asleep then half asleep first, then drowsy, …) at naps or night time bedtime and also when she wakes at night and use the extra tips as well. It may take a little while but it’s more than worth your patience. Being able to self soothe will also help her find sleep again during the nights, waking (you) up less frequently.

5) Try a new dummy: Since she’s practically always had a dummy, this may not be a good time to take it away. Unless of course you think she wakes up because she loses it at night … You may need to try out a few models but having a good dummy she likes, can be a great help right now.

6) Get a health check: make sure nothing is bothering her. An osteopath specialised in babies may spot a nerve in her spine that got stuck or similar, and that may make her uncomfortable when lying down and wake her up regularly.

While doing all the above for a couple of weeks, keep a sleep log. Write down when she goes to sleep and when she wakes up. Also at night if you can, but if it disturbs your own sleep even more, do not bother to scribble during the night but try and note it down the next morning.

If we see no improvement after a few weeks, we’ll then work on with these logs.

Good luck for now!

Thank you for sending in the lovely picture, she may not be a great sleeper (yet!) but she is a real cutie!


Check the follow-up post here: 17 month old daughter still won't sleep ...

Click here to post comments

Return to Baby Sleep and Parenting Advice.