17 month old daughter still wont sleep

by Chanel Long
(South Africa)



Question: Hi Heidi, I posted a question on your website about 2 months ago about my 15 month old daughter that has never slept through the night. I followed your advise and it worked well for about a week and it has just gotten worse?

Original post: 15 month old daughter that has never slept through the night.

She just refuses to sleep, I have run out of patience now? I have tried everything, letting her go to bed late, putting her to bed early, keeping her up during the day, making her sleep during the day, sticking to a routine, not sticking to a routine, keeping calm, shouting like a maniac? Nothing works. And now to get her to fall asleep is nearly impossible? She does not want to sleep and I have to be in the room, if I walk out she cries and she does not stop, she cries until she vomits. I am going mad!! I don't know what to do with her anymore, and she still wakes up continuously during the night.

I have taken her to the doctor and they say there is nothing wrong with her I must just put up with it. I spoke to the crèche, they say they have no problem with her when it is her nap time, they give her her bottle and she goes straight to sleep. So it seems that it is only at home that it is a problem, even over the week ends I have to force her to have a nap during the day, and she will only nap for 30 mins if I am lucky. At night it takes nothing less then an hour of tears and frustration and sometimes vomiting before she falls asleep, and then she is awake every 1 to 2 hours at night.

She is also now eating a good dinner and she still has 2 naps at creche, 10am & 2pm. Home at 5, dinner around 6, bath 6.30 bed and bottle at 7. I have kept her sleeping in her cot, in our room. I also have not given her dummy back it has been 3 months now that she has not had her dummy

What else can I do? Please help

Kind regards
Chanel Long

Heidi's Answer: Dear Chanel, Sorry to hear sleep only improved in the first week. Is there anything that happened at the end of that week, or any difference in what you did?

I totally understand that you are losing your patience and must feel frustrated. Trying different things is good as long as you give them enough time to set. Giving a later bedtime just once will not have any effect straight away, only when you do it consistently for about a week. I trust that you did give each experiment enough time, but I mention it because I know how we often find ourselves in a whirlwind of trying things quickly, desperate for success ... but often with an averse affect.

The fact that she sleeps well at crèche tells us that she is able to sleep well for naps and that is a good thing. Please do not see it as a sign that her poor sleep at home is because of you. Many babies are easier at crèche, simply because they are in a regime, with other babies, with carers who are totally relaxed about whether or not they sleep (meaning that, as caring as they are, they do not worry as much as we do about our own). All of this makes many a baby sleep like an angel at crèche but quite differently at home ...

We can simulate a few things from crèche though. Adapt your bedtime routine to theirs if it is different. Keep strict nap times. Ask your husband to put her down for naps (and don't be around). Check for any differences between home and crèche: sleeping bag, lighter or darker room, different cuddly animal, …

As for being relaxed, that is a tricky one. Feeling frustrated, tired and out of patience does not make you want to relax I'm sure. But do try, try to let go. And it's OK to let go: your daughter is healthy, she is able to sleep well and will learn again, ... It's amazing how many moms have told me that simply by letting go, their child started sleeping better.

Whenever bedtime comes, or when she wakes at night, take a few moments to yourself. Breathe deeply, smile and think of your kind, beautiful daughter, ... Little things like these help you relax, and can only have a positive effect on her sleep.

Other than this, allow me to refer to these from my previous answer:

- Do try to shift the 2pm nap to later, say 3.30pm. A tiny change like this can completely change the sight of her sleep patterns.

- Why not try the dummy again? If she'll still have it, it may be a good soother?

- Does she doze off at the bottle? Then keep working with the self soothing technique. Otherwise, see below.

- Have you learnt anything from the sleep logs I suggested? You are most welcome to email them to me so I can have a look at them.

I would like to add to have her dad help whenever possible: with bringing to bed at naps or night time, soothing at night, … You can take turns, or set up a sort of schedule (makes it easier than having to decide at night who is to get up).

And finally, she is becoming a bigger girl now so you can really start working on setting some simple ‘rules’. One rule will be that bedtime is quiet time – you want to avoid the scenes with the screaming and vomiting.

Whether it is you or her dad, make sure to be relaxed (or act in a relaxed way :)), talk to her and announce bedtime. Tell her she will be a good girl and go to sleep nicely, you are always near, … all while getting her ready for bed and doing your bedtime routine. Be clear and sound determined.

Then when putting her down, you tell her that when she stays nice and quiet, you will come back quickly. Then walk out of the room, and when she is quiet for say even 5-10 seconds, you walk in and praise her. Tell her how well she did and how proud you are. All of this in soft voices and in dim lights of course.

Then repeat, tell her that you will come back quickly but only when she’s quiet and goes to sleep, … Little by little you can then make your time away longer, until she sleeps. Whenever she has slept well (even if it wasn’t as long as you’d hoped for) praise her when you pick her up, tell her she did great sleeping so nicely …).

Again, it may not work from the first time, and you'll need all the patience you have, but it can be very rewarding if you stick to it. If she cries even before the first 5 seconds you are out of the room, don't get angry but take a deep breath, explain it to her again, and repeat ...

Good luck!

Comments for 17 month old daughter still wont sleep

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by: Chanel

Hi Heidi, thanks for the advise i will give it a go again. I am feeling better, I have started exercising and that is helping me to cope much better and in a calm way. I am really blessed to have a happy, health (hyperactive) child!! Will let you know how it goes...

Thumbs up!
by: Heidi

I am so happy to hear that Chanel, your positive attitude is THE way onwards, good for you!

And I forgot to say what a lovely picture, she's so cute!!

Take care,

I have almost EXACTLY the same problem!
by: R.B

Hi ladies,

I stumbled accross your story whilst desperately searching for answers or suggestions as to why my own 15mth old daughter just WILL NOT SLEEP.

My daughter has exactly the same nap pattern 10-10.30am morning and 2-3pm afternoon, with dinner at 5pm and she screams and carries on and cries til vomiting when put in the cot. I have managed to get her to sleep in there for 2 hours straight at most and had to put her to sleep in the pram first then transfer her.

I do the patting, soothing and praising technique you have suggested. She only has bottle of water now as we were giving her bottles of formula at night and though this may have been what was causing her to not sleep through but the water has made no difference ( if anything she drinks MORE now and freaks out if she doesn't have the bottle). She has never had a dummy and won't take one ( we have tried on several occasions since birth).

We usually just give up as she cries so loudly and we have a 6yr old son who she wakes up with her tantrum every night. We usually let her co-sleep with us out of sheer exhaustion.

Her dad is very good and helps with her ( he has more patience than I do if I am honest) but nothing seems to work. She is so hard to get to sleep and sleeping right throough or anywhere other than the pram or in our bed is a no go - she just won't do it!

I am at my wits end too and I worry because her brother who is 6 did not sleep through until he was 4 and although he met all milestones and is extremely smart - he was diagnosed with ADHD and Aspergers at 3 and I am so worried that my daughter is following the same sleeping pattern as he did and this is one of the key signs for both diagnoses.

I have been told about a natural supplement called Melatonin that is via perscription and was wondering if either of you had tried it and if it worked. I haven't tried it yet because i don't want her to come to rely on that to help her sleep. I want her to learn to self settle but her waking 6-8 times per night and screaming and carrying on like a banshee until she is picked up and put in our bed ( she literally goes from sobbing crying and vomiting to quiet the minute we pick her up and give in) is doing my head in!



Finetuning the approach
by: Heidi - BabySleepAdvice

Dear R.B.,

Thank you for joining in. I am sorry to hear about the sleeping difficulties your daughter is experiencing.

I understand that you are worried about getting a similar diagnosis for your daughter as for your son, because I know it is challenging.

On the other hand I believe that looking at your daughter from that perspective (i.e. that she has a chance for ADHD, Asperger or related) may be the route that'd make things easier, both for your daughter and you.

Whether an early diagnosis is possible or not, if you knew/suspected that that is indeed the cause of her sleep issues, we would look into specialized or at least best-adapted methods, that will be more efficient.

Depending on your daughter's personality and challenges, maybe being more indulgent (for example cosleep completely) and expecting less self soothing works better. Or on the other hand, providing a more rigid structure may be what's needed.

I hope this helps as a start. If you would like to discuss more specifics with me, do feel welcome to hit the "Ask a Question" link to contact me.

Heidi - BabySleepAdvice

Going out of my mind
by: R.B

I am going to be speaking to my GP about Melatonin and if I can use this naturally occuring sleep aide to help her sleep even if only for the interim until I can get her assessed for diagnosis to see if that is the root cause.

We have been co-sleeping exclusively but it makes no difference ( we tried letting her just sleep in the pram in the loungeroom too with the same result as I am about to describe) She sleeps for about 2hrs at most and then will wake up like clockwork at exactly 2.30am every morning and literally cry for no reason and tantrum until she is allowed to get up and play or just sit up for a while. Then it takes AGES for us to get her back to sleep but she literally stops screaming the minute she gets her own way and it is driving me insane. we never get a break and it is making me extremely sad that we are trying everything and nothing is working.

Have you had any experience with Melatonin? is there anything else you can suggest?

Kind regards

Good route
by: Heidi - BabySleepAdvice

Hi R.B.,

Yes discussing the melatonin with your GP is a good route and if he does advise it, it can indeed be an interim solution. Or at least to break the 2am-clockwork pattern.

Other techniques to break a stuck sleep pattern: change the going to bed time: move that back or forward with 30-60 minutes. Alternatively you could try scheduled awakenings: for 3-4 nights in a row, wake up your daughter at 1am. It may still be tough to get her back to sleep, but by doing this a couple of times you may break the pattern.

But prior to this I do advise you to consult your GP as above.

Best of luck to you,

my 15 month old is the same!
by: Anonymous

Since birth my son has done the same!
I am so tired I am starting to feel depressed
when was this original post written and has something worked for your children?

[Heidi-BabySleepAdvice]: Hi Anonymous, the discussion in this post has been closed. You may find the above approaches helpful - they have helped the above and many other parents - as well as the dedicated toddler section over here: https://www.baby-sleep-advice.com/toddler-sleep-problems.html (or just click "Toddler" in the top navigation bar).


If you have similar or follow-up questions, please refer to the above link or contact me through the "Ask a Question" service, which will allow me to give your question the attention it requires.

With kind regards,

by: Anonymous

Well my daughter is now 2yrs 6mths and on 0.2ml of melatonin... still no formal diagnosis and she now goes to bed at 7.30pm like clockwork and will ut herself to sleep in her own bed and sleep until about 10pm without waking then will either wake up screaming or crying out ( night terrors) or want a drink of water and then chucks a mega wobbly until she gets to go into my bed. if I deny her this she has even got her blanket and slept in the hallway! even when I do give in at about 2am she STILL wakes up even in my bed at about 4am I am going out out my mind - I just want her to go to sleep in her bed and STAY THERE - I have not had a decent nights sleep in 2.5yrs and I love my daughter very much but I am soooooo tired and have tried everything. HelP!

[Heidi-BabySleepAdvice]: Hi Anonymous, I am sorry to hear and know how tiring that is for you. Please also browse through the toddler section. If your daughter is open to it, you may find a sticker chart (run with a consistent plan) very efficient for this. Do not hesitate to contact me through the Ask a Question service either, we can then work on it together. All the best, Heidi

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