My 13 month old is still waking in the night upto 7 times

by Joanna Sutton
(Leeds, England)

Question: My 13 month old wakes upto 7 times a night, she has only slept through about 6 times in the whole year. I am not sure if she is having a bad teething time or why she does it. I have tried leaving her to go back to sleep but wont til I lie her down again, but then can wake up again and again and so on.

Heidi's Answer: Hi Joanna, It's hard for me to discover what the reason could be; can you provide a bit more details (just post a comment below):

- how she goes to sleep (by herself, nursing, rocking, ...)
- what happens when she wakes (does she cry, feed, ...)
- how are her days (nap schedule, teething or other discomfort, separation anxiety, ...?

In the mean time, check out this question I answered: the advice I give there will probably be useful to you as well: 15 month old daughter has never slept through

Good luck,

Joanna's extra info: She goes to bed at 8.00 by herself never been rocked very good at going sleep, but just wakes up. When she wakes I just lie her back down most times she will go back to sleep, but can wake again between 15 mins to a hour. She hasn't had a feed for about 4 months as when she woke she wouldn't drink it. I was told to do controlled crying by my health visitor a few months ago but that didn't work, tried for weeks. Have you any ideas. Thanks.

Heidi's follow-up answer: Hi Joanna, Very good that she is going to sleep by herself, that is a very good skill to start with.

About why she does not go back to sleep

Why she doesn't also do this at night ... Is there anything at all you can imagine that is different for her in the middle of the night with respect to when she first goes to bed? Lighter/Darker? (No) toys around?

Ideally she will find the exact same situation as when first going down, this will help her go back to sleep.

Do you give her some time to try and self soothe? Just a few minutes (but don't wait until she gets upset).

Also, if she doesn't have one, do give her a transition object (like a cuddly toy, blankie, scarf, ...): that can also be a real help for her to self soothe again at night.

About why she wakes

There can be a very simple reason for her waking up: could she be cold? or too hot? are there noises in the street or at neighbour's? or is it too silent?

Is her room pitch dark, then a night light can help. Or maybe there is too much light? Ideal light at night is dim: if you see it with your eyes closed, it is probably too bright.

Does she often have a wet diaper when waking?

Have you checked for separation anxiety or teething signs and tried the remedies I suggest?

You don't mention her nap schedule, but it is definitely important that she still has one or two naps, at very regular times during the day. That will also help regulate her nights.

A good trick I really advise you to try too, though it may sound a bit surprising, is to change her bedtime at night. I suggest a simple shift from 8 to 7.30pm, even 7pm if that could suit your own schedule.

You can go in 10 minute steps each day, or go for a drastic shift, both are fine. What counts is that such a shift is often very efficient to alter her sleep pattern just enough to get completely different nights.

Work with all the above for at least a week or two, and see how the nights are evolving.

During these two weeks: keep a sleep log: write down each time when she goes to sleep, and when she wakes, both during the night and during the day.

If no improvement during these two weeks has come, use this sleep log as follows: about 5 to 10 minutes before she usually wakes, go to her and place your hand on her tummy or forehead, hold her shoulders (or anything else that you know comforts her). The idea is to keep her asleep, or at least go back to sleep as soon as possible, without startling to completely awake.

It's not easy to do this tens of times at night, but do it as often as you feel up to it. This can effectively help her body get used to longer stretches again, so she can do it on her own after some practice (again give it at least one or two weeks, depending on how often you do it per day).

If you have the impression that she is uncomfortable, also when lying down during the day (to play or rest) you may want to take her to a pediatric osteopath: a small blockage of a nerve can make it impossible for her to lie comfortably for longer stretches.

Best of luck to both of you,

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