21 answers

15 Month Old Fighting Sleep

My daughter is 15 months old, and has fought sleep since she was about 5 months old... She will scream and cry and be inconsolible... She wants to be put down, but if you put her down, she wants to be held. She will cry, but end up falling asleep by herself for her afternoon nap, but REFUSES to fall asleep at night... We have tried to let her self soothe and cry it out at night, but she screams to the point of making herself sick... If we put her in our bed, she cannot lay still and is all over the place. She starts getting sleepy around 8:30ish, and is never asleep before 11 (if we are lucky)... It's starting to take a toll on us because we both work wierd hours and I am pregnant again (and EXHAUSTED!haha). It breaks my heart for her to cry so hard, and to know that there is nothing that I can do to fix it. Somehow, she fights sleep, but doesn't seem like she is intentionally resisting it. She doesn't hit us or herself, she doesn't pull her own hair or even try to escape off of our bed to go play. She just seems to be incapable of falling asleep without making a 3 hr production of it first! :o) Other than fighting sleep, she is such a good baby that I feel bad complaining about this but I'VE REACHED A POINT OF DESPERATION!! WHY DOES SHE DO THIS AND WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP HER??

What can I do next?

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My daughter did something similar around that age. I started her on a set schedule of bath (using the lavender/chamomile soap), read her a story while she was in her bed and then I played a CD with very soothing music. We started at the same time every night. It took about 3 days and she started going right to sleep. Hope this helps.

Maybe try getting into a bedtime routine like give her a warm bath and then lay her down in her crib and read some stories or put on some soft music and see if that helps her fall asleep.

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My daughter was the same way, except younger and we put her pack and play in our bedroom for a few months, that way she knew that mommy and daddy were both still there (i think hers was a separation thing) and she would go to bed just fine in that, it was difficult on us because that is less time to spend alone with each other, but after about 2 months, we put her back in her bed and my husband would lay in the hallway or on her bedroom floor until she fell asleep, which wasn't long since she knew daddy was there. Then we got her into a good bedtime routine, read a few books, get a cup of water, brush teeth, help daddy turn out the lights and then go to bed and that seemed to help tremendously, and now she is going through a stage again where she doesn't want to go to bed. I know this is bad, but we tell her "If you lay in bed and be very still and very quiet so that you don't wake up bubba, in the morning when you wake up, you will get a special" and that does the trick. I do not hear a sound out of her until the morning and she screams "MOMMY, ADDIE AWAKE, MOMMY, SPECIAL!" and then she gets her choice of a sucker, sticker, fruit snacks or a popsicle. I hope some of thses ideas have helped!

1 mom found this helpful

Unfortunately, my daughter, who is now 3, never learned to soothe herself to sleep. Every night she would fall asleep during a bottle, and then I'd put her to bed already asleep. We tried a few times to get her to go to sleep on her own, but she would just scream and cry to the point of making herself sick. My son, on the other hand, will only go to sleep if you put him in his crib awake. I know the books say to teach babies to self-soothe, but I firmly believe that this doesn't work for every child, seeing that not all children or circumstances are the same.
That being said, have you tried rocking her? Is your bedtime routine the same every night? One thing that has always helped my kids is we stick to a pretty strict bedtime routine. After dinner (which is about 6:30), the kids take a bath, get dressed for bed, brush teeth and hair, pick up any remaining toys, and then we read two books to them. My husband does the baths, unless he has to work, and I get them dressed for bed, etc.
If nothing else, just remember that this too will pass. Hope this helps!

Hi L.,
Your daughter sounds like she could be related to mine! She was actually worse I think because it got to the point where sh would wake every hour on the hour and never actually sleep more than 45 min to an hour at a time. Like your daughter, nothing was wrong although over time she became extremely grouchy and obstinate from the sleep deprivation. Looking back, teething was a problem.
We ended up giving her 1/2 a dose of benadryl for as long as she had the issue (meaning she hadn't been sleeping well for 2 mos so she was on it 2 mos) and it corrected. Occasionally it comes back and we give her a few nights of benadryl and she is on track again. I've also been more watchful of her teeth and if I see one popping up I give tylenol at night for a few nights -- I think it hurts when the child lies down and isn't doing anything.
All that stuff about sleeping in your bed and trying all sorts of things -- we did that and it only made things worse. The most important thing I did -- and hardest -- was to leave her in her bed until she went to sleep so that she understood that it was bedtime and sleeping time. Consistency is apparently VERY important for her, I also rigidly set her bedtime and wake up times and nap times and this has helped her tremendously as well.
I hope it ends soon especially when you have another one on the way!

Is it possible that your daughter is actually overtired? My oldest daughter (now 3 1/2) has always struggled the most at bedtime on days when she had not had a good nap. It seemed crazy to us but when she was about the same age as your daughter, there were many nights when we put her to bed at 6:15 pm!! Just something to consider...

L., first of all... HUGS to you!!! Man, that has to be a bear to deal with! I have a 13-month-old son and my daughter's due in a few months so I understand how exhausting it is to care for a young child while prego!

It sounds like she's over-tired. She's probably working on a serious sleep deficit and needs to catch up on much-needed sleep before she can even begin to think about "normalizing" herself. I'm speaking from experience - trust me! LOL!

Invest in the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr. Weissbluth. It's been my sleep bible since Evan was a couple of months old! It's not a one-size-fits-all solution (which is good) and it gives suggestions for different temperaments of children at different ages.

I wouldn't try to read it cover-to-cover as it has a lot of research in it & isn't the easiest read when you go about it that way. Just go to the chapters that deal with children your daughter's age.

I belong to a local mom's group and SOOOOOO many of us have used this book with GREAT success. The key for us has been consistency, consistency, consistency. Evan still has set-backs from time to time, but we just ride them out. For the most part his naps and nighttime sleep are very regulated & his overall demeaner has improved as a result. Again, this is NOT how it is all the time. But for the most part it's 150% better than it used to be!

I would definitely work your hardest to get it resolved before your next child comes, for your own sanity's sake! LOL! And if you're still concerned, ask your pediatrician if he/she can recommend a specialist.

If you need anything further, please feel free to email me!

Take Care & good luck,


my youngest has the same trouble, if we try to get her to self-sooth then she screams for 2-3hrs. but if i take her in her room, following bath, book, and putting sister to bed; we rock and she goes to sleep. if she wakes up then I can just pat her back and she goes to sleep. she also co-sleeps later in the night. we had trouble with our oldest sleeping also and told her that if she would go to sleep in her bed that if she woke up in the middle of the night that she could come in our bed. i hope this helps you.

As long as you have made sure that this is not some sort of chemical imbalance then I would say have you tried Cammomile tea. We had the same problem with 2 of our 4 kids and my mother in~law told me to get some Manzanilla (cammonile,spelling is off) make the tea as if I were making it for me and fill half the bottle with it then fill the other half with a bottled water and never let the children drink faucet water. We have had a few problems since, but rarely and usually due to a tummy ache,too much cake etc. Hope this helps.

easy sollution, pick out one of her favorite stuffed animals. have her name it, if she can't talk very well yet you name it. Then when its bed time tell her to put _____ to bed, and tell ____ to go night night. She will want to stay right there with her fav stuffed animal. If she starts screaming go in and tell her that she will wake up ____. Make sure you stick to a schedule, and make sure she has some light source in her room. This not wanting to go to bed only lasts usually until they are 2 or so.

What time is her nap during the day? It may be that she is getting too much sleep during the day, or that her nap is too late in the day. My son is almost 18 months, he gets up around 7 or 8 am and then takes a nap between 11 and 12. To me this seemed too early for a nap, but when we tried an afternoon nap instead, he was up until midnight. Now he goes to sleep around 9pm. I would try something like this first, and if that doesn't work, look at her diet and when she is last eating for the night. Or possibly she needs a "comfort item" such as a blanket or toy. Hope some of this might help you. Good luck and sweet dreams!

Try reading 2-3 stories to her before she goes to sleep. when our little girl gets fussy and doesn't want to sleep, I put her in a warm tub, let her play for a little while (half hour)
and then dry her off and rub some lotion on her (chamoille and Lavendar, works best) it helps to relaxe them so they fall asleep. Our pediatrician also recommended giving her Celestial Seasonings Sleepy time tea, it is caffiene free,all herbal and makes them drowsy enough to fall asleep within a half hour to 45 minutes after drinking it. I always add a little milk and just a teaspoon of honey to it before giving it to our little girl, lukewarm. She loves it.

Hey L.,

I have a three year old son. Ever since my son could walk we've kept the same routine. So I pretty much agree with everyone setting a routine is important. Set a time for when you give her a bath, follow by reading her a book while she lays in her bed (ask her to pick out any special book and bring any stuffed teddy bear to bed with her). Tell her its time to go night night and leave some lullaby or nice baby classical music playing (low volume). If she's not completely tired, ask her to read the story to her special teddy bear friend. Make sure you have night lights in her room and turn on a light on if needed (closet light slightly open or leave light on out in the hallway. She may cry for a bit, but should fall back asleep. Good Luck!


Hi L.!
I have a 3 year old and a 10 month old and I just wanted you to know that you are not alone in this! My 3 year old did the same thing until she was around 18 months. She would scream and cry and flop until she was just too exhausted to stay awake. (This would take up to 2 hours) It took almost 3 straight months of us putting her in her bed every single time and closing the door for her to get used to it. I refused to let anyone rock her anymore or let her sleep in the car. Now my youngest one is going through the same thing. She wants me to rock her and hold her while she sleeps. She responds pretty well to soothing music and a dark room while I stand at the crib and rub her back. It still doesn't work every time but sometimes this helps. It is still exhausting though! I just comfort myself by saying I know I will not still be doing this while she is in high school. LOL

L., my heart goes out to you! Check out "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. He gives age appropriate advice for all kinds of sleep problems.

Huge hugs to you and your daughter!

Hi, L.!
I had the same problem with my daughter, Gracie, at about the same age. I told a friend of mine (who's daughter is a few months older) about our problem, and she told me to try a bedtime routine - something you do every night right before you put your daughter to bed. This is something that will signal to her that it is bedtime, and there is no getting out of it. Our routine consists of first a diaper change, then we go get her sippy (which she helps with), then we go get her blanket, I put her in bed, put her blanket over her, give her her sippy, then her glow worm (which has been a big help in bedtime!) - all the while giving exlpainatory dialoge. ("Alright, Gracie, let's go change your diaper - Time to get your sippy! Do you want juice or milk? - Can you go get your blanket? - Up we go! - Here's your blanket - Here's your sippy - Here's your worm - Night Night, Sweet dreams!") Sometimes we throw in a "Can you go give Daddy a night night kiss?" I've found that the process doesn't work as well without the words. It took her about a week and a half to really get it, but I knew it really took when I had to take my fiancee's mother home, and I got back and she was already in bed. Apparently, she had walked her Daddy through the steps - gave him a diaper, got her sippy and gave it to him to fill, got her blanket, grabbed his hand and took him to her bed, etc. I was SO proud!
Anyway, most of the responses on here suggest a routine, so I really hope that we've been of some help! Good luck, and God bless!

We co slept with our younger boys and had the same trouble. We finally started using noise to calm them. my 5 year old liked fans but the baby likes the white noise machine.

I would sugest calling the doctor and expressing your concerns, sometimes there are medical reasons for children not sleeping at night, for example GER-or Gastroesophageal reflux, there may even be problems related to ADD. Or she simply is just not tiard enough to fall asleep. How long do you let her sleep durring the day. If she sleeps over 1 1/2 hours maybe you should cut her nap down. With my son we always have a good 30 minutes of really hard play before he goes to bed--so I can wear him out. Im sure your aware of all the other things so I would simply suggest seeing a doctor and really expressing your concerns.

I'm sorry to hear that your having problems with your little one sleeping. A friend of mine's daughter had similar problems. A therapist suggested trying Melatonin and it worked like a charm. She was about 2-3 when they started using it. Speak with your doctor and maybe this is something that might help. Melatonin is a natural supplement that doesn't have any side affects. I think it would be perfectly fine for her, but I'm no doctor, and you'd have to find out what dosage you could give her. Hope your able to find something that helps

I understand your desperation!!! I've had a lot of the same issues with my 11 month old son. I am reading the "No Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley. In this book she has lots of great, gentle ways to help your baby sleep. She also addresses the problems with the "cry it out" method. For example, most babie's with sleep issues have more to do with where they are at developmentally because they are responding to their own biological needs. It was so hard for me to let my son "cry it out." It pained me as his mother to not respond to his crying. Why should I expect my little one to soothe himself when I have to do everything else for him? Elizabeth addresses issues such as these in the book and gives tips. Also, I know that anything you do will be a process and will take time, it's not going to happen overnight. But, knowing that you could be done dealing with your daughters major sleep issues in a month or two, instead of for the next few years, is worth it!

Working on sleeping,

P.S. This book has really helped me! It finally gave another alternative to the "let them cry it out" method vs. "just deal with it!"
It let me know, there are other ways too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Maybe try getting into a bedtime routine like give her a warm bath and then lay her down in her crib and read some stories or put on some soft music and see if that helps her fall asleep.

My daughter did something similar around that age. I started her on a set schedule of bath (using the lavender/chamomile soap), read her a story while she was in her bed and then I played a CD with very soothing music. We started at the same time every night. It took about 3 days and she started going right to sleep. Hope this helps.

I think it is time to face facts and balance your child's need for comfort with her need for a healthy mom and a stable routine. You are at the end of your rope and it is not helping her. Most of the people I know who claim that they tried a cry-it-out method and it failed did not really try the method. Typically, the little one cries long enough and hard enough that the parent gives in and soothes him or her to sleep. That will never work. Have a loving, predictable bedtime routine and then you must just let her cry until she falls asleep, even if it takes hours, consistently. Every day and every night, every time. If she throws up, go in and quickly clean it up with no talking and put her back down. Seriously. This sounds so cruel and hard*ss, but she wants to learn these skills too and she can't because of the inconsistency. You will both be so much happier after a week of trial.

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