15 answers

19 Month Old Screaming His Head off at Night!

Hi moms,

My 19th month old son has been a dream sleeper for most of his short life. My husband has always been in charge of bedtime and putting him to bed, which has until recently, worked like a dream--haha. But about 8 days ago things started changing. We had the time change, which yes was hard, but something else seems to be at work here too. Our bedtime ritual has always been less is more. It was a short and sweet brush his teeth, change his diaper, put on PJ's and off to bed. And he used to fall asleep within minutes. Always at the same time of night--start at 7:30 and in bed and asleep by 8pm at the very latest. But now things are changing. He spends up to 20 minutes screaming his head off that he doesn't want to go to bed. These are bone chilling screams that go and and on. We try to comfort him with a pat on the back, back rub or soft but firm words explaining that is it time to go to bed. We keep it short and sweet, trying hard to only go into his room once--maybe twice if it lasts longer than 20min.

Then there is the nighttime sleep--last night he woke up at 1am and screamed for 20 min. Out of nowhere. He was not messy, thirsty or any of the "usual suspects". So, any helpful ideas on how to get us back on track? Also, he's waking up awfully early in the morning too. That I can deal with better than the screaming and waking before bed and during the night. Help!!

Oh, and one more thing. For the most part, his naps are normal and he takes at least one nap per day in his own crib.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hi C.,

This might sound weird, but I used to have night terrors when I was little, and it was due to a dairy allergy. I was having the night terrors 3-5 times a night, so my mom called my pediatrician. He told her to take me off dairy for a month to see how I would react, and, within a week, I was completely fine. Like I said: sounds weird, but it might be worth a try.

Good luck!

More Answers

C., he sounds like one very lucky little boy. My only tangible suggstions are to slightly lengthen his nighttime ritual. He is at an age when being up and active is SOOOO delightful - that perhaps his exploding cognitive skills are telling him - '''bed is boring- lets keep/get some action going'''. If you add one story and a quiet song - and a warm bath- -- it may help --- you are doing all the right things--

Many blessings
( and, as a retired teacher I must say- nonononon=== special ed preschool children are the BEST - lolol-- had a dear friend who worked with people in nursing homes and we had that friendly argument, many times - it's a win-win situation, isn't it???)_

1 mom found this helpful

Hi C.,

I would suspect "night terrors" if it were just the waking up at night part, but with the rest of it, I would definitely talk to your pediatrician, since something else might be going on. It could be the schedule change and needing to let him just get used to the timing, or it could just be gas, or it could be something else.

I wish you the best of luck!


Does he remember his middle of the night screaming? My son has night terrors and he has the most horrible screaming and crying but then in the morning, he doesn't remember a thing.

I would certainly try calming him down about 7:30 p.m. but not putting him to bed until 8:30 p.m. Poor little guy doesn't know the time changed. It really bothers children more than we think.

My son started doing that, and it was reflux. Worth looking into.

Hi C.,
Looks like there are some great posts below. I just wanted to add that we have experienced night terrors with my 19 month old as well. He had about 3 episodes when he was 15 months.

If his screaming in the night gets worse when you try and comfort him, it is probably night terrors. This is very common and normal. A change in schedule, being sick, teething, or lack of sleep can all increase the possibility of these episodes happening. If the episodes are happening at about the same time every night, it can help to wake him up about 10-15 minutes before he has one.

If you can't catch it and if it really is a night terror it is best to not try and comfort him, because even though it goes against every motherly instict that you'll have, comforting him will make it worse and prolong the episode.

If you try and talk to him, be very direct. Sometimes direct firm instructions to lay back down and go to sleep will work. If not, something that worked for my son was to sit on the couch with him and turn on his favorite video. It would give him something to focus on and then he would calm down and finally fully wake up.

Good luck :)

The most common culprit in sudden sleep changes like that is teething. Any time in the next year, he'll be due for his 2 year molars. They can be very bothersome at night. Check and see if his are coming in. If you are not sure, give him Motrin one night about 30 minutes before bed. If he is suddenly back to normal, then you hit the jackpot. If there is no change in him, then seek other causes.

My son just turned two and is going through something similar. He's having a hard time adjusting to change and is overly tired. He feels confused because it's an hour late to bed for him. I have shortened reading books but that didn't work so I started earlier. At 19 mos. I was getting him used to one nap instead of two and giving him more exercise because he was screaming. That seemed to help at the time now the time change is new. Plus, I read that growing pains, frustration over expressing themselves clearly, etc. might cause screaming. Good luck.

Hey C., does Alex have an ear infection?

Could he be teething?

Sounds like night terrors which is very common at this age and he will outgrow it in a few weeks to a month. They are at the age where they are comprehending more and their are having more complex dreams which can be terrifying to them. The best thing is to comfort and soothe him back to sleep so he doesn't remember them.

I would also look for signs of teething during the day. Is he putting his fingers in his mouth, drooling again, refusing foods that require a lot of chewing, etc? If so, he could be experiencing sharp pains from the teeth irritating nerves.

But, it truly sounds like night terrors which pass pretty quickly. Subconsciously he may be afraid of going to sleep therefore the disruption in the bedtime routine. This too will go back to normal, just be patient.

All I can tell you is that my son is acting the same way and he's getting his two-year-old molars. He didn't sleep through the night until he was 17 months and that coincided with his the end of his one-year-old molars coming in fully. My son is 21 months old and this started a couple of months ago. My friend's son is going through the same thing, too, and she also notices it's when he's teething. Ugh. Poor things, but at least they won't remember it! Poor us, too, for not getting sleep! If it lasts more than a week it might be something else, but if you figure out that it coincides with teething, try a bit of tylenol or motrin.


This sounds like night terrors or plain nightmares. The screaming in the middle of the night that chills the blood and takes decades off one's life very well could be night terrors. The fighting sleep at bedtime could be a new fear of he crib because he is afraid of something.

My daughter will be 20 months in a few days and has had episodes like what you describe. We started with a nightlight/dimmer switch to add some subdued light to her room. That solved some of it, then we added a CD of lullabies that played all night and that helped too. Now when she wakes up or has a hard time getting to sleep we rock and cuddle in her rocking chair in the dim room with the lullabies. It usually works, but there are some nights where we just have to let her cry herself to sleep.

Hope this helps,

Sounds like night terrors or nightmares or teetheing. I would check for his 2 year molars and if you do feel them then I would suggest giving him some motrin or tylenol. If it is night terrors do not wake him up cause it could make it worse-my son had night terrsors and I would turn on the t.v. to a kids show and he would focus on that and fully wake up and then he would sit on my lap untill he could clam down enough to go back to sleep. If nothing seems to be working then I would ask his doctor. Good luck

Hi C.,

This might sound weird, but I used to have night terrors when I was little, and it was due to a dairy allergy. I was having the night terrors 3-5 times a night, so my mom called my pediatrician. He told her to take me off dairy for a month to see how I would react, and, within a week, I was completely fine. Like I said: sounds weird, but it might be worth a try.

Good luck!

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.