17 Month Old Is Not Sleeping Through the Night.

Updated on January 25, 2009
C.D. asks from Magnolia, TX
17 answers

My 17 month old baby girl does not sleep through the night. She wakes up every three hrs for milk. I have tried putting baby cereal or cream of wheat in her soy milk before bedtime...she still wakes up two-three times a night for milk. I've tried leaving her a bottle of water to drink and this worked only for one month. I've tried feeding her mashed potatoes to ensure that she is full and still she manages to wake up wanting her milk. I've tried simply consoling her and laying her back down. I've tried changing her diaper and laying her back down only for her to wake up 10-15 minutes later seeking milk. I try pushing the time of when I offer her the milk to where she doesn't get a bottle until close to 4:00a.m. or if I can push it, 6:00 a.m. If it's not the milk she seeks, she can't find her pacifier in the dark. Or, when she is sick...forget about sleep. I must awaken for some reason or another about 6-10 times during her periods of illness from a cold. HELP.

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So What Happened?

I left out a ton of other pertinent information about my 17 month old. First of all, her crib is in our bedroom. So, when she awakens, she'll stand up facing our bed and start making whimpering noises which subsequently grows into an all out cry. Obviously, it's hard to ignore this crying because she's right there. We need to get the vent fixed in her room as she currently has the coldest room in the house. Until then, we have to try ignoring the crys. My hubby usually can't take it and goes to take action.

Anyway, I have her water in a sippy cup, but she knows that it's not milk so she ignores it. Putting juice in her bed helped, but I was told to stop this because of the sugar and cavity factor. As of today, I'll start putting her milk in a sippy cup and see what happens. Otherwise, I do put more than one pacifier in her crib, but lately they have come up missing as she gives it to the dog or throws it out at the mall or just dumps it somewhere else in the house.

Her meals have been as such: She eats a hot cereal for breakfast and she eats at daycare for lunch and gets an afternoon snack after 1, two hour nap. When I pick her up she is hungry and in some cases sleepy. Sometimes, she has spaghetti noodles w/marinara sauce and a piece of meatball, but she'll spit meat out on occasion just wanting the carbs. I try giving her what is on our plate like fish or small pieces of chicken for protein or when all else fails, I'll give her almond butter, which she loves either by itself or with some crackers. I'll give her some of the graduates or earth's best 3rd stage foods, but it's not easy getting her to eat this. So, I've stopped buying them as it's become a wasteful food. She just really doesn't like them. Periodically, I tend to get where I don't know what to offer her. She loves it when I make steel oats oatmeal and give her scrambled eggs and cheese for dinner. She likes sweet potatoes,spinach,peas,carrots and rice. Anyway, getting her full at night is determined from what happens once she gets in the car. Last night, for example, after picking her up from day care and getting her in the car, I gave her soy yogurt. She said um, with each bite. She got her pacifier and went fast to sleep on the way home around 7:00 p.m. This is extremely early for a night owl who tends not to sleep until close to 10:00 p.m. Some nights it could almost be midnight if she was asleep on the way home and stayed asleep for an hour and then woke up to hang out with us around 8PM or 9PM...mainly to eat a real meal. Otherwise, I usually can give her whole grain goldfish until we get home and she'll stay up until she gets sleepy.

Her Gastroenterologist states that she should not be drinking milk every 2-3 hrs at night and says I need to stop this. However, he gave me no suggestions on how. Her Pediatrician is the one that suggested the water idea that only worked for a month. Nonetheless, thanks for the prompt responses and all of your advice. Now that you have a new perspective on her habits, do you have any more advice?

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answers from Austin on

Does she know how to get to sleep on her own? The awakenings are probably not hunger-related, probably just habitual. You might try simply refusing the milk at night. This may make for a few rough nights, but if you are committed and see it through, she will get the message. If she doesn't know how to go to sleep on her own (without rocking, bottle, etc.) you may need to teach her. Email me if you want more info on that, but we have used Baby Whisperer techniques and they have worked great. Also, with my sons, we put several pacifiers in their beds so they can always find one. Good luck!!



answers from Houston on

I know this sounds harsh but have you thought about just letting her cry it out and learn to sooth herself. I have been through it 3 times I am a 38 year old mother of 3 boys 18,15,13. It is always tough with young ones. You may have a week of crying then peace. Once they relize milk is not coming they won't even wake up...habit stopped.

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answers from Killeen on


Here is my 2 cents on how to change your child's sleeping behavior. My son (now 2 1/2) is a beautiful sleeper & stays in his bed all night long without waking us up. I promise you, that was not the case for the first 17 months of his life! He used to wake me up at LEAST twice in a night to retrieve his pacifier & blanket he would throw out of his crib. I used to feel bad for him and thought he wouldn't be able to fall back asleep without his pacifier if I didn't give it to him, so I would go in there and give in every time. My husband and I finally got fed up with it after so many interrupted nights of sleep and decided to do the "necessary" and stop going in his room when he cried. Deep down inside we knew that we were reinforcing this behavior and the only way to change it was to give him a clear message that his behavior is not correct when it's time to sleep. I think you would probably agree (as would your pediatrician) that your child does NOT need milk at night due to hunger & it could also cause cavities in her teeth from the sugar sitting on them all night. She is playing you for attention - that's all. :)

Here's my advice:

The best way to get your child to stop waking up all night is to stop responding to it. Every time you go in & give in to the undesired behavior, your reinforce it. I learned this quickly with my son when I stopped responding to his negative behaviors. He realized that my husband and I did not support what he was doing, so he eventually stopped since it there was no more reason to wake up. I recommend waiting until a weekend to work on the change (if no one works then.

Plan A:

This plan worked the best for us and is the overall simplest (but not emotionally):

When she cries, do not respond. Do not go in her room. Let her cry it out. It should only take a few days, but she will learn that no one is coming in her room anymore and will get the message that there is no point in waking up anymore. It took my son approximately 3-4 days, then suddenly: NO MORE WAKING!!! It was beautiful!!

Plan B:

If you want to do this gradually (and I mean not more than a few days of this), then try this:

First time she cries, go to her room and state (in the dark without picking her up) "It's night night time. Mommy and Daddy are sleeping and you (her name) needs to sleep, too. Goodnight - I love you". LEAVE THE ROOM!

Second time (after she finally settles back down from the first time because she will cry since she's used to you coming in there & giving her milk), just state "Night Night Time". LEAVE.

Third time - DO NOT GO IN! :) It will seem very painful, but let her cry it out. Do this for any subsequent wakings.

I am not saying this will be easy, but who ever told us parenting would be easy? :) I just told myself that this will be the first of many times I have to take charge of the situation and do what may be emotionally hard for me, but what is ultimately best for our child. Don't feel guilty or worried that she is hungry - as long as you have fed her her normal meals in the day, she will be fine. It won't take as long as you think and you will look back on this and say "why didn't I do this earlier!"

I wish you all the best of luck. Be strong about it and don't go back on your old ways once you decide to do it.

Happy sleeping....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Your daughter is not spoiled.
People have already told you that her crib needs to be put back in her own room ASAP.

Your daughters schedule is out of wack. She is sleeping for an hour in the evening and eating a snack when she should be eating dinner.

When you pick up your daughter, do not allow her to fall asleep in the car. Turn on the inside light in the car if you have to. Sing songs with her. Ask her questions.

Do not give her much of a snack, this is interfering with her dinner. Just give her a small amount of watered down juice if she will not drink water.

When you get home, eat dinner as soon as possible. This means have food "mostly" prepared. This means you need to make out a menu for the week and decide what you will eat each night. Pop it in the microwave and eat. Feed your daughter what you eat.If your daughter will not eat what you all eat feed her oatmeal. DO NOT make her something special. This will just lead to another problem later. Make sure she drinks a big glass of milk.

Take her directly to the bathroom. Get her ready for her bath and keep her calm. Remind dad as long as he riles her up it will take double that time to calm her down. Children cannot calm down in a moment, just cause you say playtime is over. You have to allow them time. Turn down the lights, do not have the TV on very loud.

In the bathroom, do not play very loudly with her.
Give her a very warm bath and use strong strokes like a massage. Once bath is over, wrap her in her towel and carry her directly to her bedroom. Have the lights low. Have quiet music playing or a white noise machine going. Dry her off with very strong strokes. Speak in softer tones. Put her in pj's give her her binky and lovey. Sit next to her crib and read her a book. Do not engage her. We learned that on each page if we read slower and slower, our daughter would become very sleepy.

Do this EVERY night. Even on the weekends. This is why parents do not get to go out with young children, cause the babies do better with the same schedule. If you do go out. try to have the babysitter follow the exact schedule.

If she wakes up at night, let her cry for a while. I do suggest you put a ton of binkys in her crib so she can always find one. Do not allow the dog to go in her room at night. If you go in to check on her, do not speak with her.Do not turn on any lights even in the hallway. Lay her down give her the binky and cover her up. Try not to give her anything to drink at night. If you do, just a little bit of water.
Start this on the weekend so you will have a few days to get used to this routine.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Good morning C.,
you might try putting her to bed with a sippee cup instead of a bottle, and her favorite dolly to may need an empty sippee cup.



answers from Odessa on

my 3 year old wakes me up STILL about 2 or 3 times a night.
some kids just don't sleep. I now have a new baby (almost 5 mos.) I have to nurse him about twice a night. I feel like I haven't slept in 3 years. Seriously. I probably haven't slept more than 4 straight hours of uninterrupted sleep since I was pregnant with her. I am now totally used to waking up about 5 or 6 times a night for both children combined. It sucks. the only thing that helps me is drinking 3 huge cups of coffee in the morning. Welcome to my world. :( i hope she grows out of it for you though. Sorry I didn't have any good advice...but I feel for ya.



answers from Houston on

Hi C.,
Oooh, been there, done that...doing it again. I have 3--the first one never napped and would only sleep if I was sleeping with her. The second one woke many, many times each night until we found out she had sleep apnea and then we corrected it. The third one...well, we're still trying to figure him out. (He's 7 mos.)

So....here's some suggestions/questions:

First, if she is seeing a gastroenterologist, does she have an underlying medical condition that is interfering with sleep? My first one did--she had multiple protein sensitivity and severe reflux....not very conducive to good sleeping patterns.

Second, does your child snore? If so, ask your doctor about sleep apnea. (They typically just remove the adenoids for that. It made all the difference in my 2nd kiddo and she does not get sick nearly as often!)

Third, consider that maybe something in your room is keeping her awake. Do you or your husband snore? That could be waking her. Or perhaps your room is too warm? Too cold? Or just the idea that you are right there...

Lastly, it could just be a phase. Or, it could just be that your kiddo doesn't sleep well and hasn't learned to soothe herself back to sleep. If she needs a pacifier to sleep, put a bunch of them in the crib with her. That's what I did with my 2nd one and it helped. (We also used a breathable bumper pad to keep them in the crib.) I would not give her milk during the night. It sounds like she is getting enough to eat during the day and she should not be waking to eat at night. I think her "need" for milk is a means of trying to sooth herself. Try new things--add lullaby music, a different night-time routine, a special sleepy time bear, etc.

Hang in there, it will get better. PM me if you continue to have trouble. Maybe I can come up with some more ideas for you.




answers from Austin on

You got a lot of good advice, starting with the "move her out of your room" suggestion. I have only a few additional thoughts to help you make the hard decisions. My grandson was a 2 time a night wakerupper and my daughter is a soft hearted mom like you. I went to visit to give her and her husband some down time. They left for a night out of town (to sleep!) and she was so worried that I would be up all night with the little tiger that she said she would be back the next day. He never woke up. So she stayed away another night. He never woke up. Well 3 in a row had never happened. He never woke up for the 8 days I was there. When I left, he woke up again. so it is a bad case of mommyitis. when he came here with them, I put him in an alcove off our room and the parents up stairs. he never woke up until he had been here a week. I went in and said, "not time to get up yet, nightie night". and left and never heard another word.
Food is totally unnecessary in the middle of the night. sippy cup with water, OK. The pacifier should stay in the crib all of the time. That self soothing is necessary at night and not during the day. If she needs the pacifier, then she has to go to her room to use it. Sounds harsh, but there needs to be a separation between sleepy time and wake up and do something times. You will get more bang from the binky if you limit it to bed time.
I hope this encourages you to stay strong and recognize that being sleepless is doing neither of you any good. Good luck.



answers from Chicago on

Try Brazelton's book on sleep. It's short, to the point and is much less hard-core than the cry it out methods.



answers from San Antonio on

It sounds like your daughter is used to having you around (a lot) in the middle of the night. Double check with your pediatrician, but if she is at good weight and growth for 17 months, she doesn't waken to eat. She wakes up b/c the frequent awakenings are part of her body clock now. And she gets to have you come to her when she wakes up. An extra plus (for her, not you.)
You might try shortening her afternoon nap time a bit, or making sure nap isn't too late in the day. She needs to be tired and full before bed.
Lots of books out there that talk about breaking the separation anxiety at night. Dr. Sears, T. Berry Brazelton, the "What to Expect...." series.



answers from Houston on

Just read your update. The solution is quiet simple. Fix the vent and stop giving her milk.
If the problem is that heat is not getting to her room dress her very warm and put a heater in there (she's in the crib so she won't be able to hurt herself on it) If that's not acceptable then you need to fix the vent, whatever it takes. You will not be able to move on until you do.
Secondly, stop giving her milk. I have seen children whose teeth have all rotted out d/t juice and milk. Milk also has a ton of sugar in it (lactose?). Please follow the advice of your dr. it doesn't sound like she's hungry to me at all, just desirous of your attention.
Good luck.



answers from Beaumont on

sounds like she's hungry...what, how often, and how much is she eating during the day?



answers from Austin on

Hi C.!
I have 3 children and one on the way! They are 5, 4,(girls) and 2 (boy). I may be way wrong here..... But, some children are very, very bright. I would say the reason the water worked for a month was because she may just be testing her boundries, and toddlers generally do not like change. I know it sounds crazy. My children are constantly suprising me by how mentally aware they are. You may try either exchanging it for a soft tip sippy cup w/ extremely watered down juice or stay with the bottle depending on how headstrong she is (pick your battles). I would definitely cut off the middle of the night milk. She will loose interest if you don't back down of the no middle of the night milk policy. I always had a hard time at around 18 months they start transitioning into toddlers and I still see my newborn baby! They just grow up so fast mom! Don't worry though this is the funnest and cutest stages ever coming around 18 months - 4 years old are Awesome! Just get through this...



answers from Odessa on

Dear C.,

You daughter is SPOILED. And she is spoiled because of your needs, not hers. At 1 year, she should have been off the bottle. She should’ve been on table foods and not an alternate meal than you and your husband. You have a lot of work on your hands. This transition will be harder on you than her but it’s vital to not only your relationship with your daughter but your relationship with your husband and his with her as well. I have a feeling that you’re also struggling with discipline, too. Take my advice, use what you will and I assure you, you’ll have a better family dynamic.

1. Get her off the bottle. She should have milk from a cup with her meals. For breakfast, it doesn’t take a lot of time to scramble eggs and I buy the mini pancakes by Kellogg’s and my kids eat them up. I fill their cups the night before and they’re ready to just grab in the morning. Lunch usually consists of leftovers from the night before and a cup of milk, and dinner is a hot meal (whether I prepare it from scratch, a box, frozen or take-out with the family. My kids get juice in a cup or a juice box with their snacks at 10:00am and 3:00pm. They drink water throughout the day when they are thirsty.

2. I can’t believe the hours of sleep she is losing by staying up to “hang out with you”. Get her out of your room. If it’s cold in her room, put her in footed pajamas and give her a blanket. She should be getting at least 13 hours of sleep including naps. Kids, like adults, thrive on a schedule. My kids have always had a schedule and they are a delight to be around. Our schedule for my 1year old twins: up around 7:00am, have breakfast, play, snack about 10:00 then down for a 2 hour nap. 12noon: up and have lunch, play, activities and nap about 2:30 for 30 min-1hour then have a snack about 3:00. They get nothing else except water until dinner which is around 6:00pm. As soon as they have their dinner, they have bath time and go to bed. They are in bed at or before 7:00 and they sleep through the night. My 7 and 2 year old are in bed by 7:30. My kids become BEARS if we deviate from routine. This may sound very strict, but my kids have set this schedule for themselves. Take a week to observe. Sit and watch your daughter. Keep a pad nearby to write down when she’s cranky, when she eats, when she’s tired. I promise you, she’ll be consistent with her behavior and actions which you in turn can adapt as her schedule. It doesn’t matter that she’s in daycare. At daycare, they are on the same routine every day and she does great…because she is on a schedule there…get it? Be consistent. The time we spend as a family is wonderful because my kids are rested, well fed, and content.

You can do this. It’s going to be hard because not only are you trying to handle a 17 month old and her normal pattern of development, but you now have to fix the things that should have been transitional over the last 17 months. I hope I have not come across as bitchy or snooty. I have learned from experience and I think sometimes it’s easier to just have it spelled out.

BTW I'm 39 with 4 amazing kids, my 7yo is profoundly handicap and I have an amazing relationship with my husband. He adores his children and his wife.



answers from Houston on

Hi C.,

From what you have said in your update, it sounds to me like she is just waking up because she knows you're there and will interact with her. At 17 months old, she does not need to eat in the middle of the night. I would not give her anything in the middle of the night except water, but even that is creating an interaction and that just needs to stop altogether if you ever want to get any sleep.

Is her room really that cold? Can you put her in footed pajamas and put a blanket on her and put her back in her room or is there another room in the house (a guest room perhaps) that you could put her bed in for the time being until the vent is fixed? As long as she can see you when she gets up, it is going to be much harder to ignore her and get her to go back to sleep on her own.

Now, as for the milk in the middle of the night. You simply don't give it to her. Whoever told you no juice in a cup at night should have said no milk too because both will rot their teeth if it stays in their mouth. If you have tried the water and it has stopped working, then that is your cue that she is just waking up to play or cuddle. Give her some milk before bed and then brush her teeth and get her to bed. Make sure you have a bedtime routine so that she knows what to expect each and every night. When she wakes up, give her a few minutes to see if she will go back down on her own. If she is just whining, then I would turn the monitor down and ignore it altogether. If she is really fussing, then wait a couple of minutes and then go in and give her back her pacifier and lay her back down. Don't talk to her and don't get her out of her bed. This is going to take a few nights and she will probably cry harder when you leave, but you have to teach her how to get back to sleep by herself. She has relied on you and/or food in the past and has not learned how to do this herself. If you have further questions about how to do this, PM me and I will give you more info.

The bottom line is that you need to get her into her own room or another room where you are out of sight. Don't give her any milk in the middle of the night anymore...just work with her to help her learn how to get to sleep without it. Good luck. You're going to have to get your hubby on board for a few nights of crying in order for this to work. My husband can be like that too in the middle of the night (the savior), but it undermines their ability to learn to do it themselves.

I also noticed that she will sometimes sleep on the way home or late in the evening. You need to try to avoid this at all costs. Talk to her, entertain her...whatever you have to do to keep her awake. Then, get her some dinner and get her to bed earlier. That could be part of the problem as well. They tend not to sleep as well when they are overtired, so going to bed at 10pm may be too late for her. Try keeping her up in the evenings and getting her to bed around 8-8:30 and see if that helps.



answers from San Antonio on

I don't think she's hungry... I think she wants the comfort and attention from mommy. Try not to let her take long naps during the day. She may have her days and nights confused. I hope this helps.

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answers from Austin on

Has your pediatrician put her on solid foods primarily?
My twins used to eat vanilla yogurt before bed every night at that age it is mild on the stomach but has a bit of protein so it stays with them longer than ceral and potatoes which are high in carbs. Mine were on soy formula too but sometimes its just not enough as they get bigger. I just wonder if the pediatrician has any good advice for that since I am not a medical professional I do not know her allergy or medical history. I highly recommend Chisolm Trail Pediatrics in Georgetown if you want an office that really cares about the parents input as well as the patient.
HAVING SAID THAT, if the pediatrician thinks her diet is fine then I would agree with the other Moms that she may be used to getting your attention at night. I used to put them down with two board books in the crib and they often fell back asleep looking at the pictures with the night light on.
Good Luck

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