21 Month Old Not Sleeping Well

Updated on August 28, 2009
J.M. asks from Whittier, CA
10 answers

Yikes. My daughter has never been a great sleeper. On a good night she will only wake up once but she throws tantrums until we give her her baba (milk). My and I wife and I are now looking to cut down on the baba usage but it has been tough. Tonight my wife spent 1 hour with her screaming in her ear until she finally fell asleep. BTW we have a 8 week old baby so that may have something to do with it but her sleep issues have been going on since 3 months of age. She has never slept well in the crib. We bought her a twin bed and she doesnt sleep well there either. She sleeps the best with my wife in our bed. Sorry if I am scatter brained but my question is, how can I get my 21 month old to sleep better without the baba in her own bed?

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hello there,

I really feel for you and I hope what has worked for me can work for you. However, my daughter is still really young to train ( 7 mos )but its always been husbands rule and has worked with everything we try to establish with our kids no matter the subject.

Its very simple: The 3-Day Rule !!
Anything we have wanted to chance with our kids its taken 3 days for them to figure out that its not going to be there way. At 2 mos my daughter slept through the night at 5 mos she started up with wanting to feed at night. It went on for 1 mos and I said no more. My husband said 3 days... So, it was the worst feeling in the world but I had to let her cry. The first day is the worst, 2nd day pretty good 3rd day great. She sleeps through the night w/o feedings. Its really tuff on the parents !!!!!
You let them cry, every 30 min. You check on them, reassure them with binky or cover them. No eye contact and walk out.If they get up you put them back in bed. They will eventually learn that it is YOUR WAY. It sounds harsh but effective. Its worked with my 4 yr old to this day.

Thats all I have for you. I wish you luck and has worked for my friends as well. Stay strong because its one of the hardest things to ignore their need for you. But it WORKS

Good Luck



answers from Honolulu on

Do you have a bedtime routine in place? Maybe you could try reading to her in bed. It might help her to feel a little more comfortable in her room. Spending more time in her room during the day might help too. It did the trick for my daughter. She didn't spend much time in her room during the day and bedtime would become such a struggle. But after a few days of playing in her room, reading her bedtime stories and waiting for her to fall asleep finally paid off. She wakes up occasionally to use the bathroom but has no problem going back to sleep in her room. As for the bottle issue, all I can say is stick to your guns. Don't give in when she cries and soon she'll realize that crying won't get her the bottle and she'll stop. It really sucks to let her cry but it's the most effective way I've seen (and tried!). Good luck!


answers from Los Angeles on

one baby waking in the night is enough! Mine is also 21 months and still wakes for a bottle about 4 nights a week. I told my dr. this knowing the answer he would give me which is that as long as we gave her the bottle, she would wake for the bottle. I've done 2 or three cry it out sessions to get her sleeping through the night but something always interferes with our progress (sickness/ vacations). I always thought there were only two philosophies: Either you believe its your job to parent no matter what time of night and to let your child cry it out is to do her phychological damage. Or you say, enough of this, and let her cry it out until she realizes you aren't coming with a bottle and though painful as it is for a few days, in the end everyone is better off including your daughter who benefits from well rested parents. But now that I'm a little more seasoned I think its not that simple. While we all want to do whats best for the child, in the end I think we do what allows us the easiest quickest way back into our own beds and at this stage its getting up to get that bottle. But with a new baby you may need to rethink it. As for me, if we had a new born I would go out of my way (CIO) to get the older one sleeping through the night because its hard enough to function with just the one newborn waking. But if you go that route, read up on it, have a plan, discuss it with your wife, pick a day you can tackle it and go in prepared. Predertermine how long you will let her cry, what intervals you will go in to soothe her. For me we did 15 min intervals, up to an hour and 15 min before giving in. Man it sucks! Good luck to you.



answers from Los Angeles on

our daughter is 20 months and has never been a great sleeper either but we chose not to bring her into bed with us unless she was relly struggling and something was wrong (teething, ear infections) or if we were somewhere other than home. she's a big girl (in the 80% on height/weight for as long as I can remember) and eats well so around 6 months or so I stopped nursing her during the night and my husband went in. sometimes I did still nurse at night if needed during the first year but not at all for at least 6 months.
we don't believe in cry it out so when she was younger, my husband would pick her up, soothe her, calm her down, put her back down and pat her butt/rub her back, sing softly, whatever to help her go back to sleep. this resulted in a mix of sleeping through the night (10-11 hours) or 1-2 wake-ups and the occasionally up a lot throughout the night, taking sometimes 45 min to go back down. I figure at this age, it could be teething, growth spurt, who knows and to just let her cry it out on her own was unfair. around 18 months we modified it so we don't pick her up when we go in, just pat her or stand next to the crib and even leaving the room for five min, back if she's crying, pat/soothe but don't pick up for five, out for five, etc. until she's down. so I suppose it's a modified ferber/CIO, but we don't increase the time nor let her cry away more than 5 min. and we only do this if nothing is wrong, if we know she's teething or sick, we don't let her cry. but if I've ruled out everything and the crying is merely a way of saying I want you here, then we do the 5 on and 5 off. we also have a blanket, some stuffed animals and a sippy cup with water in her crib. those items have really become more soothing for her over time; been there awhile but lately for example, she grabs her sippy cup and holds in for comfort.
we also modified her bedtime routine slightly around 18 months; before we sort of wore her out to get her to sleep but then we noticed she needed time to settle and quiet play after dinner and before bed was better than active play.
good luck to you, you have some great suggestions from the other mamasource members and I think the general guideline is to try something and stay consistent and stick with it awhile before trying something new. that and listen to your child and trust her; every child is different and works for one of us might not work for you, but some variation might!



answers from Los Angeles on

Honestly it may help if you (dad) take on the sleeping duty. I had a similar problem with y daughter, now 23 mos, who nursed all night in bed with me sometimes waking every hour!
This is until my husband took over night duty- when she sees him, she knows she won't get milk, so she cried but not nearly as long. The first couple of weeks were tough, and she still does wake up, but now he just puts her back into her crib and she falls back asleep, no fuss. After a few weeks of Dad doing night duty, I could be with her again and tell her " no milk now, sleep first" or "milk is sleeping, 5 o'clock" and she would protest a bit but go back to sleep. She is definitely more willing to sleep with my husband than with me- she tries much harder to persuade me to give her milk.

Hope this helps!

Around 5 she wakes up and I give her milk since she really is hungry by then. But it's much much improved.



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi J.'s husband,
I just finished reading the books Baby Wise, and Baby Wise 2, and it has some great info on sleep training. The second book would be probably more where your daughter is at this point. There are also two other books that were recommended to me on this subject: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and The Happiest Baby on the Block. I am hoping to get these both read before our little one arrives in January so I do not have to go through what you two are.
From what I have learned the most successful programs keep your child on a consistent schedule during the day of wake, eat, play, and then sleep. You limit the routine to about every three hours, adjusting the hours of sleep and wake time as your child gets older. Since your DD is nearly two, she may need fewer naps during the day. From what I read she should be taking one afternoon nap of about 2-3 hours.
Also, make sure she is getting plenty of food during the day, and offer her a protein snack before bedtime such as cheese, cottage cheese, unsweetened yogurt, etc. in place of the milk. That will fill her up more before she goes to bed and give her the calcium to help her sleep.
Right now it sounds like she has developed a bad habit, and you may need to let her cry it out for a few days. If she is crying for longer than 30 minutes, than it may be that she is hungry (possibly going through a growth spurt) and needs a snack. So feel free to give her a little something and see how she does. If she's truly hungry she will eat and so that means that you may need to up her food consumption the next day so that she is fully satiated at night. If you try and feed her and she is resisting, that means that she is wanting attention, and if you and your wife keep running to her, this may be prompting this behavior to continue. If this is the case, and she cries longer than 30 minutes, do not pick her up. Have her lay down in her crib, give her a gentle pat on the back, and sit in the room with her, but don't touch her. Let her know that you are there, but that she needs to sleep and then leave the room. Eventually she will cry herself to sleep and will get into the sleep routine. Also, please keep in mind that a good night's sleep is critical for a growing baby. It will affect her mood during the day, as well as her mental functioning, and her overall health. An overly tired child is very susceptible to illness and so having your DD sleep through the night is for her own health.



answers from Los Angeles on

I would let her keep her baba for now..b/c at 21/22 months all toddlers seem to go through some anti sleep phase..especially naps..this is when a lot of parents are freaking out thinking their toddler has quit napping ...its something about this age..i would let her use her baba but i would try to get her into her bed..my son stayed in his crib til he was 3..i let him keep his baba for a long time...then i just faded it out instead of cold turkey. What i do now at 3.5 is i let him crash out on the couch..i give him choices..so he can choose between 2..i say..either you go off to bed or you fall asleep right here on the couch...then he chooses the couch and he does go to sleep...but he is older and probably understands more..as soon as your daughter gets older she'll understand and it does get easier..but i would work on getting her out of your bed and into her bed then i would work on the baba.



answers from San Diego on

Toss the bottle if you like, but DON'T quit feeding on demand. She's waking up hungry. Feed her.

Be that warm milk, or solid food. Her brain, neurons, (not to mention muscles/bones/and organs) are all growing at a tremendous rate. So make sure whatever it is, is high in proteins and fats (like whole milk)...because it's EXACTLY what she needs.

One trick for longer sleep is to give her her fill of warm milk (or a small substantial meal...not fruit type which has little substance and is mostly sugar and water and gets digestedin no time flat) right before bed.

Another is check the mattress. Compare laying in hers versus laying in yours. Much of a difference?



answers from Los Angeles on

Hello! I hope you don't take this the wrong way but.. TAKE THE BABA AWAY! lol It's always easier said than done, but she is too old for that. As a former dental assistant (and current mother of three lol) I can tell you that her teeth are going to suffer because of this. It will be hard, I know (really, I do!!) but do NOT give in. Once you take it away, stand your ground and do not give it to her. You might want to have her throw it away, or watch you throw it (or them) away, or just tell her they're all gone, but whatever you do, if you give in, then try it again at a later date, she'll remember that crying/screaming/hitting/kicking/whatever worked last time and she got it back, and she will try that tactic again. When my older ones were little, I would put them to bed, then stay a few minutes and gently rub their backs and whisper about our day (ie- "we had a good day at the park today, you were such a good girl/boy, and I can't wait to have another good day tomorrow." In my mind, I think it's better to go to sleep with happy thoughts! lol)and play with their hair. I have noticed that gently rubbing their heads or running my fingers through their hair really relaxed them, as did running my index finger down their forehead and stopping at the end of their nose. It's a natural reflex to close your eyes when something is near them, so when you do that (running your finger along the head), they close their eyes (of course they open them when you get to the nose, but each time you do it, it's harder and harder for them to keep their eyes open)and eventually go to sleep. Of course, I must point out that this does not work on thrashing kids! Only on kids that are calm and relaxed already. So, getting to that point is hard, but you can do it!!! Good luck!!!



answers from Los Angeles on

I suggest that you purchase a wonderfull book that helped our son with his sleeping issues. It is called "Healthy sleep habits, Happy Baby."By Dr. Weissbluth . This is a very informative book about sleep in general and it explains the science of sleep and how to help your child sleep through the night until adulthood. It is pretty lengthy but totally worth it!My son has been sleeping through the night since i read this book when he was six months old, with the exception of illness, teething,ETC.

Hope this helps,

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