Night Waking/Screaming

Information about a how to get a once solid sleeper back to sleep in the middle of the night.

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*Important Message from Park Slope Parents (PSP): Just a reminder, PSP member posts are not checked for accuracy. The content is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. is not intended to, and does not, provide medical advice diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on the PSP Yahoo! Group or on the website.


From the original poster who had a little one with trouble sleeping:

"Thanks so much to everyone who answered my informal survey on how your 14-month-old sleeps. Our situation has not improved – waking screaming between 3:30-4AM and not going back to sleep. Changing his bedtime, picking him up, letting him cry, shushing, backrubbing, milk, bringing into our bed etc – none have had much effect. For about 7 months he was sleeping through from 8PM-5AM and then he just stopped. Naps haven't changed -2 hrs total in 1-2 naps. Doctor says it must be developmental as there's nothing medically wrong with him. Thanks again everyone, particularly the parents of other bad sleepers, who do make me feel better!



Find additional online resources to help you:

"One place I have really found a lot of help is the website for the Baby Whisperer books ( There are message boards devoted purely to toddler sleep issues. While you may not want to use baby whisperer methods (which have been really helpful for us, but may not be for everyone), the nessage boards provide an excellent place to see problems that others are having, how they've solved them, and to ask and receive advice. Just reading entries has often helped me come up with different strategies, etc."


Follow a sleeping philosophy (e.g. a gentle version of cry it out, Ferber):

"My daughter is a few months older now but when she was that age: Bedtime : 8.30-9 Wake time 7-7.30 Around that time she started transitioning from 2 to 1 nap. About 2.5 hours of daytime sleep. Rare if no night wakings. If she did wake we always waited a few minutes before going in. Usually she went back to sleep in under 2 minutes. (We timed everything). We probably went in once every 6-8 months. Effect of illness, teething etc. Little to no effect. We gave her Tylenol at bedtime when needed. We still held the rule of not rushing in right away. Again, usually went back to sleep in a minute or two. We probably had 1 incident in a year where we had to go in and hold her, and that was when she had a very high fever. In our experience, our ped was right. Let them comfort themselves and they totally get the hang of it. We also made sure not to put her to bed too early, as then they are bound to wake up as they have really had enough sleep. We followed Ferber's charts for how many hours of sleep are needed for different ages."


Sleep may be impacted by development changes such as teething:

"Our 15 month old daughter goes to sleep around 8 pm and usually gets up between 6 and 6:30. However, she's not really ready to wake up at 6:30 so she'll nurse/sleep in my bed until 7 ish. I wish I could figure out how to get her to sleep until 7 when she'll actually be awake. Unfortunately, by then, she won't go back to sleep and leaving her to cry isn't really an option since she'll wake her older sister who will then be cranky... So for now, this works best. Naps are not quite as good. She's usually ready for a nap by 10:30 or earlier but if she naps early, she won't nap for more than an hour or so and then will refuse to nap for the rest of the day, resulting in a very cranky child by 4 or 5. So, we try to keep her up until at least 12 and then she'll usually nap for about 2 hours. Teething definitely affects her sleep - she'll wake up several times a night when teething. We've found that the homeopathic drops - Camilia help for teething - and Motrin if it gets bad.* Also, I find she naps better if she's had a good night of sleep - sleep begets sleep, as they say."


Here's a sleeping and eating schedule that worked for one PSP parent:

"My son is 13-months-old and here's what his sleep schedule looks like: Bed time: In bed by 7pm. Sometime he's out like a light, other times he'll roll around and yammer to himself till 7:30 or 8:00. Wake time: Most days between 6am and 7am. Occasionally he tortures us with a 5:30 wake-time. I try to ignore him till 6, though. Night-wakings: He's usually pretty good. He will sometimes wake up, stand up, cry for short periods of time between 8 and midnight. I think he's doing this in his sleep, so I try to ignore him for at least 10 minutes before checkingon him. He has woken up at 2 or 3 occasionally over the past few months. I think it's usually related to cutting a new tooth. After a change and a bottle he's usually asleep again pretty quick. Naps: 2 a day, most days. The first is around 9am and he's out for an hour or so. The second is around 3ish and it's usually about an hour, too. He's the best napper for his caregiver. When I'm home or both my husband and I are home, he's less consistent--skipping a nap, taking shorter naps. It's totally frustrating! Teething: Always messes his sleep up a bit. I attached a teething ring to his crib and have the Oragel at the ready if he needs it--and Tylenol. Full belly: If my son zonks out too early--before he's finished his milk--he often will wake up. His doc recommended giving him a super-filling dinner involving pasta or rice to help him full and asleep.

bed time: 8:00pm
-wake time: 6:30am or 7:00am
-any night-wakings: 1:30am and sometimes at 3:00am (luckily last night she slept through the night!)
- nap time(s) & length(s): 10:30am - 12:30am; 4:00pm - 5:00pm
- your thoughts on the influence of teething or any other issues that affect quality of your child's sleep: I do believe teething has played a big role in her wakefulness. I also think we need to consolidate her naps and try to put her to bed earlier, but this is a difference my husband I have at this point that we have not fully resolved!"


and another schedule:

"I have a 14months old boy, breastfeeding still, eating solid foods and with a hard time sleeping naps and at night. This is our lately schedule, he is transitioning to one nap a day now:
6:00 am nurses back to sleep sometimes
7:45 am wakes up if he fall sleep before, sometimes nurses
8:15 am breakfast
12:00 snack
12:30 nap (sometimes 1.5 to 2 hrs and nurses to sleep)
3:00 lunch
5:00 snack + nurses sometimes
7:00 dinner
8:00 nurses to sleep
* after his bedtime he can wake up in the middle of the night one to three times and I try to leave him so that he can learn how to fall back sleep but it is very hard..."


and another:

"We never sleep trained our 13 month old and his nighttime sleeping is pretty bad still (although there were two months of sleeping through the night for some reason between 4 and 6 months). He goes down sometime between 8 - 8:30, we basically cuddle him to sleep in our bed then move to crib in his room. Up again at 11:30, then in our bed and nursing, then nursing and nursing and nursing and up "officially" at 7:30. When we put him back in his crib rather than keeping him in our bed after the 11:00 waking, he probably sleeps until 3:00 then up, nurse and 7:30. He naps OK - either one two hour nap or two 1+ hour naps during the day."


One member shares what is NOT working for them and might be making the situation worse:

"My 12.5 month old takes two naps a day--morning (usually abt an hour) and 3:00PMish (usually an hour to 2 hours). In recent weeks the morning nap has been getting shorter, and lately he's been skipping it. He has never slept through the night. We put him to sleep at 8PM and he typically wakes up at 11, then again at 3 AM (when he demands to be pulled into bed with us) and around 4:30-5:00 AM he's ready to get up and play (AAGGHHH!!!). If we're really insistent sometimes he'll go back to sleep until 6:30. I haven't slept morethan 3 hours consecutively since he was born, but I'm weirdly used to it...His pediatrician says it's perfectly fine to give him 1/2 teaspoon of Benydryl at night, but so far we have been conservative and not done it. Still it's nice to know the option exists if we start to really lose it from sleep deprivation: you can ask your own
Dr. if the idea syncs with your child-raising philosophy. Our boy is 31", 29 pounds, FYI, so you know the ratio. Of course it goes w/o saying never give more than perscribed:). Many babies sleep through the night by this age, but not sleeping much at night, even as old as 2 years, isn't too unusual either. Some things we ruefully acknowledge we are doing that have exacerbated the situation:
1) we never did the "cry it out" method. Can't, actually, because we have tenants upstairs who would also end up crying...
2) we're suckers for letting him crawl into bed with us instead of firmly and consistently redirecting him to his own bed.
3) we let him have milk if he's hungry instead of training him to not eat during late-night wakeups."


Every child is different!

"Here is my 14 mo schedule, however let me preface it by saying every kid is different! I have 2 kids and their sleeping patterns, from day one, have been completely different even though I did everything the same. My daughter has been difficult and although we never truly did CIO, we did do a "send dad in and rub her back while she cries for mommy/nursing for as much as 15-20 minutes" routine for about a week. Now she goes down at 6:30, wakes at 4 am for nursing, back down until 6:30/7. Naps for an hour at 9 am and and 1.5 hours at 1 pm. FWIW, my son slept through the night at 6 weeks but never took a nap (at least nothing more than a 20 minute snooze in the stroller) until he was 2. Now, at age 4, he is one of the few of his friends who still naps 1.5 hours in the afternoon."



""Children are SO different from each other. My daughter didn't sleep through the night 'til she was 4 years old. My son started sleeping through the night when he was about 6 weeks old. My daughter started day care when she was 21 months old from 1:00 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. She and I would stay up until midnight or 1 in the morning, and sleep in 'til 10 or 11 a.m. My son was on a much more normal schedule as a baby and young child, and then had much trouble around sleep many years later when learning disabilities appeared. My daughter never slept more than 11 hours a day from the time she came home; my son often slept more than that. My daughter gave up naps relatively early - and only learned to nap again when she went away to college(and had to learn!) I definitely think teething, illness, emotional stress, and many other things can affect sleep greatly. For babies and everyone!


Try a different sleeping setup:

"Our girls sleep between 8-8:30 every night until 6:30-7:00 am. One of them still wakes once to have a bottle in the middle of the night (they were born premature and she is quite small and a terrible sleeper so we're we're not ready to get her off it). She sleeps in her own room on a mattress on the floor (she sleeps best there -- never loved her crib) and when we go into give her a bottle she either falls back asleep and we put her back down or -- and this happens quite often -- she is very difficult to get back down and we end up one of us sleeping with her and settling her back down 2-3 more during the night. I'd consider her a pretty bad sleeper as far as things go. Most days she sleeps 2 naps a day but lately it's very difficult to get her down for her morning nap, in which case she takes one 2 hour nap in the afternoon. Our other daughter does not have a bottle but wakes once around 1am and comes into bed with my husband and me. She sleeps the rest of the night but sometimes wakes 1-2 times and we just give her a snuggle or a paci. She naps 2 naps a day (morning - 1 hour, afternoon - 1.5 hour). Teething definitely
messes things up. Since our "bad sleeper" can already be up so much, it's hard to notice the difference, but with our "good sleeper," she is really rough when teething. She'll stay up late (9-10) and wake up screaming 2-3 times per night and is difficult to get back down. We have struggled with everything we can think of to make things better and actually this is a huge improvemetn over how they used to be, if you can believe. We've figured out a way to deal with it, though, and I'm pretty confident this kind of thing is not that abnormal. A lot of parents under-report their young kids' night- waking and definitely the "experts" make it seem like there are a lot of perfect sleeping kids out there... I'm not so sure."


Take motrin or tylenol for the teething pain*:

"My daughter is 17 months old, but her sleep schedule has been about the same since around her first birthday, when she gave up her second nap. she sleeps 7 to 7, give or take a half hour both at bedtime and morning. she's been a good sleeper since we did sleep-training for about 3 nights. we've had to do a couple stints of "cry-it-out" (maybe 15 minutes) since then. that was long ago, definitely before she turned 1. naps: she sleeps 1 to 2 hours between 11:30 and 1:30. She will only sleep in the stroller. also, she uses a pacifier at night. I think that's going to be a hard habit to break, but we're going to do that after a trip to the midwest next week. she no longer gets the pacifier for her nap and that's been ok. teething does cause problems, but motrin or tylenol usually does the trick."