Wondering how to help your 14 month old waking up at night, inconsolably crying and screaming for hours? Check out these effective tips!
What gives? You ask yourself.
Your 14 month old has suddenly started waking up screaming at the same time every night for the past week. The pattern has been all over the map—one night she might wake up once, but other nights she can cry every hour. The wake ups are driving everyone in the house nuts.
She might even be waking up at night for milk, a habit you definitely don’t want to encourage at this stage. Giving in is the only thing that calms her down to go to sleep—if you don’t give her a bottle, she cries inconsolably for mommy or daddy and won’t go back to sleep.
You’re not getting much sleep—no wonder you’re at your breaking point with her behavior.
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How to handle your 14 month old waking up at night
I remember feeling like I was back in the newborn stage when my son suddenly started waking up at night. My usual eight-hour stretch of nighttime sleep was getting broken up in random patterns each time he cried.
And after months of having a good sleeper, it can feel worrisome that these sleep regressions are your new norm—that you’re not out of the woods like you thought you were.
The reasons can be obvious, from separation anxiety at night to night terrors, teething pain to nap transitions. But sometimes, your toddler’s night waking comes as a surprise, even though nothing in your daily life has changed.
Thankfully, neither of you is destined for sleep disruptions forever. While her needs are changing at this stage, you can reinforce the good sleep habits that have helped thus far.
As always, check in with her pediatrician first to rule out issues you may not be able to spot on your own, like an ear infection or illness that needs medical attention. But if all checks out, take a look at these tips for better sleep once again:
1. Aim for enough wake time between naps
It’s amazing how the daytime can affect your toddler’s sleep at night. From being overtired to not tired enough, how much daytime sleep he gets can contribute to night waking.
If he’s still taking two naps a day, aim for 3.5 hours of awake time between sleep. This can help him develop a regular pattern and set him up for predictable sleep at night. For instance, if bedtime is at 7pm, the afternoon nap can end at 4:30pm.
What if he’s already on a one nap schedule? Toddlers typically drop to one nap between 14-18 months old, so he’s likely entering the rocky transition to one nap right about now. If so, try to have one long, midday nap that lasts 2-3 hours, with equal hours of wake time before and after.
For instance, if he wakes up at 7am, put him down for a nap from 12-2pm, with bedtime at 7pm. That gives him wake windows of 5 hours before and after the nap.
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2. Let your child fall asleep on their own at bedtime
Many parents are willing to rock, feed, or hold their kids to sleep at bedtime if it means they can sleep through the night. But here’s the thing: That only works if your child doesn’t wake up all night. Because once she does, she might need your help going back to sleep.
Think of it this way: How she falls asleep at bedtime is how she expects to go back to sleep when she wakes up in the middle of the night. So, if she’s used to falling asleep in your arms at bedtime, she might want the same should she stir throughout the night.
All that to say, encourage her to fall asleep on her own at bedtime. Make sure that you put her down in the crib awake so that she can practice what it’s like to fall asleep on her own. Say goodnight, close the door, and allow her to settle on her own.
She might not like this new sleep routine, and understandably so, since she’s learning a new skill that’s unfamiliar and different. But the more she learns to put herself to sleep, the more she can do so without crying should she wake up in the middle of the night.
Tip: Give her a small lovey or blanket as a comfort item so she can develop an attachment in your absence and ease her discomfort.
3. Check in briefly and strategically
Let’s say your 14 month old suddenly woke up at night crying for you to put her to sleep. Rather than resorting to old habits of rocking or feeding, check in to make sure all is fine (for instance, change her dirty diaper if need be).
But more than anything, use these check-ins to let her know that you’re still here and that you know she can do this. This gives her the comfort and reassurance that you’re nearby, while still allowing her to fall asleep on her own.
Keep these check-ins brief, too—30 seconds at most. Avoid picking her up unless needed, as this only teases and confuses her to think that you’re going to help her fall asleep. Instead, stay calm and confident that she can go back to sleep on her own.
Set your timer for about 10-15 minutes and check in again at those intervals if she’s still crying. Do the same should she wake in the early morning before the official wake time.
4. Stick with a method
Hearing your child cry and telling her to fall back asleep on her own isn’t easy, especially when her tears break your heart. That said, the more you flip flop with how you respond, the more confused she might be—and the longer these nighttime wakings might go on.
Instead, pick a method you’re comfortable with and stick to it for a while. There may be tears no matter what you do, whether that’s sleep training or hearing her cry multiple times a night. But in the long run, having everyone in the family get a full night of sleep is worth it.
5. Use a white noise machine
Create a soothing sleeping environment for your toddler by adding white noise to her room. This helps muffle any sleep disturbances that might startle her awake throughout the night or early in the morning. She might fall asleep better with a steady calming sound in the background than in complete silence.
This also works well for your other kids, too. If you have a baby or older kids and worry that they won’t be able to sleep with your toddler crying, white noise in their rooms can block her cries out.
Tip: Hang darkening curtains over the windows and blinds, too. This can block light from outside in the early evening and morning hours.
As surprising as your 14 month old waking up at night may be, rest assured that it doesn’t have to be your new norm.
Experiment with wake time, extending them to a good length between daytime naps and bedtime. Give him a chance to fall asleep on his own at bedtime so that he knows how to do the same when he wakes up throughout the night.
Keep your check-ins brief, not so much to soothe him to sleep but to make sure all is okay and remind him that you’re here and that he can do this. Use white noise to muffle sounds that could startle him awake, and do the same in your other children’s rooms so they don’t wake up.
And lastly, stay consistent with the method you choose. Going back and forth might confuse him and prolong these sleepless nights and awakenings even more.
No more waking up multiple times a night, friend! Now you can get back on schedule with the sleep you and your whole family need.
Get more tips:
- 5 Things to Remember When You’re Losing Your Temper with Your Toddler
- How to Handle Your 1 Year Old Waking Up at Night and Not Going Back to Sleep
- How to Keep Your Toddler in Their Room at Night
- What to Do When Your Toddler Wakes Up Every Night
- 1 Year Old Wakes Up Every 2 Hours? Must-Know Tips for Moms
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