How to Sleep Train a 15 Month Old

Looking for tips on sleep training a 15 month old? It’s not too late! Learn how to get your child to sleep through the night once and for all!

How to Sleep Train a 15 Month Old

You’ve been struggling to get your child to sleep through the night, especially with your schedule all over the place. He still wakes up three times a night to nurse, leaving everyone exhausted. It’s no secret that this is starting to wreak havoc on your lives.

The catch? Your baby is no longer a baby, but a 15 month old who should be sleeping through the night by now. Over a year later, you’re more than ready to finally make a change, especially as you realize that this isn’t a phase he’ll grow out of.

More than likely, he has grown accustomed to certain habits of falling asleep. But just as he learned these unsustainable ways to sleep, he can also “unlearn” them to make way for new ones. Let’s take a look at a few tips to sleep train your 15 month old:

Change your mindset

The first place to start is with your mindset. At this point, your current habits and emotions aren’t allowing your child to soothe himself to sleep. After all, he doesn’t have the chance to learn new skills if he’s rocked or fed to sleep all the time.

Instead of believing that these are the only ways he can fall asleep, flip it around. Believe that he is capable of sleeping through the night, despite his past behavior. You can teach him good sleep habits to replace old ones.

Another aspect to keep in mind during sleep training is that it’s okay for him to feel discomfort. You don’t need to “save” him each time he cries when he wakes up at night as if he’s in danger. We all experience frustration, and shielding him from it might be preventing his chance of falling asleep on his own.

Lastly, define your goals with sleep training. Where would you ideally like him to sleep in the long run (for instance, in his crib instead of in your bed)? What sleep aids do you want to do away with, and which would you keep?

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Establish a routine

A key element of sleep training is having a consistent routine, both during the day and at bedtime.

This predictability lets your child know what to expect. She no longer has to wonder why she has to sleep at a certain time or what happens after she takes a bath. The repetition can calm anxieties she might feel because these routines feel familiar and comforting.

She’s also less likely to resist a consistent bedtime routine when this is simply what happens every time. She won’t fight changing her diaper as much if it always happens after taking a bath.

So, how do you establish a routine?

Start with what I call the “pillars” of the day. These are the activities that structure your day and night and tend to center around eating and sleeping. For instance, waking up, taking naps, bedtime, and eating should happen at the same time.

Then, break those down into the “rituals,” or the activities you do within those pillars. What are the rituals you do around bedtime? This might include taking a bath, changing into pajamas, and reading books. Do the same rituals in the same order so that she knows what to expect.

Create a conducive sleep environment

Help your toddler sleep through the night with the right sleep environment. Here are a few changes you can make to set up the room:

  • Hang darkening curtains to keep the room dark.
  • Use white noise to muffle sudden sounds that can startle him awake.
  • Give him a lovey or special stuffed animal that he always sleeps with.
  • Place a baby monitor in the room so you can keep an eye on him without having to open the door between checking in (more on that later).

Put your child to bed awake

Now it’s time to put your child to bed and give her the chance to learn how to self soothe.

The first step is to let her know about the new changes you’re making—yes, even if she’s little! Let her know that you’re no longer going to rock or feed her to sleep so that she can learn to sleep on her own. Reassure her that you’re nearby in the living room and that she has her lovey to keep her company.

Then, do as much of the routine as you can in her room. After toweling her off after a bath, take her to her room to get dressed and for the last bedtime milk. That way, the transition from routine to sleep is smoother.

During the routine, don’t allow her to fall asleep. You can give the milk earlier in the routine if need be, even before she takes a bath. And don’t revert to rocking her to sleep, even to a drowsy state. Put her to bed calm but completely awake.

Lastly, keep your goodnights brief and close the door. Don’t linger or act like she’s about to go through the unimaginable. Present a calm and confident manner, like you know she can do this. Being fearful or hesitant can rub off on her and make her anxious.

Check in strategically

More than likely, your child might cry once he realizes that his old routines aren’t happening and that he has to sleep on his own. How often should you check in? Set a timer for five minutes. If he’s still crying at that point, go into his room and let him know that you’re still here but that it’s time to sleep.

Set your timer again, but now for 10 minutes. If he’s still crying, repeat the check-in. Once more, set the timer, but for 15 minutes. And if he’s still crying even then, set it at 15-minute intervals.

How can you make these check-ins effective?

  • Only set the timer once he starts crying. He might not start crying right away or could be perfectly fine lying down awake, which is okay.
  • Don’t linger too long. You should only be in his room for 30 seconds max.
  • Don’t try to calm or comfort him, as this can reward the behavior even more. These check-ins aren’t meant to calm him down (remember, he’s learning to self soothe). Instead, they reassure him that you’re here and that you’re not going back to old habits.
  • Either parent can do the check-ins. If you have two adults at home, either one can do it. Find a system that works for you. You can alternate check-ins, or one can handle the first five hours of sleep while the other does the rest.
  • Use a baby monitor. This can reassure you that all is fine between check-ins.
  • Distract yourself. The worst thing you can do is to add to your anxieties. Find ways to distract yourself between check-ins, like reading a book or watching television.

Expert tip

If you find that he gets riled up at the five- and ten-minute mark, experiment with checking in only every 15 minutes.

Frequently asked questions

What do I do when my child wakes up in the middle of the night?

Repeat the same check-ins as you had done during bedtime. Fair warning: You might be tired since you were woken up, but consider this a short-term pain for long-term gain.

My child woke up too early. How can I get him to sleep longer in the morning?

If your toddler is waking up too early in the morning, do the same check-ins. Check in until the “official” wake-up time so that he knows it’s not time to wake up yet. That said, if he’s awake early but not crying, leave him be and don’t check in.

Then, once he’s up for the day, don’t forget to congratulate him on a job well done! Even if he cried for a long time or woke up repeatedly, he just went through a new experience. Praise him for trying something new and being able to sleep on his own.

How long does sleep training take?

Sleep training results vary so much, from as little as one day to as long as five weeks. Every child is different, so be patient and consistent with the process.

That said, inconsistency can extend the process. It’s fine to evaluate your sleep training methods and make an intentional pivot as needed. But don’t flip-flop on a whim or base decisions when you’re delirious and sleep deprived.

Consistency is key—give it time to see how it goes. Consider it an investment in your ultimate goal of good sleep.

How do you know if you’re on the right track or should try something else? A good gauge is if you see progress. Sure, your child might still be crying after a week of sleep training, but has it lessened over time? If it’s getting worse, then consider a new strategy. But if it’s improving day by day, you’re likely progressing fine.

Final thoughts

It’s not too late to sleep train kids at 15 months old, even if your child was never a good sleeper. With patience and perseverance, you can get a full night of sleep—even if you’re long past the baby stage.

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2 Comments

  1. We are working on sleep training our 15 month old. I put him down awake and he is now able to put himself to sleep. Problem is that he is waking up after 25-30 minutes. I give him 15-25 minutes after he wakes up to see if he will go back to sleep but he doesn’t. So this week he had only gotten 25-30 minutes of daytime sleep. Down to one nap but worried he is not getting enough sleep. Any suggestions?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Trish!

      Naps are definitely trickier than nighttime sleep, for sure. If you feel like he’s not getting enough sleep during the day, what do you think about putting him down for two naps for now, at least until he gets used to sleeping for a long stretch of time? That way, if he doesn’t fall asleep for the first one, he has a second chance to catch up on sleep later.