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You are here: Home > Baby > Baby Sleep - Q&A: Baby Won't Sleep Through the Night

Q&A: Baby Won't Sleep Through the Night

by Dr. Christine Wood, M.D
63 Comments

Q: My 12 month-old still won't sleep through the night, and she cannot go to sleep by herself. I rock her to sleep 3 times a day and it takes anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 1/2 hrs. to get her to sleep. Even if she is extremely tired, she fights sleeping. She only sleeps in her crib for 3-4 hours at night, and once she wakes up and realizes she is in her crib, she won't go back to sleep until she is in bed with me. She has always been very sensitive, and I cannot just put her in her crib and let her cry herself to sleep, because she will not ever go to sleep, she will cry until she makes herself sick. Please help. My husband and I would like our bed back. She sleeps so much better in her crib, when she is in our bed, she just rolls back and forth between us all night, and is very restless, but its the only way she will sleep all night. HELP.

A: At this point, your baby has developed a sleep crutch. That is, baby is falling asleep with you and being rocked to sleep. Every time she enters a light sleep cycle, she cries and searches for you, and now has difficulty settling without your presence. There are not a lot of options if you want to correct this problem. You should have a nighttime routine and put her in her crib awake at night and let her cry. You can go in every five to ten minutes the first night for brief periods to reassure her that you have not deserted her. The next night you should stretch out the time before you go back in. Now some babies get more hysterical every time they see you and it may be easier if dad goes in, if he is not the one who usually rocks her to sleep.

You and your husband need to make an agreement that you will be diligent about trying this for at least one week, without picking her up or bringing her to your bed. Every time you do, she sees that sometimes she gets her way and that encourages her to be more persistent in her crying.

Dr. Christine Wood is a practicing pediatrician in Southern California. She attended the University of Detroit for her undergraduate degree in chemistry and received her medical degree from the University of Michigan. She completed her pediatric residency at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. She was Chief Resident there and then worked in the emergency room at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. After three years doing pediatric emergency room medicine she went into private practice. She received her lactation educator certification from the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of "How to Get Kids to Eat Great and Love It," a book that addresses the issues of why and how to feed kids healthy. The book also covers information about environmental threats and the role of nutritional supplementation for children. She lives in Southern California with her husband and son. Christine is also the cofounder of CallYourPed.com a website designed to give concerned parents with non-emergency medical questions, solid, no-nonsense information that can give them information in deciding when to call the doctor and some home treatment advice.

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Showing 1 - 10 out of 62 Comments
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At it alone Dec 3, 2013 09:42:58 PM ET

My husband is constantly against everything i do for our daughter. i wanted to breast feed for at least the first 3 months , he disapproved. well i am still doing it and she is 15 months. up until 3 weeks ago she would sleep from 5-6 pm to 4-5am . i stay at home and she doesn't nap in her crib because i got into the habit of napping with her. now she will not go to bed and points to my bedroom when it comes down to bedtime. i'm at my wits end and have no support from my husband . what can i do ? i can't stand hearing her cry !!!! please help.

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San Aug 5, 2012 07:51:47 PM ET

My daughter is 29 years old now ( (she was a hard baby to get to sleep the first few months she nursed every 2 hours) i read an article when she was about 3-4 months old that said to hold her up and look directly at her and say go to sleep go to sleep now in a firm voice and lay her in bed and leave the room, the first night she cried for about 20 mins the secon night about 10 mins and the third night no crying.( she even learned we were talking to her and would turn her head away at 5 months old, but she would go to bed)) i know many people think this is not acceptable and that kids will be hurt by this. my daughter grew up well adjusted and i was always stickler on bedtime. in fact she grew up to b a pediatrician

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Amy Mar 15, 2012 02:21:24 PM ET

Our 10 month old son doesn't sleep through the night. he goes & has a great day with the sitter, we have a normal daily routine with both of us working 8 hrs a day, go home, make dinner, bath & some playtime before last bottle feeding. our target time is 9pm to have our son asleep. he normally falls asleep as he nurses then we lay him in his crib. we've started laying him in his crib so he can fall asleep on his own (not easy but its work in progress). by 1:30am or 2:00am he's up crying & the only way to soothe him is to feed him another 6-8 oz of formula. we tried a late-nite meal thinking he wasn't getting enough but that didn't work. we even switched to soy thinking he's lactose intolerant, nothing seems to work. any advice from anyone is greatly appreciated.

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Danyell Mar 15, 2012 10:22:35 AM ET

Omg, i feel the same i'm a mother of five. i have 3 daughtets 13,9,8 and a set of feternal twins. ive been going through it since the twins were born . basicaly lost my lifestyle , career freinds and even the love my man and i had for one another. our relationship has really suffeted and still is because of the twins. i cry all the time. they turned 1 a few months ago and nothing at all has changed the demands of them seem higher. my twins have never slept on any type of pattern or schedule and the doctor seems to be taken it in stride that shes told me sevetal times to use the cio method and because i havent this is the reason that their not sleeping its nerve recking. because im a quote unquote stay at home mom now i bend over backwards for them ive tried it all. i feel so hurt and defeated. nothing seems right . and to see that my man is so uneducated towards his babies and me just adds fuel to the fire . dont get me wrong i get help from him , but its never enough . he has to be told what to do never knows what to do , thats mind boggling for me . can you imagine two freaking babies screaming and you have to constantly look over you shoulder at your assistant and shoutout instructions along with the screaming its like a damn 3 ring circus act. fyi the twins are his first, my older daughters are from a previous marrige. to be able to get some sleep during the hours regular people are sleep would truely lesson whats already a hard job. i havent been able to enjoy my babies because they are so stresful. i hate nap time and bedtime . these docs dont have a clue what we moms really go through.

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vero Nov 25, 2011 11:02:24 AM ET

Sarah from cleveland, i'm right there with you and i feel that the cio method isn't helpful for my daughter either. does anyone have any alternatives?

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Jordan Oct 13, 2011 08:29:00 PM ET

I have a 13 month old with the same issue! i won't do cio so i don't know what to do. knowing others are out there going through the same thing helps. but i need sleep! praying we all figure this out.

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Sharnee Jul 10, 2011 09:13:17 AM ET

I have had a similar problem with my 9 month old. she has always, from birth resisted sleep and has always wanted to be held, hated the car seat and pram. i completely agree with louise from the uk. forcing babies into independance was introduced in the 50's at the same time as feeding only every 4 hours. some babies just arent able to go the whole night without comfort from their mums. although it makes it hard for mums, it is completely normal for some babies. the way we respond to this ultimatley comes down to our attitude towards parenting i feel. i am disheartened by the docotrs response. we as mums need to change the way we think and be supportive of each other. it is only pressure from other mums who say it is not normal for babies to wake during the night, that make us go against our natural mothers instinct and leave our sensitive babies to cry. it shocks me that even our doctors have these beliefs. what chance do our babies have when our doctors prescirbe such measures to us? i know lost of other mums. some ahve babies who sleep through the night from a young age, some have babies who continue to need comfort for many years. some have had babies who fall into both categories. it comes down to the baby not the parenting. all babies learn if we leave them to cry is that they have been abandoned in their time of need. i worry about the psychological impacts this has on our society. by listening and responding to your baby you are teaching them that they can rely on you for love and nurture. ultimately they are not going to keep waking until they are 18. it may only be a few years out of your whole life that you will have to have an interupted sleep. it is not long in the scheme of things. from what i ahve experienced and read, babies sleep patterns continue to evolve as they grow. i know this doesnt help you a great deal but at least it might help you to understand you are doing everything right by going to your baby. it is not your fault your baby is waking. they are a baby after all and just want their mum!

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shehaam May 27, 2011 04:56:38 AM ET

My 13 mnths son had pneumonia and in hospital for almost a week ever since we came home he has never slept thru the night his very restless wakes up every 3hrs to drink back to sleep then jus wakes up again it wil go until 6am then he wil settle down and sleep until 8 if im lucky

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Jessica May 9, 2011 07:33:42 PM ET

Maybe you could introduce a comfort object. when i weaned my daughter off her night feeds i found giving her a comfort blanket helped extremly. as she only gets her comforter for bedtime as soon as i give it to her she automatically starts sucking her thumb and putting herself to sleep, has worked a charm. we never had to take her into our bed when she had her comforter.

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Laurel Mar 31, 2011 01:14:52 PM ET

My daughter is 13 months old, she used to sleep from 7pm to 6am no problem in her bed. after coming home from a trip where she had to sleep with me (which we had never done before) she got sick and would not go back into her bed. that was over a month ago. i've tried the going in every 5min and this just leads to her being sick from crying so much. the minute i bring her to our bed she goes to sleep instantly. help!!!! really would like her to sleep in her crib again. not good for mommy and daddy or baby!

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