How do you deal with night waking and anxiety/fear at 17 months?


Hi there, I am wondering if I could get some advice! I have a 17 month old daughter who is usually a wonderful sleeper. However, since Saturday she has been waking up screaming. We have successfully done CIO in the past and it has worked for our family – usually when she has a night waking, she might cry for a few minutes and then fall back asleep. This seems very different – her cry is totally hysterical, and she can keep going for a really long time. The first two nights were completely disrupted, and then subsequently she has slept through the night only to wake up wailing between 5 and 6am when she usually gets up at 7am. (I assume this is still considered a night waking, it just happens to be a more “convenient” time for us!). This has screaming/wake up also happened part way during her nap a few times. She is soothed quickly if I go in and hold her, but becomes hysterical when I put her back in the crib. Letting her CIO is a bit scary this time because she is SO upset, but I also don’t want to continue the cycle of needing me at night. (Although I don’t mind these cuddles, I am in my 3rd trimester with baby 2 and am exhausted.) We have a great going to sleep routine where she falls asleep on her own in the crib, so I am not sure what the reason for our troubles is. Seems extreme for teeth, and not quite like a nightmare/terror. Separation anxiety? Sleep regression? Any advice?

I wonder if she had a nightmare on Saturday night, but now there is a lingering association with that feeling of fear when she wakes in the night. It’s hard to know why it happened that first time, but the way you describe her reaction would lead me to suggest more of an interactive approach to start with. Ex: can you go in and rub her back until she calms (as opposed to holding her) for a night or two. Then can you switch to sitting near her crib, then phase yourself out of her room. Make sure her sleep environment is great too – not too light, not too hot, safe, nothing changing or turning on/off, etc.

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