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I have 1 year old girl. She wakes up multiple times at night, maybe 5 or more times, and she goes back to sleep as soon as I give her a pacifier or bottle of milk. Sometimes not even that helps and I've tried letting her cry and it can go up to hours and it is very stressful.

I'm currently 5 months pregnant and I work, so sometimes I leave with up to 3 hours of sleep and this really needs to stop. Her doctor tells me she needs to sleep in her own bed but she refuses to. Any tips or ideas on what I should do?

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I'm not sure about the rules on this exchange but I would recommend The Sleepeasy Solution by Jennifer Waldburger. We went through a number of different technique's and books (mostly more of the no-cry gentle methods). This book took us from an 8 month old was up 3-4 times per night to sleeping through the night in around 1 week at a terrible time for sleep training

  • Mom was going back to work
  • Just back from vacation with a time difference
  • Bub had found her legs so was starting to pull herself up in the crib.

The basic premise is

Set the stage for sleep

  • Have a consistent bed time routine, dark room, white noise (if using, we did)
  • Put the baby down at a good hour so they aren't overtired (our bedtime is 7-7:30pm
  • Remove sleep dependencies (things the baby relies on to put her to sleep such as a pacifier, these can wake her up or make it more difficult for her to put herself back to sleep if she wakes up.

Get the baby to sleep

  • Put the baby to bed awake

  • Check in at 5min, 10min, 15min until baby falls asleep (after you hit 15min check in every 15min if required).

  • Keep interaction minimal at check in. Tell her you love her and she needs to sleep but no physical interaction

Keep the baby asleep

At 1 year the baby can go all night without eating so you need to cutout night feedings and teach the baby to put herself back to sleep

  • Have a set schedule for nighttime feeding based on what she is currently doing.
  • Each night cut the time/volume of each feeding down (using breastfeeding and time since that's what my wife was doing) the schedule would look something like this
+-------------+---------+--------+---------+--------+---------+--------+
|             | Night 1 |        | Night 2 |        | Night 3 |        |
+-------------+---------+--------+---------+--------+---------+--------+
|             | Time    | Length | Time    | Length | Time    | Length |
| Bedtime     | 7:30pm  |        | 7:30pm  |        | 7:30pm  |        |
| 1st Feeding | 10:30pm | 8min   | 10:30pm | 6min   | 11:30pm | 6min   |
| 2nd Feeding | 1:00am  | 6min   | 1:00am  | 4min   | 2:30pm  | 4min   |
| 3rd Feeding | 3:30am  | 4min   | 3:30am  | 2min   |         |        |
| Wake        | 6:30am  |        | 6:30am  |        | 6:30am  |        |
+-------------+---------+--------+---------+--------+---------+--------+
  • Each night the feeds get shorter until they are dropped altogether
  • When the baby wakes up don't feed her get her back to sleep using the nighttime check in routine. You should be waking the baby up for feedings
  • Feeding should be on your schedule and not a reason to not put herself back to sleep

Overall although I've provided a summary (which should give you an indicator if its something you are willing to try) I'm sure there are important points I have missed and would highly recommend reading the book.

Obviously this isn't the only technique that works but it did for us. Hopefully you will find your solution soon.

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Getting young kids to sleep is often a very specialized challenge, and it's typically a "throw something against the wall and see what sticks" kind of situation. Things I've used, or seen work for friends and family:

  • First, she should not be able to get out of her bed on her own. It's ambiguous whether this is the case in your question, but for the rest of these I will assume that is true.
  • Cry it out.
    • There are degrees of cry it out, from "cold turkey" (tonight, drop her and leave, no one enters until morning) to more gradual methods (let her cry for ten minutes before going in tonight, thirty minutes tomorrow night, 1 hour the night after...)
  • If she's into pacifiers, drop a whole bunch in her bed with her. I'm talking 10 - 20. Then, she'll be able to find them on her own in the night.
  • Does your daughter have a lovey? (That is, a small soft toy she only sleeps with, and does not play with otherwise.) If not, I'd suggest getting her one. It's good for kids to have a tangible signal that "now is sleep time", and the response to being handed the lovey can get Pavlovian.
  • Your daughter might be a bit young for this, but my daughter really responded well to a toddler clock. It changes colors for "wake" and "sleep", and, even if she wakes up early, she will stay in bed quietly until it "wakes up".

Finally...

  • You sound super exhausted! And it's really hard to deal with difficult children when you're super exhausted. If it's possible, you should consider having someone else sleep train your daughter. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, close friends, whoever you trust. You sleep somewhere where you can't hear anything and can actually, you know, get some sleep, and someone who's otherwise well-rested sleep trains your daughter. If you do this, make sure you come up with a clear plan ahead of time about how you want them to do it.

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