My 15 month old daughter is usually a good sleeper. Sometimes she'll cry a little bit before she falls asleep and maybe wakes up for some milk in the middle of the night, but lately she has been waking up in the middle of the night SCREAMING! Even if we change her, give her some milk, hold her, nothing makes her happy! She'll cry anywhere form 20 min-90 min. I don't know why or what to do. It's really stressful and upsetting. If anyone has any ideas or suggestion I'm open to hear anything. Thanks!
It is possible she is experiencing a "Partial Waking" (aka Confusion Arousal) which is related to sleepwalking and night terrors. Basically, partial wakings are when a child (or adult) is trying to wake up for a reason (to find pacifier, etc) but the body says "it's time to sleep" - and the result is a partial waking that can be sleep walking, sitting up in bed, yelling or screaming, or a night terror (feelings of dread but not sure why). Partial wakings are NOT remembered by your child and not harmful to your child.
You can tell if your child is experiencing a partial waking if they are seemingly inconsolable, unresponsive to you, and once they do calm they just want to go back to sleep. Partial wakings tent to occur within a few hours of falling asleep. If your child is fully awake once consoled or responds to the different actions you take (attempts to drink bottle, lift arms to be picked up), it is probably not a partial waking.
If it is a partial waking, there is not much you can do during the screaming. Picking her up and trying to console her may actually prolong it. All you can do it wait it out and make sure she stays safe. Children who are experiencing partial wakings may have a lot of stress in their lives (new home, new childcare, parents fighting, death of someone close, etc) or they may feel they have a "job" to do at night (find pacifier, get mom into the room, etc). To help reduce partial wakings, try to reduce the stress if you can and try to eliminate "jobs". A child who wakes to find the environment different than how they fell asleep will work to make the environment go back to how they can fall asleep. If a child is rocked to sleep, they may have a need to get mom back in the room to rock them back to sleep again, etc. Some children don't fully awake to do this (again, a conflict between part of the body saying "wake up" and part saying "stay asleep") and a partial waking occurs. Eliminating the job (put your baby to bed asleep but awake, eliminate pacifier, keep the music going all night or not at all, etc) will help some children. (and with some children, it just is not known why they have partial wakings)
Okay, I hope that was clear, I basically have paraphrased, from memory, Dr. Ferber's book "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems," SECOND Edition. He has a long chapter about partial wakings that might be good for you to read.
If you DON'T think the partial wakings is the problem then I have a few other suggestions (many are also from the book, some from experience or other sources.)
1. As infants get older they NEED LESS SLEEP than before - waking in the middle of the night (the lightest time of sleep) may be a result of being in bed too long at night. Try putting her to bed a little later, wake her a little earlier, or make her naps a little shorter so the sleep will move into the middle of the night and she will be less likely to wake (if you do deprive her of a little sleep, don't let her make it up with naps).
2. A 15 month old should be able to sleep through the night without then need for more milk. Most likely waking for milk has been habit. You can try to stop it by either letting her "cry it out" or diluting the formula until you have just water (many infants will not bother to wake up for just water) or just give her a bottle of water when she wakes.
3. As mentioned above, she may be trying to get her environment back to the way it was when she fell asleep. Is there a light off that is on when she falls a sleep, are you in the room when she falls asleep, etc.?
4. All people wake up briefly between sleep cycles, most of the time we just fall back to sleep without realizing we woke up - some babies cry out when they wake, but they too fall back to sleep, if no one intervenes. It might be possible that if you go in there some nights, but not others that the inconstancy might result in this?
5. Read a sleep book that helps you to discover why the behavior occurs and solutions to try to fix it. (Dr. Ferber's "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems," Second Ed book had a ton of info)
I do hope it gets better. Reply with more details if you need more help.