I’m a nationally published sleep expert, journalist, and the mom of three young kids. I’ve been helping tired families sleep since 2007 (more about me here). Subscribe to The Well Rested Family for fresh news and tips on keeping your bunch happy and healthy. Thanks for stopping by!


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Ask Malia: Considering Cry-It-Out

Hi Malia,

Boy, I need your help! My 15 month old son (my third baby) is a bit of a nightmare in the sleep department. We subscribed to baby-led practices including nursing on demand and co-sleeping, but now I'm in a pickle. He was nursing all night long in our bed, so I tried to move him to another room so we could all get some sleep.

We try to let him “cry it out” but 2-4 hours later he is up screaming. At this point I give up and go in and nurse him and try to put him back down but I am so tired I fall asleep while nursing in the guest bed and the cycle continues. Would it be extreme to just close the door at 8:30pm and no matter how much he cries not walk in until morning? He gets up so often!

During the day he has one long nap after lunch but lately it's just been an hour to hour and half. He might doze off in the car during a morning errand but I end up having to wake him up when we arrive somewhere. He is not happy and I am at my wits’ end! After reading some of your posts I am considering two naps of one hour each both in the morning and after lunch so he is not overtired. Is that a good plan? Please help! Thank you!


Hi there Stephanie,

I'm sorry you're having trouble. As a busy mom of three I'm sure you could use some sleep!

I plan to do a few more posts on the topic of naps, because they are confusing. I will clarify what your son may need in the naps department in a moment.

But first, there seem to be several things going on that are affecting your son's ability to sleep well:

1. Disordered sleep associations (i.e. he associates nursing with sleep, and therefore needs the breast to help him fall asleep).
2. Lack of consistent routine.
3. Improper amount of sleep. In this case, too little night sleep.

I know it can be overwhelming to see it laid out like this, but I always suggest approaching a child's sleep problems one at a time, in order to be gentle to the child and to facilitate both the parent and the child's learning process.

To answer your question about the nap; no, I don't think you should move your son to the nap schedule you're considering. 15 months of age is the average time that toddlers move to one afternoon nap. Your son is likley heading in that direction; I suspect that if you give him a morning nap, you'll always have trouble getting him to take a good afternoon nap and he'll be melting down by the evening.

I suggest giving your son a midday nap of one to two hours at a consistent time each day, starting the nap right after his lunchtime. Try to avoid allowing him to fall asleep in the morning (in the car or whatnot). I know it's hard to do, but even 10 minutes of car sleep can throw off his nap and leave him very overtired by the end of the day.

Instead of giving him more naps, I suggest moving his bedtime earlier, and putting him to bed when he shows signs of tiredness at night.

I suggest going with a consistent nap schedule and earlier bedtime for a few days to help combat his overtiredness, before you do anything else to work on his sleep.

Instead of cry-it-out, I suggest gradually helping him learn some new, better sleep associations. This reduces crying for your son as well as disruption for the rest of your family. In a sleep consultation I walk my clients through the process step-by-step.

Hope this is helpful. Again, I think you would find my ebook Ready, Set, Sleep very informative in helping you create healthy sleep associations for your son and support his need for sleep.

Thanks for the question.

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Reader Comments (1)

I think you give wise advice regarding sleeping. I'm glad to know "of you" =) and to be able to recommend you to others with similar sleep difficulties such as this one you wrote about, which is so, so common, and I'm just not as qualified to help in the ways that you are. Blessings, Erika

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErika Shupe

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