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: I've barely slept in 10 months. Please help!

Sleep? Who needs sleep?Dear Malia,

Currently my 10-month-old son is fighting bedtime every night. We co-sleep part time, which I love, and plan to move him into his own room after his first birthday. My partner works nights so it’s just myself and my son in the bed. However, he still wakes up every few hours and I nurse him back to sleep, which isn't horrible, but I haven't had more than a four-hour stretch of sleep since before he was born.

I keep telling myself if we can get him into daycare and the entire house on one sleep schedule we will be fine, but in all reality we don't know when that day will come and I am growing more exhausted. I hate having him cry-it-out but it seems to be the only way for him to fall asleep.

On a typical day, I get up at 3 a.m. for work and he gets up too. I nurse him back to sleep before I go to work at 4 a.m. He goes back to sleep until 9 or 10 a.m., then goes down for a nap from 11-1. He takes an afternoon nap around 3:30 that lasts for 30 minutes. Bedtime is about 7 or 7:30,  but it can take up to an hour for him to go to sleep. He usually wants me to lay down with him, or else he just cries.  He wakes up to nurse around 9:30, then again around midnight.

Any suggestions on how we can make bedtime easier and more restful for everyone?


Sure. Though I know your main concerns are his bedtime and nighttime waking, I first want to concentrate on what's happening during his day. During the day, 10-month-olds can stay awake for 3.5 to 4 hours between sleep periods. In fact, they usually NEED to stay awake for at least 3 hours in order to build up enough tiredness to sleep well during the night. Your son is going down for a nap only an hour or two after waking in the morning, which doesn’t allow him to build a sufficient drive to sleep.

You also mention that he is "fighting bedtime," and when parents say that, I first look at what time the child is waking in the morning. The morning wake-up time sets the child's internal clock for the day, and prepares his brain for a corresponding bedtime (if he wakes late, he's prepared for a late bedtime, if he wakes early, an earlier bedtime). Because he's waking at 9 or 10 a.m., he's not likely to go to bed at 7-7:30 p.m. and sleep well through the night. Instead, he will do just what you describe—resist bedtime, cry, or sleep lightly and wake soon after going to bed, wanting to nurse again.

If you'd like an easy 7:30 p.m. bedtime, the solution is an earlier wake-up time.
To help promote a better bedtime and sounder nighttime sleep, I suggest shifting his daytime routine to look something like this:

Wake: 7:30
Nap 1: 10 a.m.-11 a.m.
Nap 2: 2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Bedtime 7:30 p.m.

This routine should improve things at night, but he may not stop waking completely at night because he also sounds as though he has a strong nurse-to-sleep association. If you would like to try to break his nurse-to-sleep association while he is still co-sleeping, I recommend trying to avoid allowing him to fall asleep at the breast when you nurse. You can nurse him until he is drowsy, but remove the breast from his mouth before he falls completely to sleep. If you work on this for the next few months, by the time he moves to his own bedroom, he will have a much easier time with night-weaning and I expect that he would be sleeping through the night, or just waking once (which would be appropriate for a 10-month-old), within a few weeks or a month.

I do recommend checking out my e-book Ready, Set, Sleep, because I think it would help you.  Thanks, and happy holidays!

I’m a nationally published sleep expert, health journalist, and mom. My articles about sleep, health, and parenting appear regularly in over 80 national and regional magazines and on television. Can I help you? Subscribe to The Well Rested Family to have sleep news, tips, and tactics delivered to your inbox or feed reader by clicking here.

Need more sleep? My e-book Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep So You Can Sleep Too is chock-full of mom-tested solutions to help babies and toddlers start sleeping well, tonight!

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