I’ve been reading your blog and following your advice for my daughter, now 9 month old (she’s our first child). She used to be very overtired, but I’ve been more careful about her daily routine and getting her down for a nap within 3 hours of her last waking. She takes two naps per day, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Lately, she’s been resisting both naps—she won’t cry, but she just doesn’t seem tired. She’ll play in her crib without falling asleep for ages. Sometimes she’ll fall asleep after 45 minutes or an hour. If she does fall asleep the nap is shorter and she gets really fussy and irritable by the end of the day. I'm not sure what's going on. Does she need a different type of nap routine?
Just when you get a good routine going, kids go and change on you. Babies experience sleep problems because they’re trying to tell you something, and in this case, your daughter is telling you that she’s ready to stay awake for longer stretches during the day. In her case, three hours of wakefulness before her nap is not enough time for her to build up a strong drive to sleep—so she happily plays her naptime away, and becomes woefully overtired by the end of the day.
To solve this problem, heed your daughter’s signals: stretch the time between her naps from three hours to four hours or longer. That means you’ll put her down for her second nap around 2 p.m. Be sure to wake her after an hour to an hour and a half; because overly long naps in the late afternoon can interfere with bedtime and keep her (and you) up much later than you’d like.
You can also encourage her to nap by helping dial up the tiredness factor before naptime. Do this with lots of mental stimulation, warm interactions, and physical activity: crawling, walking practice, pulling up, and scooting help move her growing muscles (and move her toward a restful nap).
I'm a nationally published sleep journalist and expert, and the author of Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep So You Can Sleep Too. I've been helping tired families sleep since 2007. Can I help you? Drop me a line here.