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« Easy Ways To Beat Nightmares | Main | Ask Malia: Sleep Schedule for a 9-month-old? »

Ask Malia: Son Sleeps at Night, Hates Naps

Dear Malia,

I'm hoping you can help me. My almost 11-month-old has never, ever been a good sleeper. What worked for my much older son at night (co-sleeping, nursing on demand) has not worked for him. We did various sleep training methods before finally doing cry-it-out, which mostly worked. After three months, he is now sleeping from 8 p.m. to 6 or 7 a.m., with a short wake up around 1 a.m., which he puts himself back to sleep after only a minute or so. This has been going on for about a week, so I hope it sticks.

The issue we're STILL having is naps (never been a great napper either). He was taking really good naps: two naps for 60-90 minutes each, for about six weeks. And now, he is taking two naps for less than 40 minutes, usually more like 25-30 minutes.

I consistently put him down at the same time, by nursing him to sleep in a dark room, with a humidifier going. We read books to settle down and I always make sure he's comfy and fed.

A friend of mine has a close colleague (she's a psychologist) who is an adolescent sleep expert and she said it's one of three things: an allergy that is upsetting his tummy, he needs me nearby to sleep, and/or overtired. It's not the first two, I am certain, and I like to think that he isn't overtired when I put him down... he's up at 7 a.m., down by 9:30 a.m., and his second nap is at 1 p.m.

Is there something I am missing!? He seems miserable from lack of sleep and wakes up from his naps grouchy! I am in grad school and need those precious naptime hours to study and work!


Hi there. I do have an idea as to what is going on (and it isn't any of the answers you’ve been given). I believe he may be gearing up to start the long process of moving to one nap. This happens, on average, at 15 months old, but for some children it starts much earlier. My oldest went to one nap at 10-11 months.

One clue that this may be the case is that he seems to need less sleep than average. If he's sleeping 10 hrs at night plus 2-3 hours during the day, that's only 12-13 total in a 24-hour period, which is a couple of hours below average for his age. Children who naturally need a bit less sleep than their peers often drop naps earlier than average.

I don't think he is necessarily ready to drop the nap yet, but he may be getting ready to transition (the transition can take 3-5 months).

Another sign is that he is waking up after such a short nap and acting as though he wants more sleep. That's a sign that he can be awake for longer before his naps and that he needs a longer awake period before naps to build up enough tiredness to take a restorative nap. (If that makes sense).

At 11 months, many babies can handle being awake for 3 hours + during the day (slightly shorter for their first awake period of the day). You can try a routine like this: up at 7 a.m., first nap at 10 a.m., up from first nap at 11, second nap at 2, up from second nap at 3:30.

It's also important to wake him from his nap, especially the first nap of the day, so the rest of the day's routine doesn't get thrown off and push bedtime too late. I know you like the two-hour  naps, but the long naps aren't worth potentially ruining his nighttime sleep that you've worked hard for!

My article on navigating the tricky transition from two naps to one, Dropping a Nap Without Drama, might be helpful.

Let the napping commence! Good luck.

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