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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Friday
Apr122013

Ask Malia: My 2-year-old's never-ending bedtime

My two-year-old's bedtime is 7 p.m. and he nurses to sleep but most of the time doesn't fall asleep/let go until 8:30. He doesn't seem over- or under-tired during the day. He takes a two hour nap at noon. Our bedtime routine is pretty consistent: We wash up, brush teeth, put on PJs, turn down the lights, read stories, turn on white noise, then read Goodnight Moon, turn off lights, nurse and rub back while singing Twinkle Twinkle. He'll continue to nurse until he falls asleep, even if that takes an hour and a half. Lately he's been sitting up periodically and drinking from a water bottle, then goes back to nursing. (I'm guessing my supply is not meeting his nighttime demand, as he sometimes goes all day without nursing.) Do you think we should move his bedtime or make it later? Or do you think that the issue may be related to nursing?

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There are a couple of things likely going on here. And yes, I think nursing may contribute to the long bedtimes. I have seen this before with other families. (I am definitely not telling you to stop nursing at bedtime, just what I have observed.) For some children who have always nursed to sleep, a single nursing session that used to put them to sleep is no longer enough to do the trick as they become older toddlers. So they will nurse until almost asleep, then return to the breast over and over for an hour or two until they finally fall asleep. It usually doesn't have much to do with actual milk or hunger or milk supply, just the act of nursing that is associated with sleep. In families I have worked with, this starts around age two.

Again, this does mean that there is anything wrong with nursing a little one to sleep (I’ve done it before, and will do it again!)—just that nursing alone doesn’t put every child to sleep, and it can stop working as a bedtime aid long before a child is ready to wean.

As I mentioned, I believe nursing is probably a contributing factor, but not the only factor here. His level of tiredness may also have something to do with it. So if he is more tired at bedtime, he will probably fall asleep more quickly. To up the tiredness factor, you can try reducing his nap to 90 minutes, or move his bedtime 30 minutes later to see if that will build more drive to sleep at night.

Another family I worked with had this exact problem when their son was two. They resolved it by moving nursing to the beginning of the bedtime routine. After a nursing session, mom handed the toddler over to dad, who took over the rest of the bedtime routine until the child got used to falling to sleep without nursing. That resolved the situation and very soon, the child started falling asleep much faster at night.

Hope this all makes sense. Let me know if you have more questions!

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!

My new e-book Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers & Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades is available now!

Monday
Apr082013

What's really in that decaf?

If, like me, you're careful about caffeine intake (I get a twitchy eyelid if I overimbibe), you'll want to check out my article in the March issue of Costco Connection magazine. I sort out the most healthful sips, from herbal tea to decaf coffee, my current brew of choice. And guess what? All decaf is not created equal. Read more here. (I know it's April so I'm late posting this one, but still wanted to share.)

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!

My new e-book Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers & Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades is available now!

Friday
Apr052013

Ask Malia: My toddler's naps are crap

She's cute...but her naps stink.I have a question about my 20-month-old’s naps. After many long months of progress (and consultation with you!) her night sleep is now excellent—bedtime at 7:30, sleeps solid through until about 5:30/6 a.m. then comes into bed with me, nurses and snoozes some more until 7 a.m. Her napping though has turned to total crap. (Bad pun there, you'll see why...) Every nap for the past two weeks or so has lasted 45 minutes almost exactly then ends with her waking and soiling her diaper. It doesn't seem to matter what time I put her down for the nap, it always ends at 45 minutes and I think she’s trained herself to poop on cue so I’ll come and get her. Our nap routine hasn't changed, so I'm at a loss to determine what's going on. I miss my 90 minute stretch in the afternoons. She's never been a particularly long napper, but 45 minutes is clearly not enough. Any thoughts as to what could be going on? Thanks so much for any ideas you might have!

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Sure. I think the short nap and the perfectly-timed poop are two separate issues. If she were deeply asleep, she would either sleep through it or do her business at another time. And I agree with you that 45 minutes probably isn't long enough of a nap for your daughter.

The good news: there is a solution. Short naps are generally a sign that a baby or toddler is ready to stay awake longer before the nap. You could try keeping her awake for an extra 30 to 45 minutes to see if that throws off the “pooping rhythm” and also helps her build more of a drive for sleep, which will result in a longer nap.

Also, it's not uncommon for naps to shift around after a child finally starts sleeping through the night or sleeping for 12 hours straight. Once the "sleep tank" gets filled and the child catches up on missed sleep, there is less drive to sleep during the day, so naps can move around and sometimes need to move later in order for the child to build up enough drive to take a solid nap. Hope this makes sense!

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!

My new e-book Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers & Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades is available now!

Friday
Mar292013

Ask Malia: Is my 16-month-old ready for one nap?

Hi Malia, My youngest is 16 months already (!!!) and I think she is getting ready to go to a one-nap schedule. The last week or so, she has only taken one good nap per day (either a good a.m. nap then a lousy p.m. nap, or skipped the first nap and taken a decent second nap). Just today, she acted tired at morning nap time (rubbing eyes) but then talked and fussed for 35 minutes before finally taking a 20 minute nap and waking up on her own. UGH. Would you agree that she is probably ready to make the transition? If so, any suggestions to make it as easy as possible on all of us? And if we want to stick with a 7 a.m. wake up, what time would that nap be, and what time would she go to bed at night?

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Yes, absolutely, she's ready! The average age to switch to one nap is 15 months old, so she's right on schedule and showing all the classic signs of readiness. What you describe is completely textbook.

It’s helpful to keep your eye on the end-game here: Your goal is to have her take a single 1.5 to 2 hour nap in the middle of the day, late enough so that she'll be able to make it through until bedtime. I recommend keeping her awake through the morning (YES, she will be extra tired, particularly if she's been taking lousy naps the past few days) and working your way to a 12 p.m. nap. You may need to start at 11:15 or 11:30, then gradually move toward 12. If she still wakes up after an hour or less, even with a 12 p.m. naptime, you may want to go to 12:30 (I suspect 12 will be plenty late for her, though).

During the transition, you may need to move bedtime up to 6:30 or so. Alternately, you can try for a short 15 minute "car" nap around 4:30, to help her make it through to a 7:30 bedtime. This can be tricky to pull off, though.

Regarding her bedtime and wake-up time: just keep an eye on her sleep total for the day. (Since you've already tracked her sleep, you know how much sleep she needs in a 24-hr period.) If she takes a two-hour nap, she can probably stick with her old bedtime and wake-up time. If she takes a brief nap, she may need to move bedtime earlier. I recommend keeping a consistent wake-up time during this transition--letting her sleep too late can really throw a wrench in naps, especially while they’re moving around.

Here's an article I wrote on Dropping the Nap Without Drama that may help you. Good luck!

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!

My new e-book Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers & Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades is available now!

Monday
Mar252013

The mysterious teenage brain

Ever wondered why teens act so, well, crazy? I explored that topic for my article "The Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Teenage Brain: Hardwired to Test Parental Patience?" in the March issue of ParentMap magazine. As it turns out, teens' brains are still under construction, and they're biologically driven to take more risks and seek out intense situations. There's even an evolutionary advantage to this thrill-seeking behavior, as trying as it is for parents. Read more here.

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!

My new e-book Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers & Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades is available now!