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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Entries in baby (31)


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.

Don't miss a post! 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!


Ask Malia: The Portable, Napless Secondborn

I never had a problem with my first daughter’s naps. But I’m finding it much harder with baby two. At least a few days a week, my 8-month-old son barely naps, because we’re on the go all day long. I volunteer one morning a week at his sister’s co-op preschool, and two afternoons a week she has gymnastics. We like to try and make library storytimes and other morning activities when we can, too, and those aren’t exactly nap-friendly for him—he’ll catch a few minutes in the stroller or carrier, but nothing like a real nap. I know he should be napping during these times, but it’s hard for us to stay home. Of course, on those “no nap” days, he sleeps restlessly at night, wakes up a few times, and is grumpy the next morning. What’s your advice?


Unlike firstborns, second or third babies don’t always get the luxury of having a daily routine designed around them. It can be tough to stay home for naps, but (you know I’m going to say this, right?) proper naps are every bit as important to your son as storytime is to your daughter. More, even. Naps are his chance to rest and process new information, and research shows that siestas aid in learning and memory retention. And his nighttime sleeping problems are telling you that he’s missing his lost naps in a big way.

Sounds like some schedule rearranging might be in order. Your newest family member is a little person with real needs, just like your older child, and having a family means juggling everyone’s needs. That doesn’t mean everyone’s needs are met in the same way, every day, all the time, but one person’s needs shouldn’t be shoved aside on a consistent basis. His physiological need for rest should be prioritized alongside his sister’s activities—not placed at a distant second.

But obviously, you can’t drop each and every activity, and you can’t stay home all day long. On days when his naps aren’t up to par, move his bedtime earlier by 45 minutes to an hour; a bit of extra nighttime sleep won’t totally make up for lost naps, but hitting the sack earlier can help him sleep more deeply with fewer awakenings during the night. Good luck!


Eight Tips for a Better Bedtime

It's bedtime again...and the bed's empty.Is bedtime a battle? Here are eight easy tips that have helped many of my reader's and client's kids sleep easier. Put them to work at your house, and see if bedtime doesn't get a whole lot better.

Play with Timing

For babies and toddlers, a better bedtime is often a matter of timing. Overtiredness may be causing your child’s bedtime shenanigans; try moving bedtime earlier by 15-20 minutes.

Later, gator

Alternately, your child may need to be awake longer before hitting the sack. If your child seems amenable to sleep (i.e. she isn’t crazy-hyper, but she just.can’t.sleep, and keeps calling you back into her room endlessly) try moving bedtime 30 minutes later.

Toy story

Toddlers love the delay bedtime in any way possible, and a bedroom filled with toys and books provides the perfect opportunity. If your child is throwing fits at bedtime for just one more story or just one more plaything, it’s time to move these distracting items someplace else. Keep 2-3 books and a few cherished comfort items in the bedroom, and move the rest.

Step it up

Exercise makes falling asleep easier and promotes deep sleep, says Dr. Richard Seligman of Presbyterian Sleep Disorders Center. To help your child fall asleep faster, add more activity to his day—running, jumping, park time, or just plain old walking. Every step he takes is one step closer to a better bedtime.


A bedroom full of gadgets can make bedtimes tough. Electronic toys get the brain jazzed up just when it should be winding down for sleep. That includes handheld video games, talking stuffed animals, even that electronic sleep sheep. For a better bedtime, ditch them all.


Complex carbohydrates (like those found in whole grains) help summon the sandman by aiding the brain’s production of serotonin and melatonin. To get kids yawning at bedtime, serve a snack like whole-grain cereal and milk or soymilk, whole-wheat toast and nut butter, whole-grain crackers and cheese, or popcorn.

Toasty tub

After a very warm bath, bedtime beckons. That’s because a warm bath raises the body’s core temperature, which drops quickly after the bath ends. This up-then-down temperature pattern helps cue sleepiness. So say goodbye to lukewarm baths (brrrrrrrrrrrr!) and don’t be afraid to bathe your child in comfortably warm water.

Turn it down

Another place to play with temperature is in your child’s bedroom—it should be cool, between 60 and 68 degrees. Warm temperatures are linked to poor, disrupted sleep, and cooling the brain has been shown to be an effective treatment for insomnia. So turning that thermostat down could help your child drift off to sleep quicker.


Ask Malia: The Skipped-Nap Trap

Wide awake at naptime.My 11 month old daughter has been taking two daily naps for months, one in the morning around 9:30 or 10, and another after lunchtime. Lately, though, she’s been skipping one or the other—sometimes she’ll refuse to nap in the morning (she’ll just play or fuss in her crib until I come and get her). Other days she’ll stay awake all afternoon without napping. It’s making our days crazy and unpredictable, and of course, she’s overtired by the evening. What’s going on?


Few things are more frustrating to parents than skipped naps, especially when you’ve been waiting all day for a much-needed break, and your tot is exhausted and clearly needs to nap.

An occasional skipped nap isn’t something to stress out over. But when skipped naps become a pattern, overtiredness can begin to negatively impact your child’s behavior and nighttime sleep. By skipping naps for more than a few days, your child is trying to tell you something. Take a look at this list to see if you can figure out her message.

Does she need a more soothing environment and wind-down?

Sleep environment is just as important at naptime as it is at bedtime. Ensure your child’s nap environment is dark, cool, and comfortable. A consistent naptime ritual is equally important. Reading books, changing your child’s diaper, drawing the curtains, and playing with soothing toys can become part of a relaxing naptime ritual. Make sure to do the same things in the same order for every nap.

Is she ready for fewer naps?

I suspect that your daughter may be preparing to drop her morning nap—she’s a bit ahead of the curve, but not terribly so. Children often begin skipping their afternoon nap shortly after their first birthday. Skipping a nap every day for a week is a sign that your child is ready for fewer daytime naps. Babies may be ready be awake for longer stretches when they play happily in their cribs at naptime instead of fussing or falling asleep.

When your baby is ready to drop the morning nap (between twelve and eighteen months for most), gradually decrease the length of the morning nap by fifteen minutes per day until it disappears. Alternately, you can gradually move the a.m. nap later by fifteen minutes per day until it occurs at midday, and simultaneously shorten the afternoon nap until it disappears completely. Keep in mind, this transition to a single nap usually occurs over a period of several months.

Is she overtired?

Waiting too long to put your child down for a nap can result in overtiredness that makes it difficult for her to fall asleep easily. When your child seems tired but just can’t nap, or if she throws a screaming, crying fit at naptime, overtiredness may be the culprit. Move your child’s naptime earlier by fifteen to twenty minutes per day until things improve.

Want more information on naps, nighttime, and everything in between? Check out my ebook Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep, So You Can Sleep Too for the latest information on helping babies and tots 0-3 sleep well.


Ask Malia: He Only Naps In My Arms

Hi Malia,

My 5-month-old son Brayden doesn’t nap much, and he refuses to nap in his crib. He’ll only sleep while I’m holding him and when I try to put him down, he screams. Right now he’s only napping for about 30 minutes at a time, and he’s exhausted by the end of the day. At night, he sleeps in his crib just fine. So it’s just the naps that are a struggle. I’d really like to change this pattern. He’s not getting enough napping in and I’m not getting a thing done during the day. Please help!



Hi Kelly,

Holding a baby while he sleeps can be wonderful. Until it isn't. The baby get heavier, naps get shorter, and pretty soon, you'd love to put your little bundle of love down for a few precious minutes so you can shower, load the dishwasher, or pay attention to your other kids.

You’re definitely not alone with this. In fact, it's probably the most common sleep question I get. So many parents end up with a young baby who prefers sleeping while being held (I mean, really...wouldn't you?). Many especially like to nap in someone's arms. Oddly, sleep associations can be different for naps and nighttime. So he might be totally OK with sleeping in his crib at night but give a big fat “no way!” to sleeping there at naptime.

For his naps, Brayden associates sleep with being held, and when you try and put him down, he startles and wakes up. What often happens is a parent will nurse/rock and child to sleep, hold him or her for 5-10 minutes (which tick by very slowly and seem like forever) and then place the child in the crib. The child promptly wakes up and screams. Then the parent repeats the process. This eats up a lot of time, and soon, the entire nap period is over without the child getting a real nap.

Unforuntately, even if he's sleeping in his preferred location (your arms) he's not getting a restful nap. The motion of your body will prevent him from cycling through the stages of sleep effectively, and his sleep won't be as restorative.

The good news is that you can break this pattern and help support his need for longer, more restorative naps. Here’s how:

1. First, make sure his sleeping space is completely black-out dark, as this will help keep him from stirring and awakening while you are working on this process. Also, put a digital clock in there that you can see while you are working on this. It's easy to lose all sense of time when you're in a completely dark room with an infant for what seems like forever.

2. When you put him down for a nap, nurse him to sleep and do whatever you do to get him to sleep. Be sure that you are in his room and that it's dark. You want him to associate his room with sleep.

3. Once he is alseep, hold him for a full 20-25 minutes. This gives him time to cycle through the first stages of sleep and reach the deepest stage of sleep. When he is absolutely deep asleep, his limbs will be slack, his breathing deep and even, and he will be motionless. If he is breathing shallow breaths or making small noises, he's still in a lighter stage of sleep. Wait for the deep sleep.

4. Once he is in the deepest stage of sleep, gently lay him down in his crib. When he is in the deepest stage of sleep, he won't be aware of this transfer, as he would be if you had put him down after only a few minutes. (Again, it's important that the room is dark and quiet, to make it less likely that he will fully awaken if he does stir.) Keep your hands on his back to assure him of your presence and to make the transition from your body to the crib as gradual as possible.

5. Stay with him in the room another 10 minutes to ensure that he will remain asleep. If he does wake at all, you want to be quick to respond by soothing him with patting, rubbing his back, and saying "shhhhhh" in a steady, soothing way before he wakes up fully. You want to avoid picking him up and restarting the process, so only do that if he is screaming and thrashing for more than a minute or two.

6. Stay with step 4 for all naps over a couple of days, until you are confident that you're able to transfer him to his crib after about 20 minutes of holding. Continue staying with him for another 10-15 minutes to ensure that he's asleep.

7. Once you've got the hang of this step, begin to shave minutes off the time you've been holding him before putting him down in his crib. So if you've been holding him 20 minutes before putting him down, try holding for just 18 minutes. Then 16. Then 14. Stay at each stage for a day or two before moving on. What you are doing is getting him used to being put down in progressively lighter and lighter stages of sleep. Soon you will be putting him down in a light stage of sleep, and soothing him with touch and your voice if he stirs. Then, as you move on, eventually you will be putting him down drowsy. Eventually you will be able to put him down drowsy and walk out, maybe with a bit of patting or reassurance, and then you're done.

This process seems cumbersome, but it is very effective if you stay the course. You may get "stuck" at certain stages, (like, you can't seem to put him down with any fewer than 15 minutes of holding) but just stay with it and you will progress. Just like with anything else, progress sometimes comes in fits and starts. I estimate the entire process will take you about 2-3 weeks if you stick with it! Good luck, and enjoy all the free time you'll have on your hands very soon.

I’m an award-winning parenting and health journalist, sleep coach, and mom of three. My articles about sleep, health, and parenting appear regularly in over 90 national and regional magazines and on television, and I've been featured by YAHOO Shine, MSN Health, the TODAY Show, and TODAY Moms. 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.

I offer sleep coaching on call for tired parents ready to make a change. Take the first step by booking your session 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 newest e-book Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers & Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades is available now!