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Entries in five month old sleep (2)


Ask Malia: My Sweet, Napless 5-month-old

Naps? Yeah, right!Dear Malia,

I have a napping question for you. Kailey is 5 1/2 months old now and is taking very short naps - often about 20 minutes. She usually goes down easily (I hold/rock her until asleep then put her in her crib). She seems completely out, but wakes up very soon and usually won't go back to sleep. I try putting her pacifier back in, but that very rarely works. Her night sleep is generally pretty good...she started waking up more at night around three months and continues to be a bit spotty (she slept through the night from 5 weeks to 3 months really consistently). She is generally asleep by 7:30pm and wakes up around 4-5 a.m. to eat, then sleeps for another 2-3 hours.

We've had a hard time getting on any kind of nap schedule, but generally she wakes up for the day around 7:30-8 a.m. ish (depending on when she eats in the early morning). I try to put her down for a nap around 10-11 a.m. The afternoon nap is a total crap shoot...I'm not sure if I should try to have set times that I generally stick to...or wait until she shows signs of being tired. I'd say on average she'll take her cat naps around 10-11am and then somewhere between 2 and 3:30 p.m. She does sleep in the ergo on walks quite a bit...

We're lucky to get a couple 20 minute naps per day with the occasional 45 min nap. Can you help?


OK, I can help. When babies begin taking short naps—especially if they used to take longer naps and suddenly stop—it often means that they are ready to be awake for longer stretches before their nap.

However, in Kailey’s case it sounds as though she is already awake for quite a while before her naps. As a general rule of thumb, 5-month-old babies can stay awake for around two hours before they need to sleep again. This does vary child to child, but it's a good starting point. A few babies may be able to comfortably stay awake for three hours at 5 months, or perhaps go three hours once per day. But most babies max out at two or two-and-half hours at this age.

Also, I want to note that babies who take spotty naps but sleep relatively well at night are often children who need a bit less sleep than their peers and probably won’t take two two-hour long naps during the day. If you encourage her to nap more than she naturally needs, she may start waking up at night—which you do not want, trust me. Trading nighttime sleep for longer naps is never a good swap.

So she may never be a baby who naps for hours on end. But if she used to nap for around three to four hours per day, she can certainly go back to a more restful nap schedule. I recommend that you begin by normalizing her nap routine. Yes, I do recommend a set time, place, and naptime routine (similar to a bedtime routine). The time does not need to be set in stone—it can vary by up to 30 minutes either way depending on what time she wakes up and her level of tiredness. But keeping a consistent routine helps her associate certain periods with sleep. By three to four months of age, babies start developing regular nap patterns, which means they’re “primed” for sleep at certain periods of the day.

If you’re serious about getting her to nap longer, I also recommend darkening her room significantly during naptime. This helps a ton with getting her back to sleep if she wakes up during naptime (more on that later).

Back to her nap timing. Here is where it gets a bit complex. (Just a bit. J) I believe she MAY be waking because she is overtired. But she may also be undertired. The only way to tell is to try a few different nap scenarios and see which one works.

Why I suspect overtiredness first: If she is indeed overtired from staying awake too long before her naps, overtiredness can make it difficult for her to take a restful nap. Overtiredness can also increase the likelihood of her waking up “mid-nap.” And overtiredness can result in some of the night waking symptoms you describe. For example, waking up without needing to eat in the first 3-4 hours after bedtime is a sign of overtiredness. (While the wakings well after midnight, from 2-5 a.m., are more typical for an infant and are usually feeding times.)

So start by beginning her nap routine within 2 to 2.25 hours of her waking up.  Her daily routine would look like:

7:30 wake

9:30-10:30 nap 1

1-2 nap 2

4:30-5:30 nap 3

7:30-8 bedtime

If she wakes early from these naps, simply move the rest of the day’s schedule earlier and put her to bed earlier (she’ll need the earlier bedtime after a day of short naps). Stay with this routine for about three or four days. If the short naps persist and the night wakings continue or worsen, try a new course—start lengthening the times before her naps by 15 minutes or so per day.

If you’d like to get her back to sleep when she wakes during naps, here is how to do it: creep into her room about five minutes before you expect her to wake up. As soon as you hear her begin to stir, start patting her and using soothing vocal tones (shhh, shhhh, etc.) to get her back to sleep. Continue patting for 10-15 minutes. If she does not go back to sleep after 15 minutes of patting, get her up and continue her day (moving the rest of the day’s routine earlier and putting her to bed earlier, as I describe above)  

Hope this makes sense! It will be a bit of trial-and-error at first, so please let me know if you have more questions as you go along!

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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: Three Quick Questions From Across The Pond

Dear Malia,

We live in a small town in England and it is very difficult to receive sleep or lactation advice out here. Though everyone here is super nice and helpful, I would like more professional advice.

Liam is our first child so it is all new for us! He is breastfeed and is not sleeping through the night yet, which is fine. I do not want to push him, and we are planning to start him solids at six months.

The issue is, he naturally gets up at 8 a.m., so our day starts later than all the sample sleep schedules I see out there. I try to fit in three naps a day but by the time of the third nap, he might as well go down for the night.

Here are my questions. I hope you have time to help!

1. For a five-month-old, is it better to have two shorts naps ex (9:30 – 10:30 a.m., and 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.) then bedtime at 5.30 p.m. OR three shorter naps ex (9:00 – 10:00 a.m., 1:00 – 2:00 p.m., and 5 – 5:30 p.m.) then sleep at 7:30 p.m.?

I know it seems really similar but I find if he sleeps at 5:30 p.m. sometimes he will just sleep through the night, he doesn't want to get up!  So far either way, he gets up around 7 or 8 a.m.

Most children his age have three naps per day, one in the a.m., one after lunch, and short nap (30-40 min) around dinnertime. I would lean toward maintaining a three-nap routine if possible. If he seems extra tired, ill, or like he need the extra sleep on a particular day, you can always put him down at 5:30 p.m. But you run the risk of having him start to wake up far too early if you put him down at 5:30 p.m. every night.

2. I currently am still rocking him to sleep but I really like your idea of holding him for 20 -25 mins, then shaving two mins per day. It’s the best idea I found so far as I do not want to try CIO. But generally I only need to rock/shush him for about five minutes and then he will fall asleep. Does this mean he is overtired?

No, it does not necessarily mean he is overtired (though he may well be). It means this process should be easy and quick for you! Just make sure you stay with him in his room until he is in a deep sleep for the first few days, which takes about 20 minutes.

3. I try to let him have a nap in his cot once or  twice a day, for about 30 - 45 mins. He will naturally wake up. But once a day, I will hold him so he will nap longer and sometimes if I let him, he can nap for three hours. So then I try to wake up him but, if I try to wake him up around two hours, he's mad! Is this because he is in deep sleep or he is overtired?

If his other naps are only 30-45 minutes long, he may not be getting enoug naptime in. So he may indeed be overtired, which can result in the crying when he wakes up. I would begin trying to encourage longer naps in his cot. One way to do this is to gently increase the amount of time he is awake before naps by 10 to 15 minutes per day. At nearly six months old, he may be able to stay awake for 2-3 hours between naps. Many times, babies need a shorter activity period in the morning but can stay awake longer midday. So you could try having him awake by 8, nap 1 by 10, nap 2 by 2, and a brief 3rd nap around 5:30 or 6 p.m.

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!