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 naps (14)

Friday
Feb082013

Ask Malia: My toddler's naps are no-gos

I have been posting lots of nap questions lately, but well, you keep sending them! Here's another:

Hi Malia. I downloaded your first e-book and it has been incredibly helpful. After several months of terrible sleep, we have now had a full month of good rest for the whole family. It is amazing how much better we all feel when we are not sleep-deprived.

We now have a consistent schedule for naps and a nighttime sleep routine that works better for everyone. Instead of bouncing Henry to sleep in the Ergo, I now sit in a chair beside his crib and shush-pat the mattress until he falls asleep on his own. Plus, instead of waking up every 1-2 hours at night, he now wakes up once a night and sometimes even sleeps straight through from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Here’s my question: Arlo (12 months old) takes a very long time to fall asleep for naps. He takes two naps per day for a total of about 3 hours. When I would bounce him to sleep in the Ergo for naps it would take less than 15 minutes for him to fall asleep. Now that we are encouraging him to put himself to sleep in the crib, it takes 30-60 minutes. Some days, it even takes 90 minutes before he falls asleep on his own. Do you have any suggestions for how to encourage him to fall asleep more quickly in his crib?

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I’m so happy to hear about your success! And I do have suggestions for you. I think Arlo is starting down the long-ish road to dropping his morning nap. Fifteen months old is the average age for this, though babies can drop it anywhere from eight months to 24 months. Here's why I think he’s beginning to show  signs of the 2-1 nap switch: taking a long time to fall asleep at naptime and naps gradually getting later and later (i.e. waking from his last nap at 5 p.m., which pushes bedtime pretty late) are signs that he's beginning this transition.

Also, it's fairly common for naps to shift once a child starts sleeping more soundly at night, which Arlo has been doing. Especially for toddlers, who are beginning to need slightly less sleep than they did as infants anyway, starting to "sleep through the night" or even just sleeping more soundly with fewer awakenings at night fills up their sleep tank, so to speak, and they have less drive to sleep during the day. This can contribute to the nap resistance, along with his natural development and his age.

My article "Dropping a Nap Without Drama" may be helpful here. Essentially, you can either keep his morning nap at the same time each day and gradually shorten it until it's gone, or you can push it back so that the "morning" nap occurs at midday and the afternoon nap is more like a catnap. For Arlo's type of nap resistance, I recommend option 2.

I recommend pushing his morning nap later in 15 minute increments. I'd hesitate to make drastic changes to his sleep schedule because he is making big strides with his sleep and you're doing such a great job supporting his healthy sleep. I'd hate to see that progress get interrupted. Congratulations and keep it up!

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
Sep212012

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!

Friday
Sep072012

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!

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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!

Monday
Jun042012

No more naps? Eight reasons to cheer.

Goodbye, nap!For some kids, it happens at as early as age two. For most, three or four is the magic age. A few hang on until five. But sooner or later, all kids do it: they give up their afternoon nap.

Parents of babies and toddlers are terrified of losing their child’s daily snooze—also known as their only chance to check email, shower, read, prep dinner, return phone calls, sleep, or just stare into space without a tiny person yanking at their arm.

But take heart. Leaving naps behind can be a positive step. Without a daily nap to work around, your family’s day opens up, along with new preschool possibilities, more sibling time, and less daily frustration. Your kiddo might sleep better at night, too.

Here are eight reasons to face the no-nap transition with no fear.

Sounder nighttime sleep

By the time kids hit the preschool years, many sleep better at night without a daily snooze. This is particularly true of kids who need less overall sleep than their peers. Without a daily nap, your tot will likely fall asleep faster and earlier at night, and possibly sleep later in the morning, too.

Extra flexibility in your routine

Need to spend an afternoon running errands? Want to linger over a late lunch? Tired of the morning crowds at the local park? Once your kid stops napping, there’s no need to rush home to get him in bed every afternoon—which opens up your schedule for all sorts of possibilities.  Anyone up for a matinee?

Family schedule-sync

Keeping noisy brothers and sisters from waking a napping younger sibling can be harrowing (“For the last time, BE QUIET! Your brother is NAPPING!”). When the younger child finally gives up napping, parents can finally surrender their “Quiet Police” badges.

No more doorbell dread

You know those cutesy signs that politely ask visitors not to ring the doorbell, because “Baby’s Napping?” They might as well be invisible. When you’ve got a snoozing baby, your doorbell is a magnet for everyone in the world, from chatty neighbors to gutter salesmen to magazine-selling teens. No nap means you’ll no longer fear the bell’s toll.

Farewell, frustration

Few things are more unnerving than trying—and failing—to get a rambunctious preschooler down for a nap, day after day. Struggling with a child who just won’t sleep is not fun. But once the nap bites the dust, you can kiss that defeating daily routine goodbye.

Easier room-sharing

In this recent article for ParentMap magazine, I extol the benefits of having kids bunk up. And a shared bedroom works much better when one sib isn't monopolizing the room each afternoon with a nap. When naps are history, both roommates are free to use the room all day long.

P.M. preschool

Saying goodbye to naps opens up a new world of preschool possibilities. Once your child is ready to stay awake all day, afternoon-only preschool is a great way to fill the long afternoon hours (bonus: no early-morning drop off!).

Ciao, car alarm

When you desperately want your tot to take her nap, the sight of her nodding off in her carseat is cause for alarm. A few minutes of carseat sleep kills an afternoon nap faster than you can say “No, sweetie, wait!” But when the nap is history, short carseat siestas are no big deal. In fact, they’re kind of nice. You might even take the long route home, just to savor your latte in peace.

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What about you? Were you bummed when your kiddo dropped the afternoon nap? Or did it ultimately make things easier?

Friday
May182012

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?

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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!