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Entries in overtiredness (5)


Ask Malia: My 11-month-old's sleep went from bad to worse

Our daughter Maeve has been a light/difficult sleeper ever since she was born. She refused to sleep in anything but her bouncer or swing until she was about five months old. Now she's waking up throughout the night, and it's become much worse since our trip last week.

She usually wakes up between 6:45 and 7:15 a.m. If she has a night where she wakes up for long periods of time, she tends to wake up earlier, like at 6 a.m. On a normal day, she will start getting tired 2.5-3 hours after waking up, so usually around 10 a.m. The length of her nap varies, but on average is an hour at daycare and an hour and a half at home. ­­­­Sometimes she doesn't take a morning nap at daycare. Lunch is between noon and 12:30, followed by a bottle and nap. Since she usually naps longer in the a.m. at home, her afternoon nap may not be until 2 or 2:30. We give her another bottle at 7:15-7:30. She usually falls asleep taking this one (and actually most other bottles). So on average, she is asleep by 7:45. She usually wakes up during the 11 p.m. hour. If we just leave her without intervening, she can be awake for an hour plus. She also tends to wake up anywhere from 3-5 a.m. wanting the same thing. A lot of times I give her a bottle at this waking and then she'll go back to sleep. She is almost a year old, so I would assume that she really doesn't need this bottle.

Last week when we were in the hotel, the night waking and refusing to go back to sleep were the worst they ever been. When we got home on Friday, she did better that night and Saturday, but Sunday was bad again. I’d like to help her start sleeping more comfortably through the night and start to wean her off the bottle. Can you help?


Hi there. First, don’t beat yourself up about the poor sleep on your trip. I think the long wakings at the hotel may have been the result of sleep routine disruption and a new sleep environment, and not reflective of her sleep routine at home (even "good sleepers" have problems sleeping in hotels!). So I would consider her sleep on that trip something of a fluke and focus on your routine at home.

From the routine that you describe, I believe she is overtired. Here are a few reasons why I believe this: At 11 months, most babies need two naps (one morning one afternoon). You said that she is normally tired and ready for a nap within 2.5 or 3 hours of waking, yet she is going 3.5 hours between her a.m. nap and her p.m. nap, and sometimes skipping her a.m. nap altogether. She is also going a long stretch between her p.m. nap and bedtime.

The fact that she also wakes even earlier after a poor night is another clue that she is overtired
. (The adrenaline resulting from overtiredness encourages babies to wake up even earlier that normal, even though they need more sleep).

Since she may be nearing the age where she will drop her a.m. nap and move to one nap (15 months is average for this, but some babies start the transition to one nap before their first birthday), I recommend keeping a close eye on whether she's napping at daycare. If she does not take a morning nap at daycare, she needs to be down for her afternoon nap right around lunchtime, 12 or 12:30 at the latest

On days that she does take a morning nap from 10-11, move her afternoon nap up to 2 p.m. at the latest. Ensure that she is awake by 3:30 p.m. Then begin her bedtime routine by 6:30 or so with the goal of having her asleep by 7 or earlier.

(Of course these are suggestions for timing. You can start with this routine and tweak things as you figure out what's working for you.)

Once you have her routine a bit more solid and her night sleep improves, perhaps in two-three weeks, I suggest helping to break her bottle-to-sleep association with the method I describe in Ready, Set, Sleep; i.e. moving the bottle earlier in the sleep routine and replacing it with another sleep association that can help her get to sleep instead, like music or a special toy.

It's fairly common for babies to have one night feeding at 3-5 a.m. at her age, and the early-morning feeding is the last to go. Once she breaks the bottle-to-sleep association I expect that night feeding will fade away soon enough.

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!


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!


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: Handling "Special Treat" Bedtimes

Dear Malia,

Since I’ve started reading your blog, I’ve created an earlier bedtime for my two kids (a 4-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl). They used to stay up until 10, but now they’re in bed by 8 p.m. most nights, and it’s great. They’re less moody and much happier in the morning, and my daughter’s more attentive and happier in school. But my parents are visiting from out of town next week and we’ll be eating in restaurants and visiting all week. I know they’ll be up later than I want them to be. How should I handle this—and other “special occasions” that keep my kids up?


Though I’m a devoted fan of earlier bedtimes for young kids, late bedtimes happen. I liken them to special desserts. They’re for special celebrations and holidays (making them all the more cherished).

If kids get special treats every day, they’re not so special anymore (and they cavities and stomachaches to boot). Think of your child’s standard, early bedtime like his normal, healthy diet. Later bedtimes are once-in-a-while treats.

Here’s how to make “special treat” late bedtimes work for you:

  • Vacation and holiday bedtimes should be no more than one hour later than your child’s normal bedtime.
  • After a “special treat” later bedtime, don’t allow your child to sleep in more than one hour past his normal wake-up time. Doing so throws off that day’s routine and bedtime.
  • Flexibility is great. But something is flexible only if it goes back to its original state. Otherwise, it’s just broken. So when you bend your routine to allow for a late bedtime, make sure to bend it back. A late bedtime that occurs more than three nights in a row is becoming a habit. Return to your regular routine as quickly as you can.
  • If your child goes to bed ultra-late (for example, after a wedding or New Year’s), compensate with an early bedtime the following night. Do not allow him to “nap it off” with an overly-long daytime nap the next day.


Ask Malia: Considering Cry-It-Out

Hi Malia,

Boy, I need your help! My 15 month old son (my third baby) is a bit of a nightmare in the sleep department. We subscribed to baby-led practices including nursing on demand and co-sleeping, but now I'm in a pickle. He was nursing all night long in our bed, so I tried to move him to another room so we could all get some sleep.

We try to let him “cry it out” but 2-4 hours later he is up screaming. At this point I give up and go in and nurse him and try to put him back down but I am so tired I fall asleep while nursing in the guest bed and the cycle continues. Would it be extreme to just close the door at 8:30pm and no matter how much he cries not walk in until morning? He gets up so often!

During the day he has one long nap after lunch but lately it's just been an hour to hour and half. He might doze off in the car during a morning errand but I end up having to wake him up when we arrive somewhere. He is not happy and I am at my wits’ end! After reading some of your posts I am considering two naps of one hour each both in the morning and after lunch so he is not overtired. Is that a good plan? Please help! Thank you!


Hi there Stephanie,

I'm sorry you're having trouble. As a busy mom of three I'm sure you could use some sleep!

I plan to do a few more posts on the topic of naps, because they are confusing. I will clarify what your son may need in the naps department in a moment.

But first, there seem to be several things going on that are affecting your son's ability to sleep well:

1. Disordered sleep associations (i.e. he associates nursing with sleep, and therefore needs the breast to help him fall asleep).
2. Lack of consistent routine.
3. Improper amount of sleep. In this case, too little night sleep.

I know it can be overwhelming to see it laid out like this, but I always suggest approaching a child's sleep problems one at a time, in order to be gentle to the child and to facilitate both the parent and the child's learning process.

To answer your question about the nap; no, I don't think you should move your son to the nap schedule you're considering. 15 months of age is the average time that toddlers move to one afternoon nap. Your son is likley heading in that direction; I suspect that if you give him a morning nap, you'll always have trouble getting him to take a good afternoon nap and he'll be melting down by the evening.

I suggest giving your son a midday nap of one to two hours at a consistent time each day, starting the nap right after his lunchtime. Try to avoid allowing him to fall asleep in the morning (in the car or whatnot). I know it's hard to do, but even 10 minutes of car sleep can throw off his nap and leave him very overtired by the end of the day.

Instead of giving him more naps, I suggest moving his bedtime earlier, and putting him to bed when he shows signs of tiredness at night.

I suggest going with a consistent nap schedule and earlier bedtime for a few days to help combat his overtiredness, before you do anything else to work on his sleep.

Instead of cry-it-out, I suggest gradually helping him learn some new, better sleep associations. This reduces crying for your son as well as disruption for the rest of your family. In a sleep consultation I walk my clients through the process step-by-step.

Hope this is helpful. Again, I think you would find my ebook Ready, Set, Sleep very informative in helping you create healthy sleep associations for your son and support his need for sleep.

Thanks for the question.