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Baby Sleep Questions Answered

Nap Battles: The Premature Two-Naps-to-One Kid

By Amalah

Hello!

First things first, I have a minor fan girl crush on your column, pregnancy calendar and blog. EEEeee!! 🙂

I really hate bothering you while moving (we’re military and moving suuuuuuuucks), but I’m sitting outside crying into my coffee so I don’t have to hear my baby cry for naptime.

She’ll be one in October. She’s never been a great napper, but following Ferber and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child we managed to get two solid naps a day and she sleeps wonderfully at night. STILL sleeps wonderfully at night (although I now expect that the change since I’m telling the world).

Naptime on the other hand is a nightmare. I can’t think of anything I haven’t tried. Since she turned 8 months, she will.not.nap. Our sleepy routine is a diaper change (low light), snuggle into sleep sack, short rock and a song and then off to bed! We had no problems or issues until she learned to roll, sit up, crawl and move around.

Now I put her down for a nap and all she does is move. Like a demon has taken over her motor functions and will not let her lay down to sleep. I’ve tried leaving her to cry (two hours was my limit), laying her back down every time she got up (two hours was my limit), bouncing/rocking/singing to her until she was asleep (two hours was my limit), wrapping her (two hours was my limit — seeing a trend?), getting her up and keeping her up until her next nap (she didn’t take that next nap either), moving her naps back by an hour (still didn’t sleep), moving her naps up (nope!) and on and one.

Like I said, I’m at the point of going outside with coffee and a video monitor and crying. We’re not having any fun during the day because she is so stinking tired.

She will not sleep in the car either. I’ve been following the 2,3,4 schedule but as of now, her bedtime is 6PM (and inching closer to 5:30) and I don’t relish the idea of her getting up at 6AM or earlier with no naps through the day. As of now, she does sleep from about 6PM until about 6:30AM with two night wakings to eat. She does go right back to sleep.

I’m sorry this is all over the place, but she is wearing me out. Please. I need more ideas or something!

Thanks!

Okay. Let’s start off with some MATH.

Your daughter is sleeping for 12.5 hours at night, and “inching closer” to 13 straight hours. That’s fantastic! That’s also your problem.

I mean, not really, but also, kind of. ON AVERAGE, babies your daughter’s age will sleep around 11 or 11.5 hours at night. Naps bring total sleep up to around 14 hours. But this isn’t some solid set-in-stone thing — some babies sleep more, some (okay, many) sleep less.

So with 12.5 to 13 hours of her sleep coming in one long unbroken chunk at night, I actually am not surprised AT ALL that she’s not napping consistently or significantly. With that much sleep at night, it’s probably unrealistic to expect her to take two really long naps during the day. She might not be the best candidate for 2-3-4 because after 13 hours of sleep, unless you’re keeping her CRAZY busy in the first two hours of her day, she’s probably not the least bit tired! And trying to force a nap anyway (and letting it routinely turn into a two-hour power struggle), is just an exercise in futility. Kid won’t sleep. You can’t make her sleep. She’s furious that you’re trying to make her sleep when SHE DOESN’T WANT TO SLEEP. But the struggle itself is stressful and the fighting and constant UP and DOWN and BACK UP is probably wearing her out, so then she ends up overtired and cranky.

Am I suggesting you let her become some kind of all-day napless wonder? Hell no. She does need a nap. A. Nap. Singular.

I know! I KNOW! She’s too young! The books and the Googles and the old lady at the grocery store all say two naps at this age! But the reality is that MOST babies who are taking two naps are not sleeping as long at night as your daughter. Maybe 10/11 hours.

Basically, your daughter has absorbed one of her naps into her overnight sleep. So you should probably only expect one nap during the day. This isn’t that unusual, although she’s just on the young side for the two-naps-to-one transition. She’s probably been trying to make the transition ever since 8 months but you wouldn’t let her because DUH, why would you? She’s only 8 months old! Take a nap, child. And then take another one!

So…try it. You said she skipped both naps if you gave up on the first, but only AFTER an extended struggle in her crib. So what would happen if you didn’t even try for a morning nap, and then moved the “second” nap to right after lunchtime?  (If you’re skittish, maybe aim 20 minutes of “quiet time” in her crib mid-morning…with lots of books and toys and no interference from you or insisting that she lie down or be still.)

In my three-time experience with the two-naps-to-one transition, the one-nap schedule was blissfully freeing (once I finally stopped fighting for two naps!). All morning to go do stuff! Fun stuff! Errands stuff! Then home for lunch and down for a nap…that actually lasted pretty darn long, because they were finally far enough away from that refreshing nighttime sleep to really NEED a nap.

I can’t promise that even if she takes one nap a day that it will be a significant one — again, that 12.5/13 hours at night means she might only “need” an hour during the day. (Again, that 14 total hours of sleep time is just as average.) But I think you both need a break and a reset from this twice-a-day nap battle no matter what. You’re both miserable and crying and the end result is the same: SHE’S NOT TAKING A FREAKING NAP. So…try skipping the 2-hours-after-waking nap and move the afternoon nap to right after lunch. Maybe lunch will need to move up to prevent overtiredness, so play around with it for a few days before giving up.

(Unless it starts messing with her nights. You definitely don’t want to mess up the nights in pursuit of an hour nap.)

(Also, if you don’t have them already: Blackout curtains.)

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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