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Solutions to Your Most Common Sleep Challenges

Does it seem like just when your children have learned to be good sleepers, there is a hiccup that disrupts your whole household? You are definitely not alone. The good news is that once children have a strong sleep foundation they most often bounce back from inevitable setbacks quite quickly.


Now, more than ever, with everyone being home 24/7 due to the pandemic, having tools to help our children be better sleepers is invaluable. Here are some common sleep challenges and strategies to tackle them so everyone can get the sleep they need and deserve!


How do I transition my 8-month-old from three naps to two naps so that the afternoon nap is the longer one?


When you find it is time to drop your baby’s third nap, or your little one is dropping it on his own, push the start of the morning and afternoon naps as close to 8:45/9 am and 12:45/1 pm as possible. This will decrease the amount of time he is awake between his afternoon nap and bedtime, which will help him avoid becoming overtired. In order to do this, you may need to move bedtime earlier as he is adjusting to the two naps each day. Most 8-month-olds can tolerate being awake three consecutive hours, give or take, between their afternoon nap and bedtime.


When do you recommend making the move from two naps to one?


Typically, children transition from two naps to one between the ages of 15 and 18 months. That being said, I always recommend holding onto two naps for as long as possible as this change is the biggest consolidation of sleep that a child will go through. If your little one is showing signs of dropping the nap (i.e. refusing the morning nap or the morning nap seems to sabotage a successful afternoon nap), give it a few weeks to make sure it is not just a phase. If it is still an issue, the first step is to try limiting the length of the morning nap. If that doesn’t help, consider making the change to one nap.


My 15-month-old takes one nap in the afternoon, but she only sleeps 1.5 hours. Is there any way I can help her lengthen the nap to two hours?? 


Depending how long she is sleeping at night, an hour and a half nap may be adequate for her. I would watch her sleepy signs to help make that determination. Is she falling asleep when she shouldn’t be sleepy? Is she having a hard time making it to bedtime without having a meltdown? There are two ways to help lengthen a nap: 1) Be sure she is napping at the best time of the day so that she is falling sleep in sync with her natural sleep waves, which allows the nap to be the most restorative 2) Leave her in the crib for a full 2+ hours to give her the space and opportunity to practice getting herself back to sleep.


My son is almost 14 months old and wakes up every 30 minutes at night? What can I do to help him sleep through the night?   


Teach your little one to fall asleep on his own at the beginning of the night (or nap) without requiring rocking, the bottle, breast, etc.  Once he can do that successfully, you will see the skill translate to him being able to fall back to sleep on his own should he wake during the night. The best way to do that? Pick an approach (and there are lots of successful options) that feels good to your parenting style and resist the temptation to occasionally be the one to soothe him back to sleep. Consistency is really the key to success.


Bedtime takes forever! Our 5-year-old asks for everything under the moon to delay going to sleep. Help!!


Toddlers and young children love to pull shenanigans, and it is very age appropriate. To take control of the situation and keep bedtime from being drawn out, validate what he wants, but stay the course. You might say, for example, “I know you want to read another book. I love reading books with you, but we have read our two books for the night and now it is time to go to sleep.” If he has a tantrum, that is fine. It is just his way of saying that the world is not going according to his plan. Allow him to be upset and, once calm, continue where you left off. Over time he will realize that it doesn’t matter how many times he asks for something – mom and dad stick to their rules and routines. Our children can be so savvy and smart with their delay tactics. (Can you really blame them?) Validation and keeping to your routine can make a huge difference.


As you encounter new issues with your child’s sleep, keep in mind that the solution could be as broad as implementing a well-crafted sleep plan or it’s possible that a small tweak will do the trick. With good habits and consistency, a restful night of sleep is just around the corner for everyone! If it feels like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back as you attempt to get your little ones on a sustainable sleep plan, remember that establishing healthy routines sets your children up for success for years to come.

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