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Late to Bed, Early to Rise, No Naps. Help!

Photograph by Twenty20

Dear Heather,

My 17-month-old refuses to take naps. He also doesn’t go to bed until 10 p.m.—and that's with waking up at 7 a.m. Um, help!

So Tired

Dear So Tired,

You’re right to be perplexed. That’s surely not enough sleep for a baby his age. His growing body and blossoming little mind will do well with at least 11 hours at night and at least one good nap.

It’s common for toddlers to have a temporary “nap strike,” in which they skip naps because they’re too excited to be practicing, playing and enjoying the world. Nap strikes are very common and make perfect sense—as a baby’s awareness of the world grows, so does his desire to be a part of it. The problem is that sometimes parents take this nap refusal as a sign that either the baby isn’t tired or that they’ll never be able to get reliable naps back again.

RELATED: Stop Making Excuses and Put Your Kids to Bed Earlier

Neither of these is true for a 17-month-old. If you hold the frame of a nap—by keeping the right timing and having a nap routine similar to a shortened version of your bedtime one—eventually, he will come back around to sleeping again. He has to know that your routines and expectations are not changing, and that he can trust the consistency of them. When that happens—and when the novelty of his daytime excitement wears off—he will come around to sleeping again.

RELATED: My Toddler Won't Go to Bed Without a Bottle

I’m skeptical that he stays awake from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. That seems almost physically impossible for a toddler. I’m guessing he falls asleep in the car or the stroller, maybe even for less than 30 minutes. You’d want to make sure that doesn’t happen and that you tuck him into his regular sleeping place for naps and bedtime. Naps (even car naps) are best ended by 3:30 p.m. or so.

So bring the nighttime bed routine into the day, give it some time and your toddler will adjust.

Happy sleeping!


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Do you have a sleep question you want Heather to answer for Sleep Fix? Email her at heatherturgeonmft@gmail.com. Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her Los Angeles-based sleep consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

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