NEW YORK TIMES COLUMN: FAMILIES TODAY:
9 MONTH OLD AND NAPTIME RESISTANCE
By: T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., and Joshua Sparrow, M.D.
Q. Our healthy 9-month-old son has started to resist going down for his naps. We have tried every method in the book (quiet time, reading, rocking, dark room) but he still cries/wails before each nap.
On good days, he takes two one-hour naps; on bad days (more often lately), one or two 45-minute naps. He goes to sleep easily at night without nursing and sleeps through for about 10 hours.
A. Most 9-months-olds require about 12 hours of sleep during each 24-hour period – including nighttime sleep and naps. Sleep needs vary among babies. The range for 9-month-olds is from 11 to 13 hours per day, according to pediatric sleep specialist Richard Ferber, M.D. So on “good days” your son is within the average.
Many children resist naps, even when they need them. Up until 6 months, most babies take three naps a day – one in the morning, one midday or early afternoon and one later in the afternoon.
At around 6 months, one nap is dropped. At around 12 months, babies often drop one of the two remaining naps. A little ahead of schedule, your baby may be getting ready to switch from two naps to one.
When a baby is on the verge of dropping a nap, a period of back-and-forth may follow for a few weeks. This transition is typical of what we call a touchpoint, when an area of development such as sleep becomes briefly disorganized to reorganize into a more mature pattern.
One day, your baby may take one nap and skip the other, or he may have trouble falling asleep before both. He’ll also be cranky and tired when he has had fewer or shorter naps. Falling asleep at night may be harder, also.
When one nap replaces two, naptime also shifts – between the old morning and afternoon naps. The remaining nap’s length may be longer, or the baby may sleep a little longer at night. At 12 months, the sleep total is only about 30-45 minutes less than at 9 months, so the single remaining nap may be longer than before.
Can a parent help this transition? Try to be sure that the baby is getting enough sleep over each 24-hour period. Inadequate sleep can interfere with falling asleep and sleeping restfully.
Help your baby consolidate his two naps into one by putting him down for his morning nap a little later. Put him to bed later, too, which might lead him to sleep longer – thus easing the shift to consolidate morning and afternoon naps.
The transition will happen anyway in a few months, if not sooner. You may be just as glad for him to keep napping twice a day for a while longer, even if he struggles to get himself to sleep and the naps are shorter.
If he gets tired and cranky, encourage quiet time for cuddling and reading together so that he can get a little rest and comfort even if he can’t sleep then.
(For more information, see “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems,” by Richard Ferber, M.D. published by Simon & Schuster.)
Responses to questions are not intended to constitute or to take the place of medical or psychiatric evaluation, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a question about your child’s health or well-being, consult your child’s health-care provider.
Dr. Brazelton heads the Brazelton Touchpoints Project, which promotes and supports community initiatives that are collaborative, strength-based, prevention-focused sources of support for families raising children in our increasingly stressful world. Dr. Sparrow, a child psychiatrist, is Director of Strategy, Planning and Program Development at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center. Learn more about the Center at www.touchpoints.org.
Reprinted with permission from the authors.