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Ask Grandma Maggie

Parenting & Childcare Advice
Peggy Moss (1933-2014), also known as Grandma Maggie, penned a parenting column on this site for many years. Back by popular demand, we are republishing the column, sharing with you the best of Grandma Maggie’s parenting and childcare advice.
Unfortunately Grandma Maggie is no longer able to take questions.

My son won’t take naps!
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Hi Grandma Maggie,

I am a first time, stay-at-home mother who is having a heck of a time getting my 19 month old son to nap (I am also 36 weeks pregnant with my second son)! He has always been a little finicky in his napping (if we had any change in schedule it would take him a day or so to recover) but we have had the same routine since he was about 10 months old; bedtime from 7:30pm-7:30am, nap from 12:30-2:30pm.

About three weeks ago he all of a sudden stopped taking his naps consistently. I feel like the turning point was when I had my Grandmother-in-law babysit and for some reason my son slept for 4 hours during his nap that day! Ever since then, I go to lay him down and he sits in his crib talking to himself and sometimes whining or crying a little. After about two hours (earlier if he is really upset and I go and get him), I feel it’s been too much time and I finally get him out thinking “well at least he had quiet time.” By about 5:00pm he gets very cranky, indicating he is definitely tired so I do not feel like we are done with the napping days. The longer this goes on, the more I notice an extreme change in his attitude. He gets frustrated way too easily, throwing himself and his toys around, falling/stumbling more often, crying uncontrollably, it’s been a pain to get him to eat much…. so I feel like he is ridiculously overtired. We live in a rural area and have to drive 15 minutes or so to the grocery store/other errands and he typically falls asleep in the car, further indicating to me that he is indeed sleepy!

He also did get his bottom molars in two weeks ago, so I assume those are bothering him. I would usually give him a little baby tylenol before nap/bedtime for the pain, but for the last week I have tried baby ibuprofen since I heard it works better for teething pain. He resists taking it and seems somewhat cranky afterward, so I am starting to think it gives him a tummy ache even though I administer it with food.

His nighttime sleep is generally uninterrupted, but once or twice in the last three weeks he has woken up in the middle of the night with what seemed like sleep terrors or nightmares. He would just cry and we would go in to comfort him, then he’d go back to sleep within 20 minutes. I researched this and it sounds like these sleep disturbances may be common in an overtired baby.

Please help! Any advice is much appreciated.

Sincerely,
Overtired Mommy Emily
 

Dear Emily,

All I can tell you is that you have a sensitive son who could possibly be reacting to all the changes going on in his life, as well as perhaps slowly outgrowing his nap.

If he were my child, I would try to feed him his supper early when you see him starting to get tired. I think that’s the place to begin. Forget about any worries concerning his food. He will eat when he’s hungry as long as food is available. Don’t overwhelm him with too much food. A few pieces of this and that which he can handle himself, things he can pick up from the tray of his high chair. When he is ready, let him down but try to last 15 minutes at the table.

Also try narrating his day as that’s how kids learn to talk. It also takes up some time. “See Mama washing your high chair tray? Next time you eat it will be clean.” Encourage him to help you. Then a warm bath with a few favorite toys can take up some time and relax him. A story and maybe music if he likes it, and then to bed.

Do the same routine at lunch, including the bath, and as long as he doesn’t scream when you put him down, but talks and plays, that’s self soothing and I think it’s ok for him to be alone for a while.

Does he have outdoor time and toys? He might need more physical exercise. Drive to a park when the weather permits. Even walk around the park in town. Visit the library and ask for a book on baby massage for you, and a book on a new baby in the house for him. I am not saying they will help, but they could.

As far as what is to be when the second child arrives. don’t worry about it. The second child usually adjusts to whatever is happening around the house, and one of the things that occurs is that the first baby is not the center of attention anymore and that can be a good thing.

Also I have to say that just when you get adjusted to a child’s routine, it changes. That’s part of parenthood. It also can be exciting.

Wising you the best,

Grandma Maggie