Question: 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 min 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 20min. I researched this and it sounds like these sleep disturbances may be common in an overtired baby.
I have researched many articles online and tried many different tactics, but am at the end of my rope. I used to get a nap in myself during his naps, now I am in my third trimester and becoming increasingly overtired myself, not to mention worrying about how I am going to deal with a newborn if I am still struggling with this strange change in my first son's schedule. It's extremely hard as a mother to deal with because he has always been such a happy little guy, now he is crying and throwing fits so often and just will not nap.
Please help! Any advice is much appreciated.
Heidi's Answer: Dear Overtired Mommy,
First of all let me reassure you: you are absolutely doing well and you are obviously doing lots of things right as you have managed to get your son on a good schedule with a regular daily nap (which now needs some work, ok) and good night time sleep!
I know (!) how daunting the idea is of having the new baby soon, especially now that things are not all that smooth for your oldest ...
But as you may have guessed, things will rarely be smooth and perfect for both of your children together ... but once your new baby has arrived you will notice that you can absolutely handle the two of them together, even if not all is well for either one. All it will take is some relaxing and flexibility, and I can assure you that you will find that easier than you can imagine now.
Indeed from what you describe, those are quite clear over-tired signs. Maybe mingled with the first signs of terrible-twos ...
First of all, have you tried to simply put him down for his nap later than before? He may now be able to stay awake for longer than until 12.30, and sleep much more easily from say 1.30pm, or even later, just see how he does.
If he has trouble settling into that new schedule (since you say he's very dependent on it) you may need to help set that for him.
You could use car rides for this: each day in the next 7-10 days, load him into the car seat at the same time, the time you want him to start the nap. Driving for two hours may not be so convenient but a good walk in the stroller may do too, if you can still manage with your belly ...
That helps set his schedule and will make it easier for him to nap in his crib again, at this time. More details on this method on the baby sling page, where you will use the car seat or stroller in stead of the sling.
Try some of the non-medication teething remedies, they help relieve without burdening his tummy.
For yourself, can you squeeze in some extra sleep time in the early night, as soon as he goes down? And don't hesitate to ask someone to watch him some afternoons (or do the nap-stroller-walk with him!) so you can get some rest.
Good luck, I know you will be OK and soon be able to enjoy your oldest again as much as you did before. Special times ahead (the most precious moment ever when he and the new baby meet for the first time!! for me personally, when my two kids met, that was one of the most intense moments of my life): good luck with delivery and the new baby soon! You may find my newborn sleep guide helpful there ...