Exhausted and Confused?   Yes! I need help and more sleep.
Exhausted and Confused?   Yes! I need help and more sleep.
Exhausted and Confused?   Yes! I need help and more sleep.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Jo says

    I have found it incredibly difficult to follow a rigid recommended schedule. But whats a definition of rigid, for some people it is that babies go down at exactly the same time and gets up at the same time everyday. My 6 months old has three naps everyday but when he goes down varies and how long he goes down varies by 30 minutes for each sleep. How much I have stressed that by doing this he won’t sleep at night or he is getting to much or too little sleep during the day…The pressure of having exact schedules was stressing me out. I love having a routine, having minimum and maximums for time ‘sleeping’ but I work with his tired cues. My baby won’t magically stay awake for 2 hours then go to sleep for 2 hours. It is difficult but you do eventually learn what is best for your baby and try not to focus on what is best for you.

    • Nicole says

      @Lainie Both my boys were in bed on the 4th of July by 8 p.m. or so, so you’re definitely not alone! 😀 My eldest did want to stay up so bad to see fireworks, but experience has shown me he’s still not ready. By 9:30 p.m. he becomes manic, whiny, and just melts down and unable to function. It’s actually sad and hard to watch him be so miserable. 🙁 Maybe next year. Or, maybe next year I can get him to take a little nap (though he hasn’t since 2 1/2), so he can make it. I know one day he’ll be able to do it, so what’s the rush?

      @Jo I am glad you found what works for you and your baby! You are exactly right. Thanks for commenting!

      @Renae My son did not get on a rigid schedule by the clock, but based on awake time. I think what Jo said is exactly right that “rigid” means something different to everyone. For me it meant being home for as many naps as we could and not keeping him up past his comfort zone, because it meant short naps and more night-wakings. I always err’d on less awake time rather than too much and over time I had to modify how long he could stay up, if he started to routinely take too long to fall asleep. I had to put him down BEFORE he got cranky, though. So, it sounds like your baby is very similar to mine that the amount of awake time and his tiredness level is what drives your routine/schedule, not the time on the clock. Some babies are simply more tied to the clock than others and it changes as they get older, too. Parenting is so tricky, isn’t it? 🙂 Good luck!

      @Claudette I totally agree that my boys are SO much more well-behaved when they are well-rested that I’d prefer that to keeping them up any day. And, when you do pay attention to sleep so much, it is hard to see other babies/kids who are so over-tired that it’s obvious and then the parents are so impatient with their whining or melting down. Sometimes we do need to balance other life events (like my husband’s grandmother’s wake that kept my son out past his bedtime for a few days and then permanently seemed to lead to later bedtimes), but such is life. I’m sure you get tired of the comments, but good for you for sticking by your beliefs! If my eldest COULD handle some later bedtimes or what-not, I might do it once in awhile, but he just can’t, so that’s just how it goes. Thanks for chiming in!

  2. Lainie says

    Last night I was leaving a party at 7:15, which is late for my girls. I thought I was pretty awesome for allowing myself to be flexible for once.

    Then three families with small children arrived. When do those kids go to sleep, I wondered?

    I felt like a curmudgeon. I feel like I’m the only one who puts her kids to bed at a quasi-decent time.

    Luckily on this forum, I’m not. 🙂

  3. Marcia says

    We have had to stick with a very rigid sleep schedule. It has been very hard because all of the activities for younger children (library storytime, play groups, etc.) seen to always fall right in the middle of my 14 month old’s morning nap so we miss out on all of those activities right now. But I discovered early on that my daughter is very inconsistent and will not sleep if there are activites going on but is incredibly cranky later and wakes up often if she doesn’t get her naps and go to bed at the same time each night. And I also get very cranky when I miss out on my sleep because the little one wakes up early or throughout the night. I have been criticized sometimes by people, including my husband, who think that our daughter should adapt to our schedule. We tried. It didn’t work and we were all cranky and tired. I just had to accept the fact that until she is older, we have to stick to her routine because she can’t adjust to ours. Thanks for bringing this tpoic up. It makes me feel better to know that there are others who feel like a slave to their child’s schedule. I know it will get better eventually.

  4. Kathy says

    I totally needed this discussion forum today! Having a rigid schedule doesn’t bother me, but I do feel like it bothers some family around us (and I guess I should admit it bothers me that my son can’t skip a nap, but my nephew and almost all other babies I know can without a problem!). And that stresses me out.

    I hate to say it but I feel like my son is a terrible sleeper. We have had so much stress trying to figure his schedule out since about 8 months old. I’d try what people told me – sometimes worked, I’d watch for his cues – sometimes worked . . . we finally stuck to a rigid schedule and at 15 months were able to get him to sleep thru the night.

    About a month ago (around 18mos) I got him on a very routine one nap schedule and he was doing very good up until 2 weeks ago (sleeping from 7pm to 7am and taking 2.5 hour naps!!!!)! I was in heaven!! 🙂

    That was when he missed his Sunday nap to go out on the boat with Daddy and ever since he has been overtired, napping for an hour and waking up screaming and now screaming when we try to put him to bed! I feel like we have to relearn everything all over again!!! So stressful. I can tell he is waking up tired and I can’t do anything about it.

    Anyway, I like the advice of the first comment to watch their cues. No sense is putting them down when they aren’t ready, or he’ll wake up screaming (which is what I tried all last week). So now I need to change my schedule again – which stresses out people around me cause we have to leave functions early – and try to watch his cues, which seem to be getting harder for me to recognize.

    Today I let him take a 30 min nap in the car this morning. He’s not showing tired signs at his 12:30pm naptime, so I’m keeping him up, and hoping I’ll see a tired sign around 2:30pm. It is a little frustrating to have to switch to a new rigid schedule now (which really does seem to help him), but we do need to do what’s healthiest and happiest for our immediate family. Otherwise no one is happy.

  5. Shannon says

    Hi all – I have two babies who are terrific sleepers. I’ve had both of them on rigid schedules from a really young age, my son slept through the night from 7 weeks and my daughter from 12 weeks. While I cannot complain, neither of my children were/are carseat/pram sleepers much, if at all after 6 months. My daughter is now 12 months and I am still working around her two naps and rarely deviate. I get criticized a lot by my childless sisters who all seem to have friends with babies who sleep anywhere. If we go out with our daughter at naptime she will eventually fall asleep in the car and then wake as soon as we’re home. She is then miserable so it’s just not worth it. Being our second child and probably last we are willing to sacrifice some outings for this short lived and precious time. Afterall a happy, healthy and well rested family is much more important than a few criticisms here and there.

  6. Tiz says

    What a great question. This is something that I personally struggled with as well – I wanted to keep my (now 11 month old) son on a rigid schedule because I had read so much about how important it is and put up with a lot of criticism to do so, but there were times when it just seemed so stressful for me (and maybe even him), that I failed to notice that my son’s schedule was changing and that his own needs seemed to dictate a bit more flexibility.
    By the time he was 8 months we had moved to 2 naps, and for a while we were good, but as time passed, he wasn’t as tired at the same times any more and he was spending way too much time (sometimes up to an hour) hanging out in his crib playing before falling asleep. I decided that instead of following the clock (as my reading had advised me to), I would follow more of his cues. That meant we pushed his 2nd nap an hour later than it was unless he seemed tired or sluggish before that based on what we were up to, he went back to taking the whole 2hr nap by the time he seemed to go down, we were able to fit a lot more fun into the day, and he still has no problems sleeping the night.
    I think part of the reason I wanted to remain so rigid was because we were afraid we/he would lose control and he would develop poor sleeping habits, but I think he’s so in tune with our routine and recognizes when it’s time to sleep, that he’s able to adjust to times when things are different. For example, he recently developed his first fever at the beginning of last week, and I did the “unthinkable” and actually woke him around midnight in order to take his temperature and give him medication if he needed it for those few nights before we turned in. Lucky for us, he had no problem returning to bed after a few moments once we placed him back in his crib, said goodnight and closed his door.
    Overall then I would say that in terms of his getting him his naps and bedtime I am quite rigid, but there are more times now then when he was younger, where I am willing to be more flexible, knowing that we get back to “normal” and follow his cues as well as provide him with the schedule.

  7. KatyH says

    My daughter is 19 months old and has just finally started sleeping through the night. She always needed to go to sleep very early – like 6pm because she was an absolute mess if she didn’t. She refused to sleep in the car and wouldn’t dream of falling asleep in the middle of people or activity. She was far too interested in what was going on! So it was imperative that we adjusted our schedule to accomodate her. This meant that we missed out on a lot of evening activities. We were really tied to her nap schedule so our outings in the day were very short or nonexistent. I just personally don’t subscribe to the theory that a kid should just learn to fall asleep in the shopping cart. To me, that isn’t fair to the kid. But many parents do and it works for them. We all have to find what works!

    I never had to defend my choices about being somewhat inflexible with her sleeping schedule. But if I ever had to, my response is going to be that she needs her routine and rest so that she CAN be flexible and happy for activity later on. If she’s so tired that she’s cranky and screaming that no one’s having any fun…is is really worth the “flexible” schedule? For me it wasn’t worth my sanity!! 🙂

  8. Michelle says

    @Vivienne, my son (who is 6mo old) is very similar to yours in his sleep pattern. His happiness goes south quickly if we try to push a nap or bedtime even a little later. He used to sleep on car rides and even in the stroller but not so much anymore…unless we leave after dark, so family functions have become limited.

    I don’t mind so much because I know he’s getting the sleep he needs but I do often feel limited in the activities we can do with him and I envy people who can take their babies out for long periods of time during the day. We have to make sure that if we do go to a family function, we will have a place where he can nap and will need to take into consideration the time we leave so he can sleep in the car. Unfortunately for us, both of our families live a minimum of 1.5 hours away so it is always a bit of an excursion when we visit.

    I have a hard time stretching his wakeful time, even by 10-15 minutes because when he’s tired and ready to go to sleep, that’s it. And sometimes pushing it means he is cranky and has a very difficult time falling asleep.

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has a baby that prefers to be on a schedule. I tried leaving it up to him and being flexible but that only lead to very inconsistent napping and early waking. Now that we are on a schedule, he sleeps wonderfully…and why would I want to mess with that 🙂

  9. Vivienne says

    I’m dealing with this too–my son is a very good sleeper now, and most days it’s around the same time (not because I made it that way, he just seems to have my internal clock settings as opposed to my husband who is a night owl and has no real schedule). I’m willing to “mess” with his schedule once in a while bc after all things have to get done, but if I do two days in a row of shortened, skipped or delayed naps the change in him is so drastic I feel awful. A lot of my friends have kids who will nap in the car and then stay asleep in their carseat once home but mine won’t do that. if he falls asleep and I bring him in with the infant carrier he’s awake in minutes and then of course he’s taken the edge off his tiredness, can’t fall back asleep and is just a cranky mess until bedtime. We also leave family functions early to accomodate his 6:30ish bedtime bc whether or not we’re home, he’s going to want to sleep and will just be a mess. And they say “well, he’ll just sleep later in the morning” um, nope. he’ll still be up at 5:30 (don’t I WISH he’d sleep later!! one day sleep shifting will work!!!) and now be sleepdeprived. And why would you want me to keep him up? He’s going to keep crying bc he wants to be asleep. I don’t understand people who criticize that or try to push a baby to stay up when they’re tired.
    Love the discussion, as usual! 🙂

  10. Natalie says

    Thank you for posting this! We’ve naturally gravitated towards a flexible schedule with our daughter, and while we have had to get a bit more predictable and firm with patterns (night is for sleep, I don’t care if you want to get up and dance we’re just going to lay here until you go back to sleep!), we’ve still maintained a pretty flexible schedule with her. I’m able to push her nap back by an hour to make a group, and we can stay out a little later on special occasions (like the 4th!), and for the most part she’s a happy go lucky baby. But yes, we do get comments frequently. When she’s teething and her sleep goes to pieces friends and family are quick to jump on the “you need to be on a SCHEDULE bandwagon when I know darn well it’s her teeth that’s the issue. And I’ve also noticed that it’s really important to pay attention to her cues and sleep windows – putting her to bed by the clock does NOT work if she’s not ready for it (in fact we’ve had some disastrous nights that way).

    As usual I really enjoy your insights!

    • Nicole says

      @Natalie Thank you for sharing! I know how aggravating it can be to get those comments from well-meaning friends/family. You know your daughter best!

      @Vivienne Oh you’re right! Two days in a row of off-schedule is definitely asking for more trouble with my eldest, too (not so much with his younger brother). And, I understand completely in terms of why would I want my son up if he’s a crabby pants because he’s tired anyway? No fun at all. 🙂

      @Michelle You’re definitely NOT alone! 🙂

      @KatyH It wasn’t worth my sanity (or his) either! Everyone was soooo much happier later on, if we just stuck to schedule. With his brother, we were definitely able to be more flexible, so I agree you have to find what works. I have had clients ask about children napping in strollers and the thing is, sometimes they could be crashing in strollers, not necessarily just “sleeping” and I think there is a difference. Making your baby go go go until they crash isn’t necessarily the best thing for them. I know it’s hard to stay in the house all day, though! Having kids is definitely not black and white. Thanks for your comments!

      @Tiz Very good observation that sometimes it is hard to know when the schedule needs to change when you have a rigid schedule. It sounds like you’ve definitely found a really great balance and, most importantly, you became in tune with your son! It’s a good practice to use the clock and your baby as a guide when it comes to scheduling by the clock.

      @Shannon Thank you for sharing!

      @Kathy I hope you get back on track, soon! Isn’t it crazy how one missed nap can set you off course for several days? Hopefully, a few 2-nap days or earlier bedtimes will get him back on track. Good luck!

      @Marcia Yes, unfortunately some babies just CAN’T seem to adapt and it’s not their fault. They simply can’t sleep “on the go” nor can they stay up for hours on-end without sleep and sleep well at night. I’m glad you found what works for all of you, so none of you are cranky! It will get better! 🙂