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Lately, my 16-month-old has been sleeping for long periods of time; is this normal?
Q: Lately, my 16-month-old has been sleeping for long periods of time. The last two days, she slept from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. and then from 6–9 p.m., and then slept all night from 10 p.m. on. Plus, she does not want to eat much. The doctor says she's fine, but is this normal?
Valorie Lake Elsinore
A: Valerie, it’s good that you’re so attentive to the changes in your daughter’s routines, particularly her sleeping and eating habits. Although each child has his own normal sleep pattern, toddlers generally sleep 12-14 hours per day—usually 10-12 hours at night and a 1-2 hour afternoon nap. Children can go through brief periods where they sleep more and eat less than usual as a result of a mild illness, excessive heat, or stress from a big change like moving, a new child care provider or divorce. But they usually recover from these periods within a week or two.

If your daughter’s fatigue and loss of appetite continue, however, there’s a possibility that she might have a more serious illness. Does your daughter have any other symptoms such as paleness, bruises, swollen glands, swollen joints, fever, or weight loss? If she has not gotten better within 1-2 weeks, be sure to ask the doctor for a full medical evaluation including a physical exam and possibly a blood test or other tests. If your daughter remains ill and the doctor continues to say she’s fine, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion—it’s your right and your duty to advocate for the best health care possible for your daughter.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician