Nap time is, without a doubt, a tired parent’s favorite time of day. Baby goes down for a much-need snooze, leaving mom and dad time to have some much-needed “me time”.
But of course, in order for your baby’s nap time to be a favorite time of day, your baby has to actually, you know, TAKE A NAP. And therein lies the problem, for many parents!
So many of you have written in to us over the years, letting us know that your baby won’t nap, and you are at a loss as to why. Baby is tired? Check. Baby is settled in crib after nap time routine? Check. Baby not sleeping? ACK – check!
But why? Why is it that your baby won’t nap, especially when you’ve tried everything? Odds are, your baby won’t nap for one of the 7 reasons listed below.
Baby Won’t Nap? Here Are 7 Reasons Why.
- Your baby may not be tired enough to nap. Well, this one just makes sense, right? Even if you think it’s nap time, if your baby is feeling wide-awake and energized, then she may not agree with you! So why might your baby just not be tired enough to take a restorative nap? Take a close look at your baby’s sleep and feeding schedule. Is nap time coming too close to your baby’s morning wake-up time, or perhaps too close to the last nap time? As your baby grows, she will need more and more awake time between sleeps.
- Your baby may be too tired to nap. I know, I know…how can ‘too tired’ be a problem? Well, it’s true – a baby who is overly-tired actually has a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep than a baby who is well-rested. If your baby recently missed a nap, for example, or had lots of interrupted night sleep, or a too-late bedtime the night before, or was up way too early this morning, it may very well be that your baby is overly tired, and that’s why he’s not napping well. The key to preventing over-tiredness is a great schedule – be sure your daily schedule isn’t stretching your baby’s awake time past what he’s capable of.
- Your baby doesn’t know it’s time to nap. Your baby can’t really consult her watch, after all ;). And really, if you think about it, just like you need to know that it’s time to sleep in order to settle in to bed and begin getting drowsy, your baby does, too. So how can you signal to your baby that it’s time to settle down and nap? By creating and then consistently doing a pre-nap routine! Similar to a bedtime routine, a nap time routine signals to your baby that nap time is approaching. A nap routine should be shorter than a bedtime routine, and should be soothing and calming enough to wind down even the most spirited baby. Just be sure that whatever you do for your nap time routine, you do it consistently at every nap – that’s how it will become routine for your baby, and consequently, that’s how it will begin to help your baby settle down and nap when she is supposed to.
- Your baby isn’t in a “sleepy” environment. Where is your baby not napping, exactly? Is it in a darkened room, with some gentle white noise in the background? Or is it in the backseat of your brightly-lit car? Or in the stroller, in the middle of a crowded store? Or in your arms, in a noisy room? While newborns may be able to conk out and sleep just about anywhere, in any position, older babies and toddlers need a sleep-inducing environment that’s fairly quiet, dim, and calm, in order to sleep well.
- Your baby is in the midst of a nap transition or developmental leap. Take comfort – this one has nothing to do with you! And this may very well be why some of you who know you are doing everything “right” are still struggling with naps. One common sign that a nap transition is approaching is that your baby will start to skip a nap off and on (usually the last nap of the day). And when your baby does take that nap, it may be more of a catnap than a long, restful nap. Similarly, your baby may be in the midst of a sleep regression (like the 4 month sleep regression, or the 8/9/10 month regression), and that may be the cause of the nap issues.
- Your baby is too hungry to nap. Many of us who are “sleep-obsessed” (and hey, that describes all of us who work at The Baby Sleep Site®) immediately jump to schedule and sleep-habit reasons when we are faced with sleep problems. But guess what? Sleep issues are often caused by a hungry tummy! Check your baby’s nap schedule, and then see how it’s lining up with her feeding schedule. Is your baby’s nap falling in the middle of what should be a feeding? Most of the time, it’s a good idea to feed your baby shortly before a nap (although not right before – you want a little time to burp your baby and let the food digest, particularly if your baby is prone to reflux).
- Your baby doesn’t know how to fall asleep (and stay asleep) at nap time. So this one may catch you by surprise – it seems odd that a baby might not know how to fall asleep, right? Isn’t falling asleep just something that happens? Well, no, not really – knowing how to lie down, become drowsy, and fall asleep alone in a sleep space is actually a learned skill. If you want your baby to nap independently, in his own sleep space, then your baby will need to know how to do that. And if your baby is heavily reliant on YOU to fall asleep, because he has sleep associations that involve breastfeeding, or being rocked and held by you, then you may need to help your baby learn how to fall asleep independently. And this, parents, is where sleep training (including nap training) comes into play. In order to help your baby learn to fall asleep independently, you have to go through the process of teaching him how to do this – and that’s what sleep coaching is all about.