Baby naps (or lack thereof) are, by far, the source of frustration for many new parents and one of the main reasons people find The Baby Sleep Site®. The reasons your baby won’t nap are numerous, but this article will discuss the 5 main reasons a baby won’t nap and what to do about it.
1. Your baby may be over-tired
Have you ever gone to bed so late at night that you can’t fall asleep very easily? This happens to me especially on nights I work late or even when I hang out with friends too late. I get home, think I’m going to fall asleep very quickly and it takes me 30 minutes to an hour to fall asleep. Very frustrating! My husband, on the other hand, no matter what, can fall asleep within 5 minutes, literally. I’m sure my husband was an “easy sleeper” baby and me? Probably not-so-much. Needless to say, my son who inspired The Baby Sleep Site® likely takes after me. 😀
Your baby can also experience this over-tiredness, only it comes faster. Since a baby can only stay awake so long before needing to sleep (they are learning A LOT very quickly and everything is new!), he may have trouble settling down to nap and go to sleep. The reason for this is because our bodies release hormones to fight fatigue and help us stay awake. This is a defense mechanism. While some babies will simply fall asleep where they are playing such as an activity mat or in the living room, others will begin to cry and get fussy.
Once you do your baby’s nap routine, you might think she is going to fall asleep very quickly, but in reality, she has probably missed her ideal window for sleep and is now in hyper-drive mode fighting fatigue and thus, fights sleep.
Your baby is not likely intentionally fighting sleep (but see below if you have one of those babies), but your baby may simply be too wound up to nap well. For these babies, it’s important to avoid common baby nap mistakes and put them down for a nap before you see signs of fussiness or rubbing their eyes. These are signs that you are already too late. Once your baby is older, it will be important to have an age-appropriate baby nap schedule.
2. Your baby may not be tired enough
As your baby gets older, the signs they are getting sleepy begin to become very confusing and blurry. What may look like sleepiness can actually be boredom. Unfortunately, it’s very challenging to read all the signs very clearly and they can’t tell you “I’m not tired!” as toddlers can. Even when toddlers tell you they’re not tired, do you always believe them? Not likely, unless they are one of the few who happily go off to bed anytime they are tired. If you have one of these toddlers, count your lucky stars! 🙂
Depending on your baby’s temperament, your baby may end up playing for a good 30 minutes to an hour rather than sleep. This is usually a sure sign that your baby is simply not tired yet. Other babies will cry when they are over-tired or not tired enough. They simply don’t like to be alone! If you keep a sleep log, you can start to look for a pattern of your baby’s natural sleep times and, again, it will be important to have an age-appropriate baby nap schedule, even if it’s not a rigid baby sleep schedule.
3. Your baby may not want to nap
What would you rather do, play or sleep? Well, since we are parents now, the answer is probably sleep! But, for babies and toddlers, the answer would probably more often be PLAY! It is much more fun playing with mom or dad than boring ol’ sleep. My son has told me a few times that “sleep is boring” and “takes too long.” The world is such an exciting place that sleep during the day, when the sun is out and there are toys to play with, is often one of the last things a baby wants to do. Once your baby starts to become social around 6 weeks old, depending on personality, your baby won’t always want to nap nearly as much as we wish they did.
If you could eat ice cream for dinner, would you? Some would say yes and some would say no, but regardless, we know it’s not good for you, right? Many times, babies simply don’t know what’s best for them and we have to teach them. So, even if your baby doesn’t want to nap, that doesn’t mean you let them do what they want. We, parents, need to make the tough decisions, sometimes, and this includes when your baby won’t nap. You need to set up your routine and set limits.
4. Your baby does not know how to nap
It seems like it would be easy: close your eyes, relax, go to sleep. But, for some people and babies, going to sleep is simply not easy. As I mentioned above, I do not go to sleep at the drop of a hat. I never have. Sometimes I have to work at it. And, some babies have to learn how to do it. After all, maybe you had to learn how to get your baby to sleep in the first place, if you didn’t have very much baby experience. Similarly, your baby may have only learned to fall asleep with the motion of your belly. Maybe that’s the only way he knows how to nap right now.
Parenting is all about teaching our babies and children how to be successful grown-ups. And, if you think your baby will learn certain skills in one session, you are going to be sorely disappointed. We have been teaching manners for YEARS, now, for example. It takes a LOT of repetition and CONSISTENCY. It sometimes still amazes me that I have to remind my son to say “please.” So, please teach your baby your expectations for napping and how to nap.
5. Your baby’s nursery is not conducive to napping
When my husband was in the military, he taught himself to fall asleep in the middle of a room with a bunch of guys being loud. Somehow he taught himself to tune it all out, take three deep breaths, and sleep. Not everyone can sleep through noise (least of all me) nor can some people sleep in a bright room. Make sure your baby’s nursery is set up to promote sleep, both day and night. Some babies won’t nap in a bright room. The sunlight simply keeps them awake or it’s difficult to go back to sleep after one sleep cycle.
Bonus: Your baby might be hungry
Some parents are much more stringent about feeding on schedule or following an eat-play-sleep routine and, in some cases, your baby may be hungry at the “wrong” time and either can’t nap or can’t nap longer, because he wakes up hungry. This may be especially true during the newborn stage, when babies need to eat frequently. Keep that in mind when you set your baby’s routine or schedule.
For even more nap and schedule help, check out these members-only resources, found in our VIP Members Area:
- Mastering Naps and Schedules e-Book (unlimited member access at no extra cost!)
- Custom Schedule-Maker (unlimited access – make as many schedules as you’d like! Includes meal times)
- Nap Transitions audio course with Nicole Johnson
- Short Naps audio course with Nicole Johnson
- How To Put Your Child on a Schedule audio course with Nicole Johnson
- 5 Tips To Manage Nap Transitions [EXPANDED VIP MEMBER-ONLY VERSION]
- 5 Tips For Handling Tough Daycare Nap Schedules [EXPANDED VIP MEMBER-ONLY VERSION]
- Day-by-Day Nap Training Plan
- Downloadable Sleep/Nap Coaching Plan Workbook (learn how to create your own nap coaching plan!)
- Printable Sample Schedule Shifts Forward (great for daylight saving’s time change)
Not a VIP member? Not a problem! Join today, and you’ll receive instant access to our vast online library of sleep coaching resources and much much more!
10 thoughts on “5 Reasons a Baby Won’t Nap”
My 9 week old is hard to get to sleep for naps. She stiffens and kicks when I try to rock or pat her to sleep as well as flail her arms and cry/scream. Setting her down in crib, bassinet, or swing doesn’t work either. Help!
Hi @Annie, thank you for your comment. I am sorry your 9 week old has been resisting her naps. If you haven’t already, you may find our free guide with 15 facts about newborn sleep helpful to you. You can sign up to receive the free ebook here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/15-free-baby-sleep-facts-new-parents-must-know/. There are additional links within the article for further reading. Hang in there! It can take some time for babies to get the hang of napping on their own, I have been there with my babies in the past as well, so I know how tough it is. I hope this helps!
I am sorry things are so rough! I hope things have improved in the last few days, but feel free to take a break if you are feeling overwhelmed with nap training. You will want to stick with your plan for at least one straight week before deciding if it is working and before tweaking the plan. After a week- if things have not improved, change the plan a little here and there, nap times, routines, and try again! Have you read our free nap guide? https://www.babysleepsite.com/free-baby-nap-guide/
If things continue to be rough, or for more one on one help, you may want to consider a sleep consultation package. https://www.babysleepsite.com/services/
I just started CIO with my 10 month old. The nights went surprisingly well, however naps are terrible. Before I started sleep training he used to nap in his swing. The first day of naps actually went well, then downhill from there. The first day he cried 2 mins and then slept for 30-40 mins for both naps. The second day he did not nap at all, and cried the full hour. (I am following the Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby book). Today is the 4th day and there has been NO improvement. He is still crying for 1 hour until I get him.
I am really worried that this will effect his nightime. At least right now, nights are well. He went from being a co-sleeper and waking several times in the night just to latch on (used me as a pacifier) to now sleeping through the night. He does wake up 2-3 times and cries it out though.
I feel like quitting already. He is not napping AT ALL, that means no sleep at all. How long is it healthy to continue this?!
I have darkened the room…am considering darkening it even more with another curtain!
I don’t know if I will be able to continue this for more than a week, only because I am very concerned that not getting any daytime sleep will mess his nights up.
please help! i’m ready to go back to the swing for naps…
I am wondering if Nicole, or any other moms out there, have any advice regarding problem nappers in Daycare.
My 10 month old sleeps well at night pretty consistently (an average of 10 hrs/night, usually from around 8pm to 6am), but has always been a terrible napper. For most of her little life, she would fight being put down for naps terribly, and when I could get her down at home she would only stay asleep for 20-30 minutes. It was incredibly frustrating for me, because I strongly felt that having a consistent nap schedule/routine would help her a great deal, but I was not able to implement one with her being in Daycare full time all week. At around 9 months she finally turned a corner at home, and almost out of nowhere started going down much easier (with the routine, in her quiet room) and staying asleep much longer. However, this has not carried over to Daycare.
She is a very strong willed and active little girl. The ladies at Daycare tell me she still fights her naps there, and is very interested in and distracted by everything going on around her. Her average day contains maybe 2 30 minute naps. Some days are better, some are even worse. So, many evenings I get to pick up an exhausted little crabapple. It’s so frustrating to have our limited time together on the weekdays often be difficult because she hasn’t napped all day. I am over the moon that we finally made progress at home, I just don’t know what to do with the Daycare situation. Any suggestions?
Lori, I think if a baby your age (1 year) sleeps 14 hours a day, 2 for nap and 12 for night time it will be enough. If you put him to sleep at 5:30, it is very normal to wake up at 5:30am. I would put him to sleep an hour later. This is what I did with my first son and it worked perfect. He napped in the middle of the day, from 11 to 1pm and by 6:30 he was ready for bed until 6:30am. What do you think Nicole??
I think my 1-year-old is one of those that just doesn’t like to nap. However, he is very sensitive to being overtired as well, so we’ve had to work on it. Up until about a week ago, he was doing very well with his nap schedule. However, just before his first birthday, he started refusing his afternoon nap. He just fusses in his crib for the entire hour! His morning nap has gone from 1.5 hours to 2 hours or more, but getting him to bedtime (which is now 5:30) is a hassle, and he is waking up between 5am and 5:30 which is hard on me since he is still night feeding. I’m logging his sleep this week to see if I can pick up on something and possibly shorten the morning nap in the hopes of keeping the afternoon nap. Just one question: do bedtimes ever get later? The older my son gets, the earlier his bedtime becomes. I can’t imagine moving it any earlier than 5:30!
Nicole….having a 5 month old and a two years and 7 months toddler is NOT EASY!! especially trying to follow sleep routines and naps. With my 2 year old, he can fall sleep for his nap easy by 1pm, but then sleeping at night is hard for him. I have tried every possible scenario: nap earlier, nap only 1 hour, rest time, no nap at all….last two are the ones that actually get him to go to bed around 7:30pm, however he always has a tantrum by 5 or 6pm because he is so tired….
My 2 1/2 year old won’t fall asleep until you tell him to do so. Even after we read our books and sing our songs, we still need to tell him it’s time for bed and he needs to go to sleep.
@Jill What a good listener you have there! 🙂 So interesting he won’t go to sleep until told to do so. It reminds us that sometimes we have to have a role and not just follow their lead. Thank you for commenting!
@Cristina Juggling two kids is definitely challenging, I understand!! 2 1/2 is a tough age, too. It’s a common age for a later bedtime, too, especially in the summer. Have you tried a later bedtime but normal size nap?
@Lori This is a common issue at 11 or 12 months, actually. In case you missed it, here is my article about that here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-naps-2/12-month-olds-one-nap-transition/ . He may be getting ready to transition to one nap, soon, or this may just be a phase, so don’t rush too quickly to stop offering the afternoon nap. If he is transitioning, move his morning nap a bit later, so it’s more in the middle of the day just as Cristina mentioned. And, yes, bedtimes definitely get later, eventually! If only we can have a bedtime before 9 p.m. but I think those days are gone for us. Maybe when the kids start school and my youngest finally stops napping. 🙂
@Kristy Oh I completely understand your frustration! When our eldest was in daycare he pretty much stopped napping at daycare around 8 months. We then hired a nanny to stay home, instead, but of course I know that’s not an option for everyone. At daycare there is so much activity and things to distract from sleeping, so I don’t have a silver bullet, unfortunately. I would continue to talk with the daycare workers about things they can do to help her nap there, possibly changing the times they are trying. I promise it will get better once she transitions to a room where they all nap at the same time, which will most likely be at 12 months. Toddlers typically begin to nap much better (even better than home sometimes!) when “everyone is doing it” and the room is darkened and it’s much less exciting to lay on a cot staring at the ceiling. 🙂 Hang in there and good luck!
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