7 Tips When Baby Won’t Nap

7 tips when baby won't nap

Today’s post will give you 7 tips to use when your baby won’t nap, so let’s get to it!

You know what’s cute? A cooing, babbling baby who’s grinning ear to ear as she holds onto her crib bars and jumps up and down on her mattress. So adorable!

Except that it’s nap time. And she’s not supposed to be cooing or babbling or jumping. She’s supposed to be SLEEPING, for Pete’s sake, and giving her poor parents a break!

Not so cute anymore, right?

I know a lot of you can identify with that picture because you have a baby who won’t nap.

You try and you try, but in spite of your best efforts, your little one is wide awake during nap time.

As always, we’re here for you! 🙂 Today, we’re exploring 7 tips for correcting your baby’s naptime issues.

7 Tips For Handling a Baby or Toddler Who Won’t Nap

  1. Make sure your baby’s room is “sleepy”. This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many parents don’t consider factors like light and noise when working through their children’s’ sleep issues. It’s true, though! If you want your baby to nap well, you need to do what you can to be sure that the room he naps in is “sleep-friendly”. Remember that nap time sleep is different than nighttime sleep. That’s one reason why naps can be so challenging. Naps happen when the sun’s up, for instance, so you may need to invest in some good blackout blinds in order to make your little one’s room nice and dim for naps.It can also be hard to keep your home quiet for nap time (this is especially true if you have older children!) So think about investing in a white noise machine that’ll help block out background noise while your little one sleeps. Don’t want to pay for a machine? Try downloading a white noise MP3, or a white noise app.
  2. Evaluate your baby’s daytime schedule. If you want your child to take regular, consistent, predictable naps, then you need to have a regular, consistent, predictable schedule in place. Sure, this schedule may need to be adapted every once in a while (to account for special occasions, trips, illness, etc.) But that majority of your days should look roughly the same. If they don’t, then it’ll be difficult, if not impossible, to help your baby or toddler nap well. What’s more, your daily schedule should be created with naps in mind. Try not to fill your schedule with activities and then squeeze naptime in here and there. Instead, build the naps in first, and make sure they coordinate around feedings/meals as well as morning wake time and bedtime. Once those things are established, fill in the schedule with activities (both yours and your baby’s).For help creating a sleep-friendly schedule, check out our Sample Sleep and Feeding Schedules page.
  3. Watch for overtiredness. This is especially important in the infant stage. Young babies become overtired very quickly, and an overtired baby is much harder to settle and put to sleep than a baby who’s rested and content. The same is true for toddlers. Most toddlers become increasingly “wired” and resistant to sleep as they become overtired. So watch for your baby’s or toddler’s tired cues (rubbing eyes, yawning, etc.), and act on them quickly.
  4. Create a consistent pre-nap routine. We’ve written before about the importance of having a consistent bedtime routine in place. It’s just as important to have a consistent nap time routine, especially if your baby or toddler is struggling to nap well. The routine doesn’t have to be long or complicated. It just needs to consist of a few calming, soothing activities. A few minutes spent cuddling, reading books, and singing songs are perfect. A routine like this will not only relax and soothe your child. It’ll also signal to him that nap time is approaching. This is important. Babies and toddlers thrive on routine and consistency, so having a regular pre-nap routine in place helps them know when it’s time to settle down and nap.
  5. Take the “schedule-busters” in stride. Sometimes, things that are totally outside of your control will come along and destroy your carefully-crafted schedule. Sleep regressions, for instance, can just obliterate any nap time progress you may have made. Same goes for illnesses, or teething. Even though disruptions like these are usually short-lived (a few days to a few weeks), they sometimes feel like they last for an eternity. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for schedule busters. (Unless your child is ill. In that case, seek medical care.) Most of the time, you have to simply go with the flow, doing the best you can to stay consistent and working not to create any new bad habits that you’ll have to undo later.
  6. Be smart about on-the-go naps. If your baby or toddler isn’t napping well, one of the problems may be that too many naps are happening on the go. While an occasional on-the-go nap is fine, the majority of your baby or toddler’s naps should happen at home/daycare/etc. Remember, moving sleep isn’t as restorative for babies and toddlers. If your baby or toddler is regularly catching naps on the fly, in the stroller or car, it can lead to a big sleep deficit over time. For those occasions when a nap simply has to happen on the go, consider adding some on-the-go napping products to your arsenal. Many companies make sun and sleep shades that are designed to fit over car seats, strollers, and pack-n-plays. These products can make it easier for little ones to sleep while mom and dad are out and about.
  7. Know your nap transitions. Sometimes, if your baby or toddler isn’t napping well, it’s not because there’s a problem that needs to be fixed. It’s because your little one’s nap needs are changing. Educate yourself about when common nap transitions occur, and how to manage them. Then, you’ll know better if your little one’s naptime resistance needs to be worked through, or if it may be time to drop a nap.

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11 thoughts on “7 Tips When Baby Won’t Nap”

  1. My son is just over 3 months old and has most of the signs of teething. Just recently he has been falling asleep on my breast for day feeds. Is this normal/ok, or should I be waking him so he’s not undertired? I’m assuming this is comfort for him if he is in fact teething.

    • @Anna, thank you for writing to us. I am sorry your son has been teething, it can be such a challenge when that starts! Here is a link to an article we wrote about sleeping and teething: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/teething-sleep/
      Your son is still pretty young so you probably haven’t done any kind of formal sleep training just yet, and may not be on a set schedule, but here is a link to another article about 3 month old sleep: https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/3-month-old-baby-sleep-and-feeding-schedule/
      At this age he is still going to be sleeping quite a bit, so no worries if he is napping a lot if he is still eating as much as he should. There are lots of developmental milestones that happens as well that could be contributing to his sleepiness. Once he hits around the 4-6 month marker, he will begin to develop the skills to put himself to sleep, but it is possible he will have a crutch to falling asleep while nursing. This is normal and does not mean you necessarily need to change anything now, but I did want to mention it so if it becomes a problem and something he needs in order to sleep for you to be aware he is old enough to teach to sleep on his own if you would like. Here is an article on that: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/sleep-association/
      Thank you for using the Baby Sleep Site as a resource for sleep! I hope he finds some relief soon!

  2. When my son had trouble napping, I also heard about making the room dark, which I did and it works -now he naps 2-3 hours every day (he is 2). However we have a problem now, how do we wean him from it? It is not a problem at home, but if we go anywhere (trips, grandparents), his naps are really poor if there is light and he also wakes up too early in the morning. How can we teach him not to depend on darkness so much? I know there are travel blackout blinds, but they are not an option right now and anyways they are limited from what I have seen. So trips are always difficult and we often come home with overtired and cranky toddler. Thanks for any ideas!

    • @ lenka – what about Snoozeshade? Have you heard of these? They make portable black-out products – covers for strollers, car-seats, etc. That might be an option… You might also try and make sure, on days when he doesn’t nap well due to not being in a dark room, you offer early bedtime. I’d also suggest that you aim for about 4 “dark” naps a week – that still gives you flex time to go and run errands and have fun, but he probably does need the majority of his naps at home, in the dark.

      Hope that helps, lenka – thanks for commenting!

  3. @ Melissa — thanks so, so much for these kind words! I’ve shared them with the rest of our Baby Sleep Site team. 🙂 Always good to know that the resources we offer to parents are solving problems and improving sleep!

  4. @ ashlee – this could be linked to the sleep regression that happens around 8/9/10 months (you can read more about it here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-patterns/8-9-10-month-old-baby-sleep-regression/) You’re right in assuming that one 30 minute nap isn’t enough for a 10 month old.

    In terms of how to help get her back on track, nap-wise: have you downloaded our free napping guide yet? You can access it here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/free-baby-nap-guide/.

    As for her night waking: we have a free guide for that, as well! Check it out here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-through-night-free-ebook/

    Hope these resources help, ashlee!

  5. I purchased mastering naps and schedules a few weeks ago and it has been so much help. I never thought my 17 month old would become so good and now even asks to go night nights! She was a catnapper and I could only get her to nap half hour at a time. Now she’s taking a little over an hour naps. She still could use abit longer but what an improvement we’ve had! I can’t thank you guys enough for this book 🙂

  6. Hi. My little one will be 10 months old august 17th and just within the last week she stopped taking 2 naps a day that were about an hour to an hour and a half long but now she will only take a 30 minute nap so i have been making sure she gets 3 naps during the day. Any advice on this nap change she has made? I need some help because she needs to be napping longer! Plus she still wakes up at least twice at night.

  7. @ Robin — thanks for sharing this tip! Always helpful, when moms share what’s worked for them. Thanks! 🙂

    @ Brenda — We have a post on just this topic, actually! You can check it out here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-naps-2/why-baby-and-naps-different-than-night-sleep/ Also, bear in mind that it’s pretty unusual for a 3 month old baby to sleep 9-10 hours without a feeding. So if you find that she’s nursing a lot during the day, consider it normal; she needs to store up on food in order to sleep such a long stretch at night.

    Finally, keep in mind that most babies don’t develop consistent napping schedules until they’re closer to 6 months old. So erratic napping at this age isn’t unusual.

    If you want to work towards more predictable and consistent naps, you could check out our free napping guide, available here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/free-baby-nap-guide/

    Hope this helps, Brenda! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  8. I have a 3 month old who sleeps 9 or 10 hours straight, in her bassinette, through the night but is really difficult to get to sleep in the day. If I can get her to nap she sleeps for upwards of 4 hours but it is a daily struggle. Some days she barely naps at all. I have a 2 year old as well which complicates things. Any tips? We have tried rocking her, nursing her, a swing, her bassinette, stroller and even the car but there doesn’t seem to be any way to guarantee she will sleep in the day. She also won’t take a pacifier. I don’t understand how she sleeps so well at night but is so difficult to nap in the day. Also she sleeps well at night every night…it doesn’t matter if she has had a nap or not.

  9. With one of my twins, I have found that sometimes when she is transitioning to staying up a bit longer, she will still exhibit sleep signs, but will start waking up after only 40-45 of a nap. I actually had to push her to stay up a bit longer, beyond yawing and eye rubbing, to get her to nap longer. Something to watch out for!

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