Cry It Out For Naps? Here’s What You Need to Know

When you are working on sleep, you generally want better nighttime sleep AND better naps. But can one method achieve both? Can the kind of sleep training method you choose work for nights but not for naps, or vice versa? Do you need to follow a separate set of sleep “rules” for naps than you follow for nights?

The answer is often yes – and that especially applies to those of you who may be using a cry-it-out sleep training approach. Keep reading for all of the details!

Sleep Training: Naps vs. Nights

First off, it’s important to understand how sleep training varies from day to night. The results you see at nighttime may not match the results you get at nap time. You can read this post, Why Nap Sleep Is Different Than Night Sleep, for more details.

Cry It Out Sleep Training

Now, let me be clear – we are not advocating for cry it out sleep training here. There are many, many other ways to work on your baby or toddler’s sleep, and we usually recommend trying some of those options before resorting to cry it out. That said, we recognize (and respect) that some families have weighed all of their options and have decided to use a cry it out approach to sleep training. If that’s you, then you’ll find some of these cry it out articles helpful! These can be helpful before you start, or if you have already started and are struggling:

Cry It Out For Naps: 5 Things To Remember

In general, cry it out sleep training will work largely the same way for nights and for naps. However, there are 5 pointers you should remember when you’re working on cry it out for naps:

1. Don’t let your baby or toddler cry indefinitely until he falls asleep. This can make cry it out unmanageable for both you and your baby. Instead, choose a length of time for one “attempt” (usually 30-60 minutes).

2. If your baby or toddler doesn’t fall asleep and ends up missing a nap, don’t wait until the next scheduled nap time. That can lead to overtiredness that will, in turn, make sleep training even harder. Rather, try again for another nap attempt 30-60 minutes later. Yes, this means your nap schedule may go out the window for a few days, but remember, your goal is for your baby to learn how to fall asleep independently. Once your child can do that, you can focus on getting the schedule back on track.

3. Here’s a tough but true fact: naps are generally harder than nights, when it comes to cry it out. Many parents report that they start to see success at night before they see success at nap time. Even if a baby cried “just” 20 minutes at night (which can feel like success indeed!), they could cry a whole hour during the day.

4. As mentioned before, the schedule may go out the window if your baby or toddler ends up missing naps due to sleep training. As best you can, try to watch the timing of naps to ensure that you are putting your child down at an optimal time for sleep. We sometimes see situations in which a parent puts a child down too early for a nap to “give them time to cry.” We don’t recommend this at all. You want to put your child down when she is ready for sleep, but not so tired that she can’t relax and actually drift off. Doing this can actually help minimize crying as you get farther along in sleep training.

5. For the 3rd nap (or 4th or 5th), we generally do not recommend letting your child cry. We typically focus on just two naps with cry it out (or just one for a toddler who has already transitioned to one nap).

Remember, no matter how you approach nap training with your child, you CAN do it! There is a method out there that will work for you and your baby! It may just take some trial and error to find one that fits.

Whether you Cry It Out for Naps or not, we wish you smooth sailing and happy napping!

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57 thoughts on “Cry It Out For Naps? Here’s What You Need to Know”

  1. Hi, we’ve been doing sleep training for a week now for our 4m old (18lbs). In the night we went from 2-4 wakeups with nursing to me waking him up twice to dreamfeed & him not waking up on his own between 7:30pm and 5:30am. So great win! I put him down in the crib at 7:30pm after a bedtime routine and he goes to sleep within a minute with no crying.

    However, with naps progress was harder. A big win is he naps 2-3 times in his crib without any assistance. We used to take him in a stroller/ nurse / rock to sleep at naps before. However, at the beginning of each nap he still cries: sometimes 2-3min, but once in a while it’s back to 10min. He’d also cry a bit at 30min and 45min from the time he goes to sleep. Is that something that improves over time or is there something we’re doing wrong?

    • Hi @Mariya –
      Thank you for writing to us about your 4 month old! Congrats on making such great progress at night! That’s great! Naps can be tougher, so hang in there! Short naps are very common at this age, and crying for 2-3 minutes before a nap is common too! YOu may be able to adjust his schedule a bit to ensure that naps are offered at good times for him. here is a link to our free sample schedules for 4 month olds:
      Thanks again for writing Mariya! If you find that you need more help at any time, please contact us!

  2. Hi – my 19 month old daughter has refused naps for about a week. I am trying Ferber to get her to nap again. I want to move her nap back from 11am to 12, but she wakes up at 6 and I think she’s too tired to wait. She goes to bed at about 6pm and passed out. I miss her nap time! Help!

  3. We used sleep consultant lead controlled crying with my 11 month old who had woken every 1-2 hours since 4 months old and could only be settled by nursing back to sleep. Bedtime now is pretty great, he grumbles for 30 seconds then sleeps 17:30-5:30, occasionally waking in the night but we ignore him and within a few mins he’s back to sleep. Obviously the 5:30 thing isn’t ideal and we’d like to push it back to 18:30-6:30 but it is a push to get him to stay awake even til 5pm. He used to nap great when we napped together but now I put him to sleep alone in his cot he cries 10-20 mins and then naps for only 20-30 mins, mid morning and early afternoon. Our sleep consultant recommended a third nap late afternoon but he refuses. It’s been 3 weeks since we started the training now. How can we shift his bedtime back? How can I encourage longer naps? Will he always cry when I put him down to sleep?? 🙁

  4. If you don’t recommend cio for the 3 rd nap do I just rock her to sleep on the last nap lik I would have before the sleep training ? It’s my first day doing this and She survived the night now I’m just trying to get thru naps

    • Hi @Melissa – Thank you for writing to us, and congrats on getting through some nighttime sleep training! We wish you continued good luck with the naps too Melissa! Yes, if you choose to not do any CIO for the last nap of the day, you can help her get to sleep in the same manner as before the sleep training. This will ensure at least one good nap while you’re working on the other naps! Good luck and I hope that everything goes smoothly! If you’d ever like more help with sleep, please contact us for more info! : )

  5. Hi!
    I’ve got a 7- month old little girl who is stubborn as anything. She is somewhat trained at night (still screams about 30 minutes each night after putting her down) but we consider that a win after a week of CIO. We are now wanting to try CIO for naps as she only naps on my chest (we think this is the reason for night screams). We tried yesterday but she screamed for an hour and then refuses to sleep. Any tips? Does the screaming get better?

    • Hi Katherine,
      Thank you for visiting The Baby Sleep Site! I’m so sorry to hear you’re struggling with nap coaching. This can be tough because babies are unique, and you may need a different method or a different schedule for your daughter depending on what’s going on at night, when she’s eating, etc. If you’re a Member, I’d definitely check out our Mastering Naps ebook and maybe check in with a sleep consultant on the weekly chat about the method you’re using. Hang in there, and good luck!

  6. Just started nap training with controlled CIO (Ferber) when we ditched the pacifier. He will cry for a bit before falling asleep and will sleep for 20-30mins but once he wakes he doesn’t go back to sleep. I feel bad making him CIO for a second time when I know he’s no longer sufficiently tired after his short cat nap. Should I just hope and pray that as he gets used to falling asleep without the pacifier he will naturally put himself back to sleep when he wakes after that short sleep cycle or should I be letting him cry again to fall back to sleep for a designated amount of time..? (I.e. “crib hour” so if he wakes before an hour he has to stay In his crib for the entire hour)

  7. We started sleep training with CIO for our 8.5 m/o just over a week ago. She was previously on a great schedule, sleeping through the night from 5 weeks to almost 7 months, and getting regular naps 2-3x’s a day. Suddenly at around 6.5 months, she started waking regularly through the night. We’ve indulged her for the last 2 months, but then had to stop for mommy’s sanity and rest at night. Hence sleep training. Within the last week, we have eliminated the night wings and feedings with just using CIO, but as soon as she started sleeping through the night her regular and sufficient naps COMPLETELY disappeared. She now cries at every single nap time attempt, despite solid wind down routine and sleep prop elimination, and cries for the FULL HOUR nonstop. She never winds down, she never falls asleep, and I’m left with an overtired baby on repeat all day until bedtime. In the last couple days, I have gotten her up at the hour time limit and fed her (because it was now feeding time on her schedule). She has a full breast each side, and then BAM – out like a light! But of course she’s now asleep in my lap, and wakes immediately when I shift to put her in her crib. She is so exhausted during the day, I don’t want to wake her, so she is currently sleeping on my lap – and thus disorganizing her schedule. I just want her to sleep at nap time!! What do I do??

  8. Our daughter is almost 13 months old, has her own room since she was 8 months. So far, we always cuddled her to sleep and then put her on the bed once she is asleep on our chests.

    She sleeps through the night (20:30 til 06:30) and she used have have 2 good naps 1.5 hours each, so we kept using cuddle method instead of teaching her self-sooth to sleep.

    We came back from a 3-weeks holiday last week (+5 hours time difference) and our daughters nap routine has changed dramatically. She managed to resume her night routine after a couple of days, but she couldn’t do the same for her naps. She can still fall asleep easily on our chests during the day, but wakes up very easily crying when we try to put her on the bed. Even if we manage to put her on the bed without waking her up, she sleeps max 30-40 mins and wakes up crying again.

    It has been 10 days and still same routine every day. She ends up on our chests for the naps.

    What do you recommend in this kind of situations?

  9. I started to nap training after reading this article and just have few questions.

    My baby can fall asleep independently for naps with little to no fuss, however, he does not usually nap for longer than 30 minutes at a time and wakes up. He he will put himself back to sleep after 15-30 minutes of fussing and will sleep for an hour. Is that consider a good nap? When he wakes up after an hour should I let him try to go back to sleep? Most of the information suggests that baby should nap at least 2 hour per cycle.
    I keep his room dark, have white noise and keep a small nap routine and put him down at the same time.

    • @Emely – Thank you for reading and for sharing. We’re so glad to hear that nap training has been going well for you all! It’s definitely great that your little guy puts himself back to sleep. Hopefully, with more practice, he’ll learn to sleep through those sleep cycles without waking. You don’t say how old he is but shorter naps are definitely more common for younger babies while an hour or more is considered “good” for an older baby. 2+ hours is “normal” depending on his specific sleep situation, but I don’t have those specific details at this time. Keep up the great job, Emely, and I hope this helps!

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