Help! My Baby Won’t Nap!
So your mother, your cousins and your bestie all told you, “Don’t worry about losing sleep. You can nap when you put the baby down.” Surprise, surprise: your baby won’t nap. They fuss being put down, or they will only sleep for a few minutes. What now?
Here’s what a typical baby nap schedule looks like month-by-month, some common reasons babies won’t nap, and what you can do.
In This Article:
- All Babies Are Different
- How Much Should Your Baby Be Napping?
- The Most Common Reasons a Baby Won’t Nap
- How to Get Back on Track With Naps
- Baby Won’t Nap? Time to Call the Pros!
All Babies Are Different
While you’re reading this article, remember that every baby is different. Some babies follow a “typical” nap schedule by the book. Others march (and cry!) to their own drum.
Your child’s naps may vary for a few key reasons (see “the Most Common Reasons a Baby Won’t Nap,” below).
But most babies will follow this basic nap “evolution” during their first year…
How Much Should Your Baby Be Napping?
Newborns tend to sleep a lot. Even colicky or wakeful newborn babies nap multiple times a day. It may take some time for these wake-feed-nap cycles to become evenly spaced.
After that time, naps will reduce in number. The length of time your baby naps will also change during the last nine months of their first year.
- Newborn – 12 weeks: 16-18 hours/day of sleep, evenly broken up between feedings
- 4- 6 Months: 2-3 naps/day; 1-2 hours per nap
- 7 – 12 Months: 2 naps/day; 1-2 hours per nap
The Most Common Reasons a Baby Won’t Nap
Your Baby is Learning a New Skill
When little ones are learning something new, like rolling over, crawling, or saying their first words, they may be more wakeful. That’s because just like you, a baby’s mind will go over the new skill repeatedly, trying to get it right.
This keeps babies in a state of slight overexcitement until the skill is mastered. Afterward, most babies catch up on lost sleep with a week or two of longer naps.
Your Baby is Going Through a Growth Spurt
Many babies are fussier, eat more, and are more wakeful just before the parents or pediatrician notice a growth spurt.
While some babies sleep more during times of accelerated growth, others react by feeling “jumpy” or overstimulated.
Your Baby’s Routine Has Been Interrupted
If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping while on vacation (or when moving house or starting a new job), you know why an interrupted routine can interrupt your baby’s nap schedule.
Pay extra attention to your little one during times of change. Make sure you keep to a bedtime routine as closely as possible, even while on vacation.
Your Baby is Overtired
It’s true: babies who have overshot their regular nap time might have trouble falling asleep later.
Your baby may need extra soothing before nap time until this straightens out. However, try not to rock or nurse your baby to full sleep, or they will begin to depend on these steps in order to nap.
Your Baby is Ready to Transition to Shorter Naps
As you have already experienced, life rarely follows an exact schedule like the one above. Babies don’t usually jump from three naps to two longer ones, for example. Things tend to be a little bumpy at first, with your baby’s body trying to figure out what it needs at each age.
The key word here is transition. Naps may seem irregular for a while until a new, healthy nap schedule is reached.
Your Baby is Having Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can cause your baby to want to have you in their vision at all times.
Comforting your child cheerfully and quietly is the way to go. Try to resist the urge to rock your baby excessively before nap times, or to lie down with them to get them to sleep.
How to Get Back on Track With Naps
- Stay as calm and confident as possible. Baby will respond to your upset by thinking there really is something to be upset about.
- Nudge your baby toward healthy nap times, but be flexible until things straighten out.
- Pat your baby gently on the back if they cry when you put them down.
- Keep lights low. Use black-out blinds and pediatrician-approved white noise if these help.
- Get your baby up if they are sleeping well beyond their nap time — say, 2.5 – 3 hours.
- Shame or scold your baby for not napping.
- Rock or nurse your baby until they are fully asleep.
- Pick your baby up after an exact period of time (say, 1 hour) during times of transition.
- Keep baby up later at night to try to “make” them nap more during the day.
Baby Won’t Nap? Time to Call the Pros!
If your baby won’t nap and you’re at your wit’s end, I’m here for you. I have helped thousands of families to teach their babies to get the rest they need.
Tried everything, but your baby won’t nap?
Contact me today!
Wondering what other parents have to say? Click here!