Help! My baby won’t nap

I’ve had two babies. One that. Would. Not. Nap, and the other LOVED naps! Want to know what I did differently? Nothing.

So let me start by saying – no, I don’t believe it’s anything you have done or did not do. Every baby is different, even babies in the same family. At some point, all babies and toddlers will nap!

For young babies under 4 months:
Try not to worry too much about scheduling routines and proper naps for now. Please know holding and rocking your baby is not spoiling him. Some babies need more help with falling asleep than others. Respond to your baby’s cries as this will help him feel safe and know he can trust you. Napping tends to get easier around 4 to 6 months.

a very tired baby rubs his eyes and is ready for a nap

4 tips to help your older (over 4 months) baby nap:

As your baby gets older, you can start encouraging naps. Not napping can make it harder for your baby to sleep at night, since an overtired baby is much harder to settle. So how do we do this?

1. Watch for and follow your baby’s sleep cues
Watch your baby’s cues. Try to figure out what he does to signal he is feeling tired, before he is overtired and fussy. It can take a few days to figure out what your baby’s cues are. Here are some examples of cues to look for (your baby may only show one): a blank stare, slowing down, yawning, rubbing eyes, or thumb sucking. My daughter twirled her hair and my son held his ear when he was tired! When you notice a sleep cue, it’s time for nap.

2. Have a naptime routine
Just like with bedtime routines at night, a consistent naptime routine will help your baby relax and transition from awake to asleep. Keep this routine similar to your baby’s bedtime routine, but shorter. Check out the video below from Invest in Kids for more info on bedtime routines.

3. Understand normal infant sleep
Check your expectations. Are they even realistic? I found it helped to understand infant sleep, especially their sleep-wake cycles. Infant sleep cycles only last about 45 minutes, after which they are prone to waking up. This is normal infant behaviour (and a survival tactic). As your baby gets older she will get better at staying asleep for longer than one sleep cycle.

4. Start a “sleep journal”
Observe and make note of when your baby naps. You may find a pattern in your baby’s day that will help you follow your baby’s lead in establishing a nap routine.

Be patient with yourself and your baby. Naps take time for babies to learn. Some babies take to them easily and others struggle to fall asleep. If you are trying these tips and nothing seems to work, take a break and just note your baby’s sleep patterns in a sleep journal. If you notice a pattern starting, give it another try.

Are you looking for more tips to help with your baby’s sleep? Connect with us:

For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About Andrea Scott RN

I’m a public health nurse with the HaltonParents team – you’ll find me blogging, tweeting and answering emails. I’ve been working for the Halton Region Health Department since 2006 and my focus has been on supporting parents with babies and little kids. I have two little ones myself, “Pumpkin” and “Monkey” who give me plenty to blog about! :)
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