Sleep Struggles: What to Do When Your Baby Won't Nap – Tips for Exhausted Parents

Sleep Struggles: What to Do When Your Baby Won't Nap – Tips for Exhausted Parents

Sleep Struggles: What to Do When Your Baby Won't Nap – Tips for Exhausted Parents

Updated June 2022

Napping poses unique challenges compared to nighttime sleep, primarily due to the absence of daytime sleep pressure.

Visualize sleep pressure as a wave steadily building momentum, reaching its peak before gently crashing down—that's the sensation associated with nighttime sleep.

Overcoming the complexities of daytime napping involves understanding and addressing the distinct factors influencing sleep pressure during the day.

Daytime naps, on the other hand, are akin to a wave building far out at sea—far less pressure compared to the surging waves of nighttime sleep. This is why naps can seem 10 times more challenging than the restorative night's sleep. We often find ourselves reaching for all the props and assistance that may not be necessary during the night.

Uncover additional insights into why it may feel like your baby just won't nap...

Sleep Environment

  • The sleep environment is not ready for sleep. If you want to make sleep as easy as possible, you want the environment as inviting to sleep as possible. Eliminate light, inconsistent distruptive noises, try some white noise. Ensure they aren't hot or cold, waking up hot and stuffy or freezing cold can cause short naps.

Nap Scedule 

  • Your nap schedule is more about squeezing naps in around activities rather than squeezing activities in around appropriate nap times. If you 're struggling to get consistent naps, or they're just feel like struggle street all the time, consider a regular nap scheudule for a few weeks. Many people will try a nap schedule for a day, and then give up. It takes a couple of weeks to establish a routine, and protecting your nap schedule creates consistent nappers, who nap with little fuss. 

Over Tired

  • Your baby is over tired. If you miss your babies tired signs they become wired and get that second wind, making them almost impossible to get to sleep. If this occurs on a regular basis, try sleep logging for a few days to look for a pattern. Note down how long they are awake and how difficult or easy the nap is. Once you see a pattern with difficult naps, shorten that awake time by 15 minutes. Have a nice quiet transition to naps, you might be missing some early tired signs. 

Under Tired

  • Your baby is under tired or ready to drop a nap. If we think back to the wave analogy, under tired is like trying to put a baby to sleep when there is no wave at all! Getting this sleep pressure just right is going to make naps a lot easier. One trap new parents easily fall into is not knowing that awake time increases dramatically in the first 6 months. Intially your newborn can only stay awake around 1 hour, and we rush to settle them into a nap. But this changes week by week and by 6 months your baby can probably stay awake around 2.5 hours between naps, maybe even 3 hours! This awake time increase can occur gradually as they get older, or come in a big waves as they quickly consolidate night sleep. All that extra night sleep will mean they need less day sleep, and this is only achieved by extending awake times. 

Outgrown their settling technique

  • Over stimulation is a big reason why many babies will not nap or take a long time to settle. Sometimes we get into the habit of full assisting to sleep with techniques such as rocking, patting, feeding, walking, and we don't realise these techniques have an expiry date. A settling technique, needs to be age appropriate to avoid being over stimulating. From 4 months on I find most babies begin to show a tendancy towards being able to settle themselves more and more. By 6 months most babies find hands on approaches very stimulating and parents will tell me their baby will only allow them to rock them to sleep after 3-4 hours awake time. That is they are very over tired, and finally give in to the assisstance. If you're struggling and currently full help your baby to get to sleep,  jump on the self-settling train, and gradually remove yourself from the nap time situation.

Get more help with naps.

Try our cat napping master class.

Or our online program comes complete with nap routines, nap plans, re-settling solutions, and email support all included. 

Emma Purdue

Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.


  • Empowered: Feel empowered as a Mum as you learn to understand your growing baby's needs and cues.
  •  Simple effective settling: Gentle, proven self settling, evidence based techniques.
  •  Content happy baby and parents: Better sleep creates content babies & happy parents.
  •  Freedom: Predictable routines and longer nights creates freedom. Solve your sleep problems for more freedom.
  •  Work with your babies circadian rhythm: Work with your babies biological clock for faster easier results.
  •  Awesome naps & nights: You'll create consistent naps and nights with our support.

Try our online sleep program, complete with FREE email support.

0-3 months

3-8 months

9-18 months

18 months - 4 years

My baby has reflux can you help?

When your baby has reflux, feeds can be difficult and your baby can be in a lot of pain both during and after feeds. This pain can cause feeding aversions and failure to thrive. This is why true GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) needs to be treated by a doctor. Once your baby's doctor is satisfied your baby is feeding well, and you have the right medication or formula then we can start a sleep plan and you will be successful.

My baby has colic will this help?

Colic is defined as 3 or more hours of crying per day in infants. Crying subsides in the second second trimester. If you are still experiencing colic symptoms speak to your baby's doctor about whether this could be reflux, an allergy, or over tiredness. We can help you work on better sleep with this program at the same time as your doctor investigates the pain and crying.

What if the program isn't working?

We have a dedicated help line to ensure your success. Just email our team via the details in your program and a certified, experienced and friendly sleep consultant is ready to stare you in the right direction to ensure your success!

My baby was born early, can you help?

Sleep is neurological so we always work off your babies neurological age, that is their corrected age. When you look at our sleep programs purchase the program that your babies corrected age fits into.

What if I have questions or need more help?

Our sleep programs come with private email support. You don’t have to post in any public forums or groups, just email the exclusive helpline that our team of certified sleep consultants look after and we’ll answer all your questions and help you on your way.

Can this program help with my babies night sleep?

Yes, all our online sleep programs contain night sleep plans. We will teach you how to move from multiple night feeds to 2 or 1 or none (depending on what is age appropriate and appropriate for your baby.) Don’t worry we will show you to figure this out too. If your baby is unsettled at night but not feeding, our plans will help you with consolidate night sleep and self settling when age appropriate.

My baby is cat napping can you help?

Cat napping is a very normal physiological stage that your baby goes through. At this stage (3-8 months old), cat napping can start to be a long term issue and compound into over tiredness and affect night sleep and your babies happiness. Good news, this is a great age to work on re-settling, self settling and better longer naps!

I have 3 children, can this work with my family?

I totally understand how busy life is with 2, 3 or more children! Even if you need a flexible schedule we can still work on settling regular naps (some on the go!), and better evenings and night. Flick our consultants any specific questions about your family's schedule of activities and we can help you work out what is possible nap wise.

I don't want a fixed routine, can you still help?

Yes. A fixed routine is one option, regular naps and regular awake times is another. Both are valid and you are welcome to do what works for your family. We understand you are all different and what works best for one family won't be best for another.

I'm formula feeding, can you still help?

Yes we have specific advice for formula feeding parents, and we support your decision to feed any way you choose. We even have a special video series on formula feeding and everything you need to know. Just ask our consultants about this extra if you need it.

I'm exclusively breastfeeding, can I follow your plans?

Yes! While breastfeeding babies need to feed frequently they still need quality sleep day and night. We have specific advice for breastfeeding mums and an exclusive discount on Julia Daleys breastfeeding course if you need extra help.

I'm bed sharing, can your program help me stop?

Yes. We often fall into bed sharing, we call this reactive bed sharing. Or we have simply changed our mind, and moving on from bed sharing we need some support. Our programs and consults will guide you through gentle sleep methods, which are more appropriate for most bed sharing babies who are moving towards independent sleep in the cot.

I'm feeding to sleep, can you help me stop?

Yes. Feeding to sleep is a common sleep association and one that works well for lots of newborns. Often we need to move on from feeding to sleep when it starts to cause short naps, or prolonged settling or frequent night wake ups as baby looks for their association to go back to sleep over and over again at night. We can teach you how to teach your baby to self settle and move on from feeding to sleep when the time is right.

I'm rocking to sleep, is their a solution?

Yes. These are common sleep associations, we refer to this as assisting to sleep. Let us show you ways you can develop independent sleep and settling strategies with our online sleep program, or one on one consult.

Is this program based on Cry It Out?

No. Cry it out is the common name for a sleep training method where you put baby down and don’t respond or check until they are fast asleep. There is no CIO involved in this program as we feel this should be only done under proper supervision. Instead we have included all our very gentle approaches and more mainstream techniques for you to choose from.

Is this based on Science or Art?

Both! As a scientist I (Emma) have spent over 8 years researching the science of sleep. I have educated and certified over 500 consultants around the world as sleep consultants, and have worked with thousands of clients. I love the scientific explanations of why we see the sleep patterns we see, and this science helps us to shape plans and solutions that we know will work. But there's an element of art to getting a baby to sleep, understanding the right combination of things that will work best, and this is where your instinct comes in.




  • I’ve finally solved my cat naps with your online sleep program, THANK YOU THANK YOU! i thought I was loosing my mind, but my baby was under tired and I was doing too much settling for him, thank you so much for teaching me how he could self settle, and the email support has been great.

    Michaela Anderson on

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