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.

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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 schedule 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. 

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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. Initially 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 tendency 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 assistance. If you're struggling and currently full help your baby to get to sleep,  jump on the self-soothing 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. 

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Emma Purdue

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.


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  •  Simple effective settling: Gentle, proven self soothing, evidence based techniques.
  •  Content happy baby and parents: Better sleep creates content babies & happy parents.
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  • 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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