There are few things more frustrating to parents than when your baby won’t nap. No matter if your baby fights daytime sleep altogether or snoozes for just 5 to 10 minutes, it’s hard!
But it’s also fairly common. That doesn’t mean there are no fixes! Here, are the top nap problems and solutions that’ll bring your baby blissful naptime sleep.
Nap Problem: Baby Is Overexcited
Babies need to wind down before sleep, just like big kids and grownups! So that means tickles and giggles or noisy-toy-play before naptime is off limits. Instead, add quiet playtime and/or storytime in Baby’s room to your nap routine.
Make sure the room isn’t too hot or too cool by adjusting the thermostat to between 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the ideal temperature for sleep.
It’s also important to reduce distractions during sleep-time (dim the lights, shut the curtains) and turn on white noise, which is one of the key elements of the 5 S’s for soothing babies.
White noise helps turn on Baby’s innate calming reflex, which is their built-in “off switch” for crying and “on switch” for sleep. The best white noise for sleep is low and rumbly and can be found in SNOObear, SNOO, and the SNOO sounds download.
Finally, if you’re breastfeeding, try avoiding stimulants, like chocolate or coffee, too close to sleepytime and see if that makes a difference in your baby’s sleep.
Nap Problem: Baby Is Under-Stimulated
For babies, silence is NOT golden! Tip-toeing around your home and ensuring the Baby’s room is free from all sound will often backfire and make sleep harder to come by. Babies find normal household noises soothing. They love white noise in their sleep space.
(The low rumbly sound of white noise reminds Baby of the womb.) And motion-loving babies benefit from sleeping in my safe rocking bassinet, SNOO.
(Swinging is another essential part of the 5 S’s, which helps to trigger your baby’s calming reflex.) In SNOO, babies remain safely swaddled on their back (to prevent risky rolling) and can enjoy all-nap and all-night rocking and white noise.
Remember the womb is rumbly, loud, and constantly in motion—and babies love the relaxing “back home” reminder! (Learn more about why babies adore rocking.)
Nap Problem: Something’s Bugging Your Baby
Unfortunately, your baby can’t tell you, “Hey, I’m still hungry! “My PJs are scratchy!” or “It’s too hot in here!” So, you’ll have to do some investigating to see if your little one isn’t napping because they’re uncomfortable.
Try offering a little more milk before you put Baby down, make sure your bub is dressed in comfy and breathable cotton, and check the temperature to make sure it falls in that sweet spot of 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nap Problem: Baby Is Overtired
Is your little one falling asleep in the car? Do they slump over before naptime? Do you often have a cranky and bleary-eyed baby on your hands?
Then all signs point to your baby being overtired. Being overtired triggers babies’ fight-or-flight response, which unleashes the hormone cortisol that keeps babies alert.
NOT ideal for naptime! The solution? Start trying to figure out your baby’s natural wake windows. (You can do that with the help of our wake window guide.)
Once you’ve got that sorted, create a flexible schedule. I’m not a fan of scheduling your infant’s life down to the minute! But I do think having a flexible routine can be a real help if your baby’s not sleeping well. Learn how to do that with my how-to guide.
Naps Tips for All Babies
No matter what’s derailing your baby’s nap time, there are universal steps to take to help get your baby’s naps back on track.
Keep a sleep/wake diary.
If you’re like most parents, one day blurs into the next and the next. What day is it? Who knows! So, before you start shifting your infant’s schedule around, start a daily sleep/wake diary.
For several days, write down when your baby goes down for sleep, how long it took your baby to settle, and then when your love woke up.
At the same time, keep a keen eye out for sleepytime signs, like eye-rubbing or yawning. Write those down, too.
Once you have all your data collected, you’ll start to learn to put your baby down for a nap before those I’m-sleepy clues occur!
Set nap goals.
After the first months, a good daytime sleep goal is to put your little one down to nap about every two to three hours during the day.
(Again, learning baby’s wake windows will help you zero in on exact timing.) And cap naps at two hours. Wake your baby if they’re still in dreamland at the two-hour mark.
While it’s painful to wake a sleeping baby, know that doing this helps maintain longer stretches of sleep at night. (By your baby’s first birthday, their naps will occur every three to five hours.)
Start organizing Baby’s day.
Some babies (and toddlers and big kids, for that matter!) go from overtired to wired fast. Once they cross the line, they get revved even more and struggle against sleep.
So, go back and check your diary and try to put your infant down 15 to 30 minutes before you think the yawning will start.
Set your baby up for success.
I mentioned the 5 S’s earlier…and it’s worth mentioning again! Offering a newborn baby Shushing (white noise), Sucking (a pacifier), Swaddling, and Swinging (by way of SNOO—the only safe way for baby to rock during sleep) for all naps and night sleeps, sets the stage for ZZZs.
All these womb-like sensations work together to activate the Baby’s “on switch” for sleep. (The remaining S, Side or Stomach Position, is great for soothing but not sleep! The back is the only safe position for an infant sleeping.)
Use the Wake-and-Sleep Method.
This is the best way to teach your little one to self-soothe, which is an important skill to have for restful naps and night sleeps. Before naptime, swaddle your little one and turn on some rough and rumbly white noise (make it as loud as a shower).
Next, feed and burp your swaddled baby, and consider offering a paci. Once your baby is asleep in your arms, lay them down in their bassinet—safely on their back.
Right after you put them down, gently tickle Baby’s feet to slightly rouse them until their eyes are just barely open. After a few seconds, the Baby will close their eyes again and drift off to sleep.
If your little one is swaddled and shushed and satiated, they should be able to fall back to sleep quickly…with little crying.
Be consistent…most of the time.
Experts love to warn new parents to be consistent when it comes to naps, but that advice can drive new parents who are just finding their footing bonkers!
While having a loose schedule where you can anticipate when your bub will get tired is very important, don’t feel like you need to run your schedule like a Marine drill sergeant…just try your best to be consistent.
Use predictable (but simple!) cues at naptime: Close the blinds, feed your baby, use the 5 S’s. And in your baby’s first few months, consistently respond to their cries.
This will build your little one’s confidence. If you and your baby’s other caregivers can stick reasonably close to a flexible timetable and regular routines, within weeks, you should establish a pattern of great sleep!