Why Won’t My Baby Nap?

nap - an image of a baby with dark hair, waring a white onesie laying with their arms above head on a white sheet

Have you ever asked yourself, “why won’t my baby nap?”  Naps are a wonderful part of baby sleep—if they are going well! Our babies need naps so they can grow cognitively and physically. They also ensure a good night’s sleep for our babies. Naps keep your baby well-rested and give mom & dad a break throughout the day. But when your baby won’t nap or goes on a nap strike, it can feel like the end of the world! Here are the top four reasons why your baby won’t nap:

Reason 1 : Sleep Environment

If your baby naps in an environment that is not conducive to sleep, that can lead to poor naps. Constantly napping in the stroller, car seat, or in many different locations (sometimes in the crib, other times on your chest, sometimes in the baby carrier, etc.) is an inconsistency that leads to poor naps, as well. Make sure your baby’s sleep environment is consistent and conducive for sleep.

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Reason 2: Sleep Associations

Does your baby need help falling asleep? That help sometimes comes in the form of rocking, being fed to sleep, a pacifier, or sleeping on mom or dad. If your baby has a negative sleep association or is dependent on an external factor to fall asleep at nap time, then it is time to work on independent sleep skills. Pick a sleep training method that is right for your family to guide your baby to independent sleep.

Reason 3: Wrong Number of Naps (1 Nap, 2 Naps, 3 Naps)

If your baby is getting too little or too much sleep during the day, it can cause naps to suffer. It sounds like a guessing game, but it really isn’t.

  • Birth-4 Months Old – At this age, sleep is unpredictable. The number of naps and duration of naps at this age will have a big range. At the very least, your newborn should be having 4 naps a day. It likely will be more than that. As your newborn gets closer to the 3-4 month mark, it will narrow down to 4 naps a day.
  • 4-6 Months Old – At this age, your baby’s internal clock has developed and sleep is organized. 3 naps a day will be needed to keep your baby well-rested now.
  •  6-8 Months Old – Babies transition from three to two naps at this age. Your baby should have a long morning nap as well as a long afternoon nap. The third catnap may or may not be happening at this age. Read about the 3-to-2 nap transition here.
  • 8-14 Months Old – Babies stay on two naps during this period of time. Two long naps, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, provide your baby with the restorative daytime sleep they need to thrive.

Reason 4: Developmental Milestones

If your baby is learning a new skill, it can disrupt sleep. Naptime is the first place we see new skills cause sleep regressions. The reason is that nap time is a super fun time to practice crawling or babbling—at least your baby thinks so! Whether your baby is going through a period of physical, cognitive, or language learning, it can put naps into a tailspin. Stay consistent at nap times and offer plenty of skill practice during awake times to help naps come back together.

To go from saying “Why won’t my baby sleep?” to “Great nap, sweetie!” you need to know the reason why naps are off. Once you understand why your baby is going through a nap strike, you can address it to get naps back on track.

Sleep Consultant Jennifer Gilman
Sleep Consultant Jennifer Gilman
Jennifer Gilman is a Certified Sleep Consultant based out of New Jersey. She is a mother to two children, an elementary and preschool teacher, and passionate about sleep! Jennifer joined the Good Night Sleep Site team knowing that she would be able to help families get the sleep they need to thrive, grow and be happy. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys playing with her daughters, baking, and practicing yoga.

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