9 Reasons Your Baby Won't Sleep and 6 Tips To Cope With It

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There could be instances when the baby won’t nap during the day. Naps during the daytime are essential for a baby since they may help a baby fall asleep comfortably at night. The nap count tends to reduce as the baby grows older, but until then, it is important to tally the night and morning naps for their adequate development.

For a baby who refuses to nap, it might be a tedious task to establish a nap schedule. But considering the benefits of naps, the task is worth the effort. Read on to know more tips to get a baby to nap.

How Many Naps Does A Baby Need?

The number of naps and their duration may vary depending on the baby’s age. The following table provides the number of naps based on the infant’s age1.

AgeNumber of naps
0 – 5 months1 – 5 naps per day
6 – 11 months1 – 4 naps per day
12 – 35 months0 – 2 naps per day

Source: Sleep program by Queensland Government

A newborn may have a short sleep duration, with each sleep session lasting 50-60minutes since they feed more frequently than older babies. When babies reach three months of age, they tend to sleep longer at night and take fewer naps during the day. The number of daily naps decreases as your baby grows (2).

By four months, each nap may last 30 minutes to two hours. A six-month-old may nap up to a total of six hours a day. The duration of each nap and total naptime could vary among babies of the same age (3). Once your baby turns a toddler at the age of one year, their total nap duration may reduce to up to 4.5 hours a day. At two years, the total naptime may reduce to up to three hours a day. Keep in mind that these are guidelines and there can be a lot of normal variation even between siblings.

Reasons Why Babies Won’t Nap

Babies may refuse to nap for various reasons ranging from simple ambient disturbances to physical discomfort or anxiety. The following are the various reasons why a baby may not nap (4).

  1. Not tired enough: Tired babies tend to fall asleep easily. Stimulating activities before naptime and excess nighttime sleep may prevent babies from feeling tired, making it difficult for them to nap.
  1. Too tired: Overtired babies may often be hyperactive and cranky, making it difficult for a parent to soothe them to sleep. Regular bedtime and naptime routines could prevent overtiredness in infants.
  1. Disturbances in the room: Noises, bright lights, the presence of others in the room, and other distractions could prevent the infant from falling asleep during naptime.
  1. Hunger: Hungry babies may cry for food and may not fall asleep. In such cases, they may take a nap immediately after feeding.
  1. Wet or soiled diapers: Babies can be irritated with wet or soiled diapers and often refuse to nap unless the diapers are changed.
  1. Teething and other issues: Babies may refuse to nap due to teething pain and other physical discomforts. They may appear sick, fussy, and may not be able to soothe themselves to nap.
  1. Sleep associations: Babies who are used to napping in a baby seat, swing, or stroller may get used to it, making it difficult for them to nap anywhere else. The absence of pre-naptime routines, such as rocking, may also interfere with naps if the baby is used to them. You may gradually change these sleep associations to make them fall asleep in their crib.
  1. Separation anxiety: Some babies may develop sleep problems due to separation anxiety, especially around six months of age. Fear of being away from parents may cause them to wake up with the inability to fall asleep again.
  1. Sleep regressions: Babies can revert to an erratic sleep pattern once in a while due to sleep regressions. These are normal and temporary and even occur in sleep-trained babies. The excitement of achieving new milestones and growth spurt could lead to sleep regressions in babies.

Tips To Help Babies Nap

Most babies refuse to nap for simple reasons, and careful observation can help the caregiver or parent identify and resolve the cause. The following tips may help babies have adequate naps for a sufficient duration per day (5).

  1. Follow a nap routine: Although you may feel the daytime nap is random, it is not. Establishing a routine can help the baby to nap easily. You may incorporate play, meal, diaper changes, and naptime to make the baby understand that it is time to nap after feeding or changing diapers.
  1. Nap in the crib: It is better to have a constant place for napping. Baby crib is the safest place and often lets the parent or caregiver rest at the same time. Do not place the baby in a stroller or your arms for naps since they may get used to it and later refuse to nap in the crib.
  1. Look for sleep cues: Observe your baby’s sleep cues, such as rubbing eyes, yawning, and fussing, and place them in the crib right away. Ignoring baby sleep cues may make you miss the sleep-readiness window, causing the baby to become overtired and difficult to soothe for naps.
  1. Meet basic needs: Babies love to take a nap when they are comfortable. You may ensure that they feel dry, warm, and fed before nap time.
  1. Playtime between naps: Allowing tummy time and playtime can help tire your baby, ensuring a solid nap. You may incorporate a daily play and activity routine for your little one.
  1. Manage physical discomfort and separation anxiety: Babies who won’t nap due to an illness or teething may need pediatric help. Pay extra attention to separation anxiety cues and alleviate them before they interfere with the baby’s naps.

Sleep regressions may last for some time and disappear. You may teach your baby to self-soothe and take a nap whenever your baby naps so that you can meet your baby’s needs without exhausting yourself. Babies who won’t nap due to ambient disturbances or physical discomfort may sleep once the issue is resolved.

Does Sleep Training Work For Babies Who Won’t Nap?

Nighttime sleep training may also help babies nap easily. It is usually recommended to begin sleep training between four and six months since the baby is old enough to regulate sleep needs and self-soothe. You may try various sleep training methods that work for your baby. The same tactic that you use before nighttime sleep could also work for daytime naps. Try different methods and find the best sleep training method that works for your baby.

Most new parents are concerned when their baby won’t nap at a given point in time. Being over-stimulated, hungry, or needing a diaper change could make a baby refuse a nap. Moreover, nap time and duration differ among babies, and the number of naps keeps declining with age. Nonetheless, for younger babies, naps are important to facilitate overall development. Hence you may try simple tips such as meeting their basic needs and scheduling a nap time to deal with the situation. If napping-related problems are due to teething or other medical reasons, you may speak to a pediatrician to find an appropriate solution.

Key Pointers

  • The duration and number of naps a baby needs depend on the baby’s age.
  • Overtiredness, hunger, and having wet or soiled diapers are some of the reasons for infants not napping of sleep in infants.
  • Sleep training may be an effective way to help babies nap.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Sleep health and sleep development in Early Childhood Education and Care; Early Childhood Education and Care Queensland Government
2. How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need?; Sleep Foundation
3. Bedtime Habits for Infants and Children; U S National Library of Medicine
4. Baby Sleep 2-12 Months; Raising Children Network
5. Sleep In Infants (2-12 months); Nationwide Childrens Hospital
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Dr. Arlene Dijamco

(MD)
Dr. Arlene Dijamco calls herself a 'MultiDimensional MD' with expertise in integrative medicine, pediatrics, and cranial osteopathy. She studied at Harvard, Emory, and Albert Einstein and then completed Dr. Andrew Weil’s two-year integrative medicine fellowship.  She is known for her intuitive knack, empowering people to nourish and balance all layers of health. Dr. Dijamco is passionate about helping make the... more

Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Dr. Bisny T. Joseph is a Georgian Board-certified physician. She has completed her professional graduate degree as a medical doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia. She has 3+ years of experience in various sectors of medical affairs as a physician, medical reviewer, medical writer, health coach, and Q&A expert. Her interest in digital medical education and patient education made... more