What to Do When Your Baby Won’t Take a Nap: Why It Happens and Things to Try

    Published 22 May 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Marina Savchenko, MD, Pediatric Neurologist, Medical Consultant at Flo
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    Naps have a profound effect on your baby's behavior, development, and bedtime routine. It can be very frustrating when your baby won't nap, but it can help to figure out the cause. Once you understand why your baby refuses to nap, it'll be much easier to find a solution.

    Why do babies need naps?

    While the benefits of nighttime sleep have been well known for decades, science only recently focused on understanding the benefits of naps. Recent studies have shown that daytime naps are directly correlated to a child's vocabulary growth.

    Napping has also been found to improve memory consolidation and learning performance for children younger than 2 years old. Sleeping in general has a beneficial effect on physical growth and cognitive development.

    Newborns and young infants need many hours of sleep each day. Newborns need about 16–17 hours of sleep every day, and 4-month-old babies need 14–15 hours. By the time a baby is 6 months old, they'll need approximately 13–14 hours of sleep per day.

    Since babies' circadian rhythms are still developing, it's important for them to take naps during the day. Babies also tend to become irritable and fussy when they're tired, which makes naps even more important.

    5 reasons why your baby won't sleep during the day

    1. Your baby doesn't have a structured daily routine

    If you put your baby down for a nap at different times every day, it could be harder for them to fall asleep. Babies respond positively to routines and schedules. An unpredictable daily routine may be making it harder for your baby to nap when they need to.

    2. You're taking certain medications while breastfeeding your baby

    Some medications, such as allergy medications, can reach your baby through your breast milk. In some cases, these medications can make your baby irritable, drowsy, or colicky. If you need to take medication while you're breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about potential negative side effects for your baby.

    3. Your baby isn't tired enough

    It makes sense, doesn't it? If your baby is wide awake and energized, they probably won't want to fall asleep. Think about your baby's sleep schedule. Are you trying to get them to take a nap too soon after they've woken up? Is their nap too close to play time? Make sure that your baby has time to use up some energy before trying to get them to nap.

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    4. Your baby is hungry

    A hungry baby will refuse to nap. They're totally focused on being fed. This is especially true for younger babies who need constant feedings throughout the day. If your baby is fussy and won't fall asleep, or if they wake up crying soon after they start to nap, they might be hungry.

    5. They need a quieter, calmer environment

    Some adults can get used to sleeping in bright rooms or around loud noises, but that's definitely not the case with babies. Your baby won't nap properly unless they're in a quiet room with relaxed environment. Loud noises and bright lights will keep them stimulated and awake.

    5 things to do when your baby won't nap

    1. Create a nap time routine

    Creating a structured routine for your baby can help them fall asleep faster. This is also true for their bedtime. Even young babies will be able to recognize a consistent routine, and this will make it easier for them to adapt to daily activities and fall asleep during nap time.

    2. Create a relaxing environment for naps

    It will be much easier for your baby to fall asleep if you place them in a quiet room and avoid bright lights. Also, make sure there's plenty of time between playing and napping. Engage in a relaxing activity, such as singing a lullaby or playing calm music, before their nap.

    3. Give your baby plenty of play time

    Your baby is constantly acquiring new skills and learning more about their world. All of these exciting developments can make it hard for your baby to sleep during the day. Make sure they have plenty of time to play, discover their skills and surroundings, and spend some energy before nap time.

    4. Feed your baby before their nap

    To ensure that your baby isn't hungry, schedule a meal or breastfeed your baby before their nap. Make sure to allow some time for them to burp and digest their food before napping, to avoid reflux and colic.

    5. Help your baby learn how to fall asleep on their own

    It can be tempting to rock your baby to help them fall asleep every time. However, being able to fall asleep on their own is an important skill for children. Once your child is old enough to self-soothe (around 3 months old), give them some time to wind down and create an environment that encourages them to fall asleep on their own.

    It can be stressful when your baby refuses to nap, especially since nap time is important for growth and development. Once you've figured out why your baby isn't sleeping during the day, you'll have an easier time creating a routine that helps them take the naps they need.

    History of updates

    Current version (22 May 2019)

    Reviewed by Marina Savchenko, MD, Pediatric Neurologist, Medical Consultant at Flo

    Published (22 May 2019)

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