If your baby refuses to nap, don’t panic. Here’s why that happens and a few tested strategies for helping your little one get some shut-eye. 

Your child is the perfect baby. She’s easy-going, she’s cute as a button, and she doesn’t wake up too often at night.

The only downside is she refuses to nap. On average, she gets maybe an hour of nap per day, probably less.

You’ve tried everything that other parents suggested: the white noise, the blackout curtains, the Rock ‘n Play. Nothing worked.

And now you’re out of ideas.

Caught between feeding your older kid and getting your younger one to nap, you feel the sleep deprivation closing in and the anxiety levels rising up. 

Is there anything left to do?

If your little bundle of joy refuses to nap, these tips can help her get the required hours of sleep every day.

Let’s dive in!

4 reasons why your baby refuses to nap

There are several reasons why your baby refuses to nap. I’ve found the most common include:

Negative sleep associations

A sleep association is any action that helps a child fall asleep. We break sleep associations into positive and negative sleep associations. 

Positive associations develop when babies use something on their own to help them fall asleep.

Negative sleep associations involve somebody doing something for the baby, such as nursing, rocking, or patting until she falls asleep. 

If your child refuses to nap, it might be that she has developed a strong negative sleep association that’s preventing her from falling asleep. This can include rocking her to sleep or holding her in your arms until she’s down. 

I’m sorry to tell you but she’ll never learn how to nap properly without getting rid of that sleep association. 

What you should do is try to gradually wean her off that sleeping habit and start putting her down for naps in her crib—drowsy but awake if she’s younger than four months old and fully awake if she’s older. 

Baby is not taking the right number of naps

Another reason why your baby refuses to nap is that she’s not taking the right number of naps for her age. 

The number of naps your little one needs depends on her age. For example, newborns need three to five naps per day, babies aged four to six months need two to three naps a day, while children between six and 12 months of age need two naps every day. 

Baby is too tired or under-tired

If your baby overslept during the night or had a too-long nap, she may not be tired enough to fall asleep for her second or third nap. Try to make sure she’s not sleeping too much at night. When your baby is less than one year old, sleeping for 11 to 14 hours at night is sufficient.

Similarly, your little one may be struggling to fall asleep if she’s overtired. This can happen if she didn’t get enough sleep during the night or woke up earlier from her last nap. Make sure you:

  • watch for sleep cues such as eye rubbing, hair pulling, and yawning
  • put her down at the same time for naps and at night
  • follow a consistent bedtime routine
  • stop playtime a half-hour or so before sleep

Baby is feeling uncomfortable

In some cases, your baby may be having trouble napping if she’s feeling uncomfortable. This can be due to hunger, teething, feeling gassy, or even a wet diaper. 

What you can do is:

  • Make sure she’s well-fed.
  • Take her to the pediatrician to see if she’s teething.
  • Burp your baby before placing her down to sleep.
  • Change her into a clean diaper before putting her down. 
my baby refuses to nap

Sleep training for naps—what is it and does it work?

You must have heard about sleep training baby for nighttime. But did you know that sleep training can also be implemented for teaching your baby how to take better naps?

And it’s a must-try if your baby is continually resisting naps or not getting enough daytime sleep.

Many parents have found that sleep training for nighttime makes sleep training for naps a little easier. So, once you teach your baby how to self-settle at night, proceed by doing the same for her day naps.

The best time to sleep train is when a baby is between four and six months of age when she’s old enough to self-settle, and her negative associations are easy to break.

Simply choose a sleep training method that works for you and your family and see the magic happen. 

Additional tips

Here are a few more suggestions for helping your little one sleep more soundly and for longer during the day:

Follow a consistent nap routine

Your nap routine should be a shorter version of your nighttime routine. If the latter lasts for one hour, the former should last for around 30 minutes—a book, a feed, a lullaby, and a cuddle sound like an adorable combination.

Always put your baby to sleep in her crib

Parents are sometimes tempted to leave their child to nap in the car, the stroller, or the swing. However, in the long run, this is a recipe for disaster. 

Your baby should always, always fall asleep in her crib. She needs to learn that the crib is where she needs to fall asleep, not the stroller. If you let her fall asleep one night in the stroller and the other in the crib, you’ll only get her confused. 

Keep an eye for sleep cues

Yawning, rubbing the eyes, fussing, and pulling her hair–these are all signs that she’s ready to hit the crib. When you notice she’s getting sleepy, don’t miss the opportunity. Place her in her crib right away.