For most parents with babies and toddlers, nap time is sacred time. It’s your time to catch your breath, reset and recharge (if you’re lucky maybe even steal a nap yourself). So when your baby is suddenly refusing to nap it can be stressful or downright devastating.
When things are not going to plan it can be helpful to step back, take a deep breath and then take a look at what might be going on in your little baby’s world.
Could they be overtired? Or not tired enough? Perhaps they are teething or going through a growth spurt. Are the awake times you’re using still relevant for their age? In time you’ll start to learn how your baby reacts to certain situations and changes and this will start to help you manage these nap time shake ups a little easier.
Here are 8 things to consider if your baby is refusing to nap
1. Is your baby overtired – or not tired enough?
There is a fine line between a baby who is not yet ready for sleep and one that is overtired. And trying to find this sweet spot can be key to helping your baby get a quality nap. As your baby grows their awake windows will lengthen and so making sure you giving them adequate playtime and then getting them down for sleep before they have had too much stimulation is important.
2. Sleep associations
Just because you are working towards a schedule or routine for your baby, doesn’t mean they are on board with it. So giving them sleep cues or sleep associations can help them know bedtime is near. This can be a mini routine (often a shorter version of the one you do at the end of the day before they go to bed) and can include some quiet play in their room, a book and a cuddle. If they are older than seven months, a favourite toy or comforter can also help signal sleep time.
3. Set up a sleep sanctuary
Doesn’t that sound nice? Well, it is nice, but there’s also a good reason for it. No one finds it easy sleeping in a bright or loud room. So make their sleep space as calm, dark and inviting as you can. Think block out blinds, white noise and calming, sleep-inducing scents like lavender in a diffuser or room spray.
4. Are they teething or having a growth spurt?
All these things can have a huge impact on your baby’s sleep so if they are going through any of these that could be the reason for the sudden refusal. Offer extra cuddles and comfort are needed during these periods, but try and stick with your routine as best you can and hopefully, it should pass within a few days.
5. Are they going through a nap transition?
Sometimes the reason they are fighting naps (or suddenly taking shorter ones) is because their sleep needs are changing. Are they are getting too much sleep for their age (yeah lucky them right)? They might be ready to drop a nap so have a look at their Daily Rhythm and see if it’s time to switch up their routine.
6. Are they hungry or thirsty?
No one likes going to bed on an empty stomach so make sure they have had something to eat, and/or a sip of water if they are over six months.
7. They don’t know how to self settle
Babies who were great sleepers and suddenly become terrible sleepers might not actually know how to sleep. When they are little their bodies get them off to sleep easily, but as they grow and become more alert they can need help to drift off – or help to learn how to do it themselves.
8. Is something annoying them?
Could it be something as simple as a wet nappy that’s irritating them or some uncomfortable clothing? Perhaps they’re too hot, or too cold – suss out their surroundings and see if there could be something distracting them.
If you’ve tried all these things and you still can’t get them to nap, try not to worry – they will feed off your emotions so if you become anxious, stressed or upset, chances are they will too. Pop them in the pram and go for a walk or take a drive in the car, and they might just drift off that way. And a change of scenery will do you good too.
Remember they are little humans and they are entitled to fussy days, just like the rest of us. Some days you just need to call it a write-off and try to start fresh again tomorrow.