Baby Sleeps At Night, But Won't Nap? Here's How To Save Your Sanity

My son basically refused to sleep at all the entire fourth and half of the fifth month of his life. And I have never been more miserable, and neither had he, I’m sure. After trials and many errors on my husband’s and my part, and caving in and purchasing Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Karp, we finally got our boy sleeping through the night and napping — sometimes. Unfortunately, when it came to Jack, even Dr. Karp was no match, because during Jack’s fifth month, I was constantly Googling, “baby who sleeps at night but won’t nap.” We got the nighttime down, but napping was still iffy. I know in most cases nighttime sleeping trumps napping, and that makes perfect sense. However, I work from home and also need my baby to nap sometimes so I can turn in writing assignments.

I tried wearing him and bouncing up and down in my kitchen while I wrote on my laptop on the kitchen counter. I have to say my legs and butt got amazing for about a month, but he still wasn’t sleeping. So I spoke with a couple of pediatricians about how to get your baby to nap, and ask them why the heck my baby was sleeping so great at night, but the day? Not so much. Was it FOMO (fear of missing out)? Do babies get that already?

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According to Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, some babies truly do already have FOMO. “Some babies are just not good nappers. A lot of them get too distracted by all that is going on during the day and don’t want to sleep and miss any of the action. Most little babies do need naps and get fussy without them, but some just fight sleep during the day,” she tells Romper in an email interview.

Dr. Danelle Fisher, pediatrician and vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says that she understands how frustrating this can be for parents when your babies just will not nap, however, “if a baby/toddler is sleeping extremely well through the night and not needing a nap, don't try to force a nap.” Say what?

“Quiet time, time spent playing in the crib or the bedroom, with lights turned lower and toys without any electronic component or sound quality, can be just as good as a nap. Keep the regularity of the schedule as much as possible, for instance at 11 a.m. everyday, we put the baby in her crib with a couple of board books and wooden toy and leave her for one hour.” Y’all this made me feel so much better, I can’t even explain. Like a 50-pound weight has been lifted off my shoulders and my gut. You mean it’s OK if your baby just has some quiet time and doesn’t snooze? Talk about less pressure.

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If your baby still seems like they need an actual nap with sleep, Fisher says it’s all about the schedule. “The best way to get a baby to nap is to provide them with a consistent schedule that includes napping at specific times of the day according to their own rhythms. The more standard the schedule, the more the baby tends to respond. This is sometimes easier with child number one, but by the time the family includes more than one child, the schedule seems to be more erratic and the younger sibling is often out and about due to the older siblings' schedule. Regularity is key to good sleep,” she says. So for those of you with an older sibling and an infant at home, I salute you. And in the words of The Offspring, “You gotta keep ‘em separated.”

For what it’s worth, once I started to put Jack down at 9 a.m. every morning, and 2 p.m. every afternoon, no matter what, he would fall asleep. And now he starts rubbing his eyes and gets sleepy at 8:45 a.m. and 1:45 a.m. His body knows it’s time for sleep. And there was much rejoicing.

Posner adds, “Put them in a crib while sleepy, but not asleep. You can play soft music or white noise.” She also says it’s very important to teach your baby how to fall asleep on their own. And from my own experience, she’s right. Once Jack was able to self-soothe a little bit, I was finally able to sleep through the night and get some work done during the day without me having to go in there and pat his butt and give him his paci back every single time he squawked.

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Also, just know this multiple naps a day business isn’t forever. Potentially, when they’re 12 to 18 months old, they’ll be able to take just one nap a day, according to Fisher and Posner — making everything a million times easier for you. Take a deep breath, this too shall pass. And as long as your baby has quiet time alone in the dark every day at the same time and place, and you build a routine and stick to it, your baby should start napping much better. If all else fails, there’s always the 5 S’s by Dr. Karp that may be of additional assistance for you. Good luck — you’ve got this.