Five hours—going on six. That’s how long my baby stayed awake. He skipped a nap and was rubbing his eyes and yawning. He bawled tears, especially when I so much as stepped a foot away. He wasn’t that fun to be around.
But despite my attempts to put him down for a nap, he refused. In other attempts, he wouldn’t nap unless I held or rocked him to sleep. Nothing seemed to work—he just wouldn’t sleep.
Meanwhile, there was so much to do around the house. I needed a break—even a measly ten minutes would’ve been awesome.
And so I felt my frustration flaring, my patience waning, and I just about had it. I love my baby, but, let’s be honest… he was making me mad with this no-napping business.
The first time I yelled at my eldest son was when he was a mere eight weeks old and wouldn’t nap. I was rocking him to sleep, but each time I would lay him in his crib, his eyes would fly right open and he’d cry.
It was one of the toughest memories I have, one where I’m not proud of losing my temper.
I’m not immune to getting angry with the twins, but I’ve learned to do things different this time around. I knew better than to lose my cool. And I realized how petty this all will be in hindsight.
What to do when baby won’t nap
It’s tough when we’re in the trenches. We’re sleep-deprived. Our house is a mess. Our lives are so different from before the baby entered. And sometimes it’s hard to stay calm.
But I learned we can take our minds off the challenges. Little things to bring order and peace—and maybe even that nap—back into our days.
How do you cope when your baby won’t take a nap? How can you keep yourself calm and your temper in control?
Leave the house.
The baby has already been up all these hours—you might as well get something out of it. Take him out on a stroll around the neighborhood or the nearby park. Drive to the mall. Get yourself a cup of coffee or a bowl of ice cream.
It’s hard to see this in the moment, but your baby picks up your energy. When he sees your eyebrows furrowed and your voice angry, he doesn’t feel compelled to take a nap.
And sometimes a change of scenery is all you need. You get a break, the baby gets a break. Better yet, your baby just might nap during that stroll or car ride. Not an ideal nap, but something, right?
Take a five-minute break.
Funny what a few minutes away from a no-napping baby can do. We can get caught up trying so hard to get that nap that doing so consumes us.
So, stop. Put the baby down in the crib and catch a break. What can you do?
- Take several deep breaths.
- Join online baby support groups and vent.
- Watch funny videos online and laugh it off.
- Eat a snack.
- Do something you needed to do around the house.
Point is, do something to remove yourself from the stress for a few minutes. Calm down—your baby won’t nap when you’re frustrated. Do something that makes you happy.
Sing repetitive songs.
Lullabies are good, and when you’re getting frustrated, repetitive songs are even better. These nursery rhymes are easy to sing over and over again. You can push your mind away from the frustration and detach from that anger flaring up.
Some repetitive songs include:
- The Wheels on the Bus
- Old McDonald
- The Farmer in the Dell
If these songs are too upbeat, try the slower ones that you know well. The idea is to sing songs that are easy to think of. You just might lull your baby to sleep and keep your cool as well.
You know how you’re at your worst when you’re alone? If you feel like you’ve been struggling with your baby’s lack of naps, ask friends or family to visit and help. You’re less likely to yell at the baby if your sister is in the same room.
And more important, friends and family can help. They can take over nap time duties or clean the house so you’re not burdened with those tasks.
The first few weeks are especially crucial because the baby exhibits erratic sleep patterns. Not to mention the zillion times the baby has to nap (does it seem like they nap seven times a day sometimes?).
Keep trying new ways.
Tell me if this sound familiar:
You’ve been rocking your baby for what seems like over an hour now but she still won’t sleep. You’re frustrated and ask her, “Why won’t you just sleep?!”
But if you step back, that’s a whole hour you devoted to doing the same thing over and over with no success.
Instead, print out a list of ideas you can try when the baby is fussy and won’t nap and tape it to several walls. My list included techniques like:
- Place in the Moby wrap
- Use a pacifier
- Give them Mylicon or gripe water
- Add white noise to the room
- Place the baby in the swing
- Try the bassinet
It’s so easy to forget other ways to try and get the baby to nap. Having a printed sheet taped to the wall can serve as a reminder to try something different. At least you won’t feel like you’re going crazy doing the same thing over and over. Plus you won’t have to think too hard for new ideas to try when they’re all listed in front of you.
Have a contingency plan, too. Try putting your baby to nap one way, and give yourself 20 minutes to do so. If that doesn’t seem to work, try another way. With a time limit, you’re less likely to drag out an unsuccessful attempt. You’ll also feel more accomplished for checking things off a list and moving on to new methods.
Listen: Your baby is going to be all right. Yes, she skipped a nap and will likely be cranky. And you didn’t get your break like you hoped for. But it will pass, just as every other parenting challenge does.
Sometimes we treat skipped naps like the biggest upset of the day. In hindsight, it’s a skipped nap. It’ll be okay. She’ll catch her sleep at some point in the day.
And be kind to yourself. You’re a good mom. Sometimes we take skipped naps so personally. You didn’t “fail” because your baby didn’t nap. And your day doesn’t have to be negative from this point forward.
You’ll decompress later. You’ll catch your much-needed rest, and you’ll forget about this moment.
Because really, it isn’t so bad. It’s just a nap.
Read more posts about what to do when your baby won’t nap:
- Your Child Won’t Nap? Read This.
- How to Wake a Sleeping Baby or Toddler Peacefully from a Nap
- “Help! My Newborn Only Sleeps when Held.”
- 9 Children’s Books about Bedtime
- 6 Tips on Helping Your Child Sleep in Their Own Bed
Tell me in the comments: What are your best tip for when baby won’t nap?
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