Five hours—going on six.
That’s how long your baby has been awake this whole morning.
She skipped her nap and has been rubbing her eyes and yawning. She’s crying hysterically, especially when you so much as step a foot away. She’s not that fun to be around.
Yet despite all your attempts to put her down for a nap, she simply refuses. Or your baby won’t nap unless held or rocked. Nothing seems to work, and your baby just won’t sleep.
Meanwhile, there’s so much to do around the house, and you could really use a break—even a measly ten minutes.
And so you feel your frustration flaring, your patience waning, and you’ve just about had it. You love your baby wholeheartedly, but, let’s be honest… she’s making you mad with this no-napping business.
How do you cope when your baby won’t take a nap? How can you keep yourself calm and your temper in control?
I’ve had my fair share of losing my cool, especially when a baby won’t nap. 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.
And while I’m not immune to getting angry with the twins, I’ve learned to do things different this second time around. I knew better than to lose my cool. And I realized how petty this all will be in hindsight.
Still, it’s tough when you’re in the trenches. You’re sleep-deprived. Your house is a mess. Your life is so different from before this baby entered your world. And sometimes it’s hard to stay calm.
Yet you can take your mind off the challenges, do little things to bring order and peace—and maybe even that nap—back into your day:
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 you flipping out, sees your eyebrows furrowed in frustration and hears you yelling at him, he doesn’t exactly feel safe or compelled to fall asleep and take that peaceful nap you so want him to have.
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. You need to 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 so that 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.
Perhaps more importantly, 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 yet she still won’t sleep. You’re frustrated and ask her, “Why won’t you just sleep?!”
Yet if you step back, that’s a whole hour you devoted to doing the same thing over and over, clearly to 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. For instance, 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 off a list of things you’ve tried 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 eventually 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.
More importantly, 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 eventually forget about this harrowing moment.
Because really, it isn’t so bad. It’s just a nap.
Your turn: Try one of these techniques and see if it helped keep you calm. What other tips did you do to keep yourself calm when the baby wouldn’t nap? Have you found yourself upset when the baby would skip a nap? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.