It’s easy to lose your temper when the baby won’t sleep, especially when you’ve tried everything. Here’s how to stay calm when your baby won’t nap.
Five hours—going on six.
That’s how long my baby was awake from having skipped a nap. He was rubbing his eyes, yawning and crying, especially when I so much as stepped a foot away. In truth, he wasn’t that fun to be around.
But despite my attempts to put him down for another nap, he refused. Nothing seemed to work—he just wouldn’t nap.
Meanwhile, there was so much to do around the house. I needed a break—even a measly ten minutes would’ve been awesome.
So I felt my frustration flaring, my patience waning, and I just about had it. I love my baby, but, let’s be honest… I was getting mad with this no-napping business.
The first time I ever yelled at him was when he was a mere eight weeks old and wouldn’t nap. I was rocking him to sleep, but each time I placed him in the crib, he’d open his eyes and cry.
It’s one of the toughest memories I have, one where I’m not proud of losing my temper.
How to stay calm when your baby won’t nap
It’s tough when we’re in the trenches. We’re sleep-deprived, the house is a mess and our lives are so different from the days before the baby. No wonder it’s hard to stay calm.
But I learned little things to bring order and peace—and maybe even that nap—back into my days. We’re not immune to getting angry, but we can do things differently so we respond calmly and with patience.
How can you keep yourself calm and your temper in control when your baby won’t nap?
Leave the house
It’s hard to see this in the moment, but the baby picks up your energy. He won’t feel compelled to take a nap when he sees your eyebrows furrowed and hears your angry voice.
Your baby has already been up all these hours—you might as well get something out of it. Take him on a stroll around the neighborhood or to the nearby park. Drive to the mall. Get yourself a cup of coffee or a bowl of ice cream.
It’s hard to break away from your “plan” to get him to nap. After all, you have a routine and would rather see this through and keep trying than to “fail” and call it a day.
But sometimes a change of scenery is all you need. Build a “last resort plan” of leaving the house when your baby won’t nap. You both get a break from the frustration that has been building up, and he 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 non-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.
Remove yourself from the stress for a few minutes. Nothing, especially a good nap, ever happens when you feel wound up and frustrated. Imagine trying to convince your baby to take a peaceful slumber while you’re heaving sighs and getting upset.
Instead, do something that makes you happy. Yup, focus back on yourself to turn the situation around. You might find that a few minutes is all you need to reset with the right frame of mind.
Sing nursery songs
Sometimes when we’re so frustrated, we simply need something else to focus on other than the fact that baby still isn’t taking a nap.
Enter nursery songs.
Singing these songs to your baby not only helps him fall asleep, but reminds you to calm down and focus on nurturing your little one.
Repetitive songs work well and 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 slower lullabies 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.
Here are a few favorite lullabies:
- Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
- Hush Little Baby
- Brahm’s Lullaby
- Rock-a-Bye Baby
You know how you’re at your worst when you’re alone? If you feel like you’ve been struggling when your baby won’t nap, ask friends or family to visit. You’re less likely to get frustrated if your sister is in the same room.
And 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 has erratic sleep patterns and needs to nap frequently (does it seem like they nap seven times a day sometimes?).
Keep trying new ways to get your baby to nap
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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 your baby won’t nap and tape it to several walls around your home. My list included techniques like:
- Place in the Moby wrap
- Use a pacifier
- Give 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 get the baby to nap, especially when you’re so focused on one technique. Having a printed sheet taped to the wall reminds you 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 a different way.
With a time limit, you’re less likely to drag out an unsuccessful nap attempt. You’ll also feel more accomplished for checking off a list of techniques you’ve tried and moving on to new methods.
Your baby is going to be all right. Yes, he skipped a nap and will likely be cranky, and you didn’t get the break like you hoped for. But this moment will pass, just as every other parenting challenge does.
Sometimes we treat skipped naps like the biggest upset of the day. In hindsight, your baby just skipped nap. It’ll be okay. He’ll catch his sleep at some other point in the day.
And be kind to yourself. You’re a good mom. Don’t take skipped naps so personally. You didn’t “fail” when 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 move on from this moment.
Because really, it isn’t so bad. It’s just a nap, after all—yes, even if he’s been awake for five hours going on six.
Did you know that your baby’s awake time affects how well he sleeps? Get my FREE handout and discover one mistake you may be making with your baby’s awake time. Don’t make the same mistakes I did—help your baby fall asleep with this one simple trick! Download it below:
Get more tips:
- What You Need to Do when Your Child Won’t Nap
- 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 His Own Bed
Tell me in the comments: What are your best tip for when baby won’t nap?
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