Struggling when your 4 month old baby won’t nap unless held? Learn how to get him to sleep during the day for longer than 30 minutes!
“What is up with these 30-minute naps?” I vented to my husband. We’d gone past the newborn stage, hoping for longer naps now that our 4 month old baby was a little older. Except the opposite was happening: now he was hardly napping.
At first I thought he was just the type of baby who didn’t need as much sleep compared to other babies, except he’d be exhausted all day until bedtime. He refused to nap each time, barely asleep for 30 minutes before waking up wide-eyed and alert.
Just when I thought the newborn stage was hard, hitting four months seemed to be even worse.
What to do when your 4 month old baby won’t nap
It’s true though, isn’t it? Maybe your 4 month old baby won’t nap longer than 30 minutes at a time, but is cranky all day long. You rock him endlessly and place him in the crib asleep, only for him to wake up immediately. Never mind that he’ll easily sleep two hours if you hold him the entire time.
The result? Your sleep schedule is all off and you can’t get anything done, especially when he won’t nap unless he’s held.
While sleep regression can pass, sometimes not doing anything reinforces these habits. That’s why your desire to take action is already a fantastic step in helping him get the sleep he needs.
Because there are things you can do to help him actually fall asleep, even if he refuses to nap right now. Take a look at what to do when your 4 month old baby won’t nap — and how to turn things around:
1. Don’t go past two hours of wake time
Babies don’t follow a schedule the way you and I do. You might diligently head to work at 8am every morning and have lunch by noon. But your baby is less likely to follow the clock as he is to go with a “flow,” or rhythm.
Instead of putting him down by the clock, put him down for a nap after he’s been awake no longer than two hours.
So, if he woke up for the day at 6am, his first nap should be no later than 8am. Let’s say he only took a 30 minute nap and woke up at 8:30am. His next nap should then be no later than 10:30am.
Now, what do you do if he completely skipped his 8am nap? Maybe you’d wanted him to nap from 8am-9am, but he was awake the whole time. In that case, put him down one hour after he was supposed to have woken up—in this case, 10am.
Your schedule will then be based not on a particular time of the day, but on when he wakes up and how long he stays awake.
2. Put your baby down earlier than you think
You might be wondering, What if two hours is still too long to be awake?
Two hours is a general rule of thumb, certainly not a hard and fast rule. In fact, I suggest not waiting until your baby looks exhausted before putting him down for a nap. Inconsolable crying and fighting sleep are usually signs that he’d already been overtired all this time.
Instead, put him down earlier than you usually do. If you tend to keep him awake for two hours, try putting him down in an hour and a half. That way, you avoid the chances of him being overtired come nap time.
3. Wear your baby in a wrap
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Part of the problem with too short naps is that we can’t get anything done. Even a 30 minute nap barely afford you any time to get things done. Whatever time you do have to yourself means you’re walking on eggshells so you don’t wake your baby up.
One quick solution is to wear him in a wrap while you get things done around the house. You’ll get to do plenty of things knowing he’s still asleep near you. And because he’s cuddled close, he’ll likely sleep for a long stretch.
Wearing him in a wrap isn’t a long-term solution, but it can be a fantastic way to catch up on lost sleep or ensure that he gets a good nap after he misses one.
4. Encourage self soothing
As efficient as wraps might be, at some point, your baby should learn how to fall asleep on his own. Unfortunately, he likely doesn’t nap because he’s grown used to other ways to fall asleep. Maybe that’s being held in your arms or rocked until he’s conked out.
But ideally, you want to put him down drowsy but awake, knowing he’ll fall and stay asleep for long stretches. And he can only do this if he’s given the chance to actually try. By sleep training, you’re allowing him the opportunity to learn this vital skill, so that he won’t always have to rely on you.
A few tips to help with self soothing:
- Put him down in the same place each time, ideally in his crib.
- Keep his room dark and filled with white noise to block out sounds and light that could startle him awake.
- Determine a “set time” to nap (for instance, one hour) for him to try to fall asleep, checking in every few minutes throughout that window.
- Stay consistent not only with how you put him to sleep, but in your daily routine as well.
Free download: Interested in learning about teaching him to self soothe? Join my newsletter and get a preview of my guide, How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe. This chapter is all about the mindset needed for successful self-soothing and helping him put himself to sleep. As one parent said:
“After months of trying to sleep train, we purchased your book and followed the guidelines. It worked so well for us. I still can’t believe that I can put my little one down for the night wide awake and he fall asleep! Thank you for that.” -Chiedza Kwete
5. Address digestion issues
For some babies, lying down flat in a crib is even more challenging because of reflux and digestion issues. Acids could be forcing recently-consumed milk back up his throat, making him cry.
One trick is to add a crib wedge like this one on top of the mattress and beneath the sheet. This gives him a slight incline so that the food can make its way down to his tummy.
Another option is to hold him vertically a little longer after feedings. This also ensures that he doesn’t go straight to his back, where digestion becomes harder to do.
And finally, feed him after he wakes up, not before. That way, he has plenty of time to digest his food while he’s awake instead of lying flat on his back right away. The only exceptions are bedtime and middle-of-the-night feedings, where you do want him to keep sleeping after feeding.
Short—or no—naps are enough to test the patience of every mom. You feel stuck bouncing or rocking your baby to sleep, only to get a measly 20-30 minutes out of it. Thankfully, you can do a few things to help him sleep in longer stretches.
The first is to avoid over-extending his time awake, making sure he’s asleep within two hours at the most. That also means putting him down earlier than you think, because he might already be overtired by the time you usually do.
Wearing him in a wrap allows you to get things done around the house. That said, think about the long-term benefits of teaching him to self soothe. He’ll actually be able to put himself to sleep instead of relying on you (and therefore sleep longer).
And finally, keep him comfortable after feedings, from raising his mattress to an incline to feeding him after he wakes up, not before.
You’re now past the newborn stage, mama—no more 30 minute nap lengths for you and your baby!
Get more tips:
- How to Create a 4 Month Old Nap Schedule Using Real Life Examples
- How to Get Your Baby to Nap Longer
- What to Do When Your Baby Wakes Up Crying from Naps
- What Having a “Spoiled Baby” Really Means
- How to Stay Calm when Your Baby Won’t Nap
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