Frustrated when your overtired baby won’t nap, especially when you’ve tried everything? You CAN keep your cool, especially with these tips.
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 his sleep cues and my attempts to put him down for a second nap, he refused. Nothing seemed to work—he wouldn’t nap at all.
Meanwhile, there was so much to do around the house. I needed a break—even a measly ten minutes would’ve been awesome.
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 having kids. No wonder it’s hard to stay calm when they don’t nap.
But I learned little things to bring order and peace—and even a good nap transition—back into my days. We’re not immune to getting angry, but we can do things differently so we respond with calm and patience. Hopefully you’ll find inspiration in the tips below, as these parents have:
“Thank you, I really needed to read this.” -Kristen
“After days of feeling like I’m failing over getting baby the rest she needs I read this article. I’m crying right now (thanks, lack of sleep) but I feel so much better knowing it’s not just me going through it. Thanks!” -Kitty
So, how can you keep yourself calm and your temper in control when your baby won’t nap and fusses, despite your consistency and sleep schedule?
1. Take a five-minute break
We can get caught up trying so hard to get naptime going that doing so consumes us. So, stop. Put your baby down in the crib and catch a break.
Just a few minutes of removing yourself from the stress can make a huge difference. Because nothing, especially a good nap, ever happens when you feel wound up and frustrated. He won’t exactly want to nap when you’re heaving sighs and getting upset.
Instead, do something that makes you happy, however briefly. Focus on yourself to turn the situation around, even if these are small distractions. You might find that a few minutes is all you need to reset with the right frame of mind. You can:
- Take several deep breaths.
- Log onto baby support groups and vent.
- Watch a funny video online and laugh it off.
- Eat a snack.
- Do something you needed to do around the house.
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2. 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 creates a soothing sleep environment, 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 her 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
3. Leave the house
It’s hard to see this in the moment, but your 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.
He has already been up all this time—you might as well get something out of it. Put him in the stroller and walk around the neighborhood or to the nearby park. Strap him in the car seat and get yourself a cup of coffee or a bowl of ice cream.
Breaking away from your “plan” to get him to nap can be hard. After all, you have a nap 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 he 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.
4. Keep company
You know how you’re at your worst when you’re alone with your baby? 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 or mom is in the same room.
And more importantly, friends and family can help. They can handle the afternoon nap or or help with the bedtime routine so you’re not burdened with those tasks alone.
5. 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 he still won’t sleep. You’re frustrated and ask him, “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 to try when he won’t nap and tape it to several walls around your home. My list included techniques like:
- Baby wrap
- Use a pacifier
- Give gas drops or gripe water
- Use a white noise machine
- Draw the blinds to keep the room dark
- Put down on a thick blanket on the floor
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 him to nap one way, and give yourself 20 minutes to do so. If he still won’t nap, try a different way.
With a time limit, you’re less likely to drag out an unsuccessful nap time attempt. You’ll also feel more accomplished for checking off a list of techniques you’ve tried and moving on to new methods and sleep associations.
Despite these sleep regressions, your baby is going to be all right. Yes, he skipped that first nap and will likely be cranky after, and you didn’t get the break you hoped for. But this moment will pass—like every parenting challenge does—and you can try again at a different time.
Stay calm by taking a five-minute break to cool your temper. Sing nursery songs to lull him to sleep and keep you in a positive mood. Change your environment and get out of the house, or invite friends and family for company (and much-needed help).
And cycle through different techniques to get him to nap, if only to not go crazy doing the same one over and over.
Sometimes we treat skipped daytime naps and sleep problems like the biggest upset of the day. But in hindsight, he’ll catch his sleep at some other point in the day.
Be kind to yourself and don’t take skipped naps personally. You’re a good mom. You didn’t “fail” because he didn’t nap, and the rest of your daytime sleep doesn’t have to be negative from this point forward. You’ll decompress later and 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.
Get more tips:
- How to Get Your Baby to Nap Longer
- 9 Children’s Books about Bedtime
- How to Stop Your Baby Fighting Sleep
- What to Do When Your Baby Wakes Up Crying from Naps
- What You Need to Do when Your Child Won’t Nap
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