Naps: When do I just give up!

Naps: When do I just give up!

“What do I do if my child just will not fall asleep?”…sound familiar. It should because it is a very common question.

Many families that I work with wonder what they should do if their child is simply refusing to nap. You would think that if your child is tired they would simply go to sleep; however, this is not the case for all babies. When this starts to happen there are a number of things to consider.

1. Are you offering a nap at the right time?

If your little one was sleeping fine and all of a sudden refuses to go for a nap when you offer it then it is time to either increase or decrease the time your child is awake from wake up to nap, I lovingly refer to this as wake time! (you may have heard me say this once or twice 🙂 )

Sleep Learning 101: Wake Time

Wake Times

2.  Are you in the process of reducing a sleep association?

If you are trying to make changes to your child’s sleep so you are offering sleep in a different manner. For example: reducing the feed to sleep association, rock to sleep association or sleeping on an adult. This takes time, persistence and consistency for improvement to be noticed. 

Sleep Learning 101: Sleep Prop

3. Developmental Milestone

If your child is in the midst of a developmental milestone they may struggle with going to sleep. The reason for the struggle going to sleep is that nap time seems to be when our little ones attempt to practice their new skill instead of going to sleep. Once your child has mastered the new sill they typically tend to go back to their regular sleeping skills.

So now you know why your child is refusing a nap but you are probably wondering…

What can I do? When do I give up? 


Typically I recommend that you continue to offer the nap. I would give your little one the chance to go to sleep by using the sleep teaching method of your choice for naps. 

So you have been trying for over 30 minutes, now what. Depending on your tolerance/frustration level. You can get your little one up and try again in 30 minutes or try for 1 hour and 15 minutes and see if your little one will fall to sleep.  If your little one has not fallen asleep at the end of the 1 hour 15 minutes then I would get your child up and try again in 30 minutes or go to an Emergency nap.


Emergency Nap?


You may be wondering what I mean by an emergency nap. An emergency nap is when you take your child for a walk in the stroller or for a drive in the car. Some families will place their child in a swing. I usually do not recommend the swing as this is often a sleep association the family is trying to remove. 

The reason for the emergency nap is that “sleep does beget sleep”. If your child is overtired your child’s nighttime sleep will be affected. An emergency nap is better than no nap. 

Using an emergency nap once or twice a week is okay. When you are sleep teaching you may find that you are going to emergency nap at least once a day. This will get better with time and consistency.


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Signs it is Time for Your Child to Drop the Daytime Nap

Signs it is Time for Your Child to Drop the Daytime Nap


There are many signs that it may be time for your child to stop their daytime nap. The most common signs are waking up early, taking a long time to fall asleep at bedtime, or waking in the middle of the night.

When you realize it is time to drop the nap it can be a sad day for parents. Trust me. I do understand and have lived through it. There are some things you should start to look for that may be an indicator that your child just really does not need that afternoon nap any longer.

Most children will continue to happily take their naps. They will seem tired. They will go down well.

They will sleep for a good two-hour nap. The problem arises at bedtime. They are just not tired enough at 7:00 PM to settle in for the night. This is when the games begin.

I will never forget the bedtime antics that occurred when our son began making bedtime an ordeal. I seriously began to wonder if I was in the right field of work.

Then he would wake up tired the next morning, need his afternoon nap, party until 9:00 PM and this whole cycle just continued. Once we dropped the nap our son was asleep by 7 PM and slept until 7:00 AM.

I like having my evening free. However, I have had clients who tell me, they would like to continue with the nap. It is perfectly fine to keep the afternoon nap.  You just need to know then that bedtime is going to be a little bit later.

By later I mean 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM. It still may take a little bit of time for your child to drift off to sleep once the light has been turned off.

Once you’ve made the decision, just go for it. The nap is gone; however, every few days you may find that your little one is an emotional mess. I would suggest a nap that day and add a later bedtime. The transition to no nap often takes 4 to 6 weeks. but can take up to 8 weeks before you are fully on one nap with zero issues at bedtime.

When you are not offering a nap, quiet activities help your child re-energize. Some children do well with quiet time in their rooms (reading books, playing with toys) and some do not like it. For those that do not like it, I suggest having some quiet go-to activities they can play with. Our favourites were playing with rice, play dough, and playing in the sink.

Even if it is a bit of a tough slog some days, just know that once their body has adjusted to this they are going to have lots of stamina to make it through the day.

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Happy sleeping!