Why won’t my baby nap?

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Why won’t my baby nap? I hear this all the time!

Here are some strategies and things to think about if your baby is not napping.

Just a quick reminder before we begin: we cannot force a baby to sleep.

What leads to a baby falling asleep you ask? The build-up of sleep pressure and the circadian clock. It’s NOT a book, not you sitting in a dark room for an hour, not a two-hour yoga ball bouncing session.

It is always good to have a look at the general guidelines around wake windows BUT DO NOT OBSESS ABOUT THEM. If you want more information on wake windows, have a read of this blog post.

More important than wake windows is looking inward. How do YOU feel at naptime? Do you hate naptime because it has become an obsession and frustration? Are you tense and stressed because you spend all day trying to get a nap?

Your baby mirrors EVERYTHING you feel; they co-regulate. More than mirroring, they actually sponge in everything that you are feeling.

I will often hear families describe their babies/children as hyper-alert, stressed, and anxious. When I see this, it is important to remember that they are picking that up from their primary caregiver. If you are seeing these traits, have a look at yourself and how you are feeling around your baby.

How to Get a Baby to Nap

Anyway, back to the nap. Imagine trying to relax when your partner or your boss is stressed out. It doesn’t happen. Imagine you were trying to go to bed and someone was standing over top of you who is stressed and annoyed that you won’t sleep. This is going to add more stress and tension to the situation. When your baby isn’t napping, look inward. ⠀

So how do you remove this stress around naps?

First of all, let it go! Your baby is going to be fine. Your number one job as a parent when it comes time to sleep is to teach your baby that sleep is a pleasant place to go and a safe place to remain (not that it is frustrating and stressful).

The next tip I have is to stop and take a walk. The greatest stress reliever is when we are in nature. The colours of blue and green and the sounds of the birds and the wind rustling are physiologically soothing.

The role of the limbic system and the amygdala is the alarm system. Our brains were designed to be in nature and to pick up on threats in nature BUT it was equally designed to pick up on the slightest signs that it can relax and is safe and at peace and calm.

These soothing elements of nature will reduce and shut off the limbic system. They will reduce that stress for both you and your baby (yet another reason that I LOVE motion naps and getting out vs staying home all day to force a crib nap).

So the best way to reduce that stress before you go back for that nap (if your baby doesn’t relax and sleep on the walk) is NATURE and a walk (Stuart Shanker).

I will also add that YOUR mental health is SO IMPORTANT. Healthy caregiver, healthy baby. Stop stressing about naps and everyone will feel better. Getting out of the house will make you feel energized, which is better than spending all day in a dark room trying to get your baby to nap.

The last point I want to make about naps is to use motion. It is not a bad habit. If your baby doesn’t like the carrier (yet) and you have tried a few times, try again. They would much rather be on you and with you than away from you. If your baby is too heavy, consider using a stroller.

Want more information about naps? Check out my sleep and feeding courses for babies 6-18 months and 0-5 months.

Drop me a line and let me know your favourite nap time strategies!