Baby Refusing to Nap

Updated on April 10, 2010
C.R. asks from Prescott Valley, AZ
11 answers

We utilized "Cry It Out" for bedtime and nap times... my 8-month-old daughter sleeps well in the night now, but fights and tantrums for naps, even if she's dead tired! She'll fall asleep in our arms, then wakes up when set down in her crib... and then cries for as long as 2 hours before we can't take it anymore.

Today, she didn't nap at all - it was 6:45pm and she'd been up for 12 hours straight...she stands and jumps up and down crying (holding onto the railing) in her crib, pausing every now and then to collapse for a few seconds because she's so sleepy... then stands back up and the process begins again!

So frustrating... we live in a small apartment and it's so stressful when she's doing this, we can't relax or distract ourselves at all because she's so loud. We don't know what to do...

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for the responses... we'll definitely check into some of the methodology and information mentioned! One thing we want to avoid is falling asleep with her, as that was a former problem - she got so used to sleeping with me that she wouldn't go in the crib at all, at bedtime or naptime. As well, when this was the norm, baby would often become overly clingy during the day and cry whenever I left her sight, even when with her Dad. As tough as the current situation is, it's better than that!

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answers from San Francisco on

Do you have a rocking chair? Trying rocking her and singing to her! Or Sometimes an extra bath helps too!
Also start taking away stimulation before nap time and have a routine ie snack, wash, diaper change, book and crib...Children love routine! Enjoy it is just a new phase! You make it so much fun she does not want to sleep, pretty normal!

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answers from Portland on

I suggest that part of the problem is that she's overly tired. Put her down for a nap at a regular time everyday and at a time when she is not very tired. She still needs naps at 8 mos. Make them a part of her daily routine.

Lay her down atnearly the same time every day. To start with watch to see when she first starts getting just a little tired. That's the time to lay her down. Don't hold her, since she wakes up when you lay her down. Put her in her crib. Pat her back, talk warmly with her as you tell her it's nap time and leave the room. Let her cry no more than 5 minutes. Go back in pat her on the back to let her know you are still around, leave. Do this several times extending the length of time in between going back in.

She cries for 3 possible reasons. The obvious one is that it's worked to get you involved and allows her to not nap. Then the more tired she becomes the more difficult it is for her to go to sleep. The more worked up she gets it becomes impossible to go to sleep. Which is the second reason she may not be falling asleep. Even adults have trouble getting to sleep if they're overly tired and if they're upset.

The third reason is related to letting her cry it out. Not only does she become too tired and upset to sleep until she's completely worn out she still does not have object constancy. If she can't see you, you don't exist in her immature mind. When you lay her down, you're going away and she is frightened.

Her jumping up and down indicates to me the possibility that she is not only too tired but also that she is frustrated. She doesn't know what to do. She knows she wants you but you keep disappearing. She knows she's very tired but can't calm herself down. She needs you to teach her how to calm herself. And she can only learn that before she's so tired and upset.

When you go back in and pat her back and say soothing words to her you are letting her know that you understand her need as well as showing her that she can calm down.

Playing soft music may also help. Music is soothing.

An overly tired baby can rarely get easily to sleep. You have to find the time to put her down when she is just a little tired or have the same time everyday so that it is routine for her. You have to be consistent. YOu have to teach her how to calm herself. And you have to be persistent. Being still awake after 12 hours sounds to me that you allowed her to stay up.

I think your situation is an example of how "cry it out" does not work for many babies. A baby needs a sense of security so that they can sleep. When mom and dad abandon her she gets frantic. She doesn't know you just in the next room. I am a firm believer that we parents need to respond to our babies and children's distress. Yes, they can manipulate us with tears but at 8 months they are not manipulating. They are letting you know that they are in emotional pain.

A note on manipulation. Manipulation is getting someone else to do what we want them to do. We want the baby to go to sleep. When we leave them to cry for 2 hours they are not sleeping and neither are we. How does that help anyone. Now if they cried and we picked them up and played with them then they could be said to be manipulating us. But when we go in, show them how to soothe themselves while leaving them in bed we are teaching them how to get to sleep. We are helping them to do what we want them to do. They have not manipulated us.

Try this consistently for a week or two and I think that she'll be back to napping. At 8 mos. she may need a nap in the morning and in the afternoon. It is imperative that you start the nap routine before she is exhausted.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Topeka on

I don't think I could add much more than what Marda has already told you. The only thing I could suggest is that you go to your local library and get a copy of Solve Your Childs Sleep Problems by Dr Richard Ferber. I used this book many years ago to help me solve a sleep issue that my youngest daughter was having. The thing that still sticks with me is what he had to say about rocking a child to sleep and then putting them in your crib, he said how would YOU react if you know that each time you went to sleep, someone came in and stole your pillow, blanket and put you in a different wouldnt sleep well either!!! Think of it from your childs point of view, she is very dependent on YOU to be her source of love and comfort, think how frightened she is when you leave her alone to cry and throw herself around for 2 hours while, in her mind anyway, you have ceased to exist!! As Marda says, your purpose is to get her to SLEEP not just put her in her crib and listen to her cry!! I too am not a proponent of the Cry it Out method, what it teaches is not self sufficiency but that their little world is a lonely, fearful place. She can't learn to be self calming, it is something that you have to teach her, step by step.
R. Ann

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answers from San Francisco on

Hi C.,

This might not be a very popular solution, but what you are doing is obviously not working and it sounds like your poor little girl is really suffering.

We also tried the cry-it-out approach and it worked for nighttime (for a short while), but never worked for naps. So, what I did was lay down with her and take a nap in the afternoon. Then I'd just stay up 2 hours later in the evening to do the things I didn't get done in the afternoon. She slept, I slept, everyone was happy. And she grew out of that. Right now she's sleeping in her room on her own, and usually does for 2 hours each afternoon. (she's already 2.5 years old).

Really, I wouldn't fight it so much. You can still keep to the night time ritual that you have now, if it is working. Your little one won't be this young for long and you will find that you'll enjoy the time you have together if you are more flexible to meet her needs.

Good luck!


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answers from San Francisco on

You've gotten good advice- I'd just lie down with her when it's time for a nap. She's falling asleep when you hold her and will probably continue her nap if you are close. This sounds like what she needs right now and this time will go by really fast. I know you want to get things done, but if you have the flexibility to catch up in the evening when she gets her best rest, then do that. I had both my kids in slings while they napped and this worked out great. I loved having them close to me.

In my opinion, eight months is too young to "tantrum". For many reasons she wants to be close to you during nap time. You might try "The No Cry Sleep Solution" once you get her into some sort of nap routine. At eight months, she definitely needs to nap and is probably over tired by the time she is getting to her crib.

Try to shift the focus of you relaxing to your baby and helping her get the day time sleep she needs.

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answers from San Francisco on

I went through this off and on with my daughter. She will outgrow it. Sleep training never worked for us with naps only at night. When she refused naps, I did whatever to get her to sleep even driving her around for an hour. The phase ended, resumed, ended again and now she sleeps a few hours in the afternoon-- I NEVER would have thought she would. It will happen. Try not to stress and just roll with the nap situation -- using stroller walks, whatever so that she gets some rest and you are not frazzled. As long as your nights are good you are winning the battle.

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answers from Fresno on

I think your problem is that you're putting her down when she is exhausted, and/or are rocking her to sleep. She has no idea how to put herself to sleep.

I'm a huge fan of Gary Ezzo's "Babywise" - basically the idea is to create a daily schedule that works for you and your baby. The routine is the baby sleeps, eats, and then plays, in about a 4 hour cycle. So if she wakes at 6am, you feed her, then she plays for a while (or you go for a walk, or she "helps" you clean the house, or whatever) and you put her down around 9am for her nap. She should be awake but calm when you put her down in her crib. Maybe you rock her for a few minutes, but definitely put her in the crib before she is asleep. Maybe she cries for a few minutes, and that's ok - she needs to release stress before she can fall asleep. Totally normal. She will probably fall asleep within 15 minutes or so, once she gets used to the routine. Ok, so she will wake up from her nap around 10. You feed her, then she has more playtime. Around 1pm, you put her down for her nap. She wakes around 2 or 3. Repeat the cycle. She should be going down for the night around 6pm. (Yes, really, 6pm - they sleep better when they go to bed at 6. I don't know why, but it's true.)

At first she will have no idea how to soothe herself because this is a function you've always performed for her. So maybe you give her her favorite binky, or her favorite little toy, or a bottle with water or whatever comforts her. Once she knows that comfort can come from HER, she will be able to fall asleep at naptime all by herself. It will help her if you keep a very consistent routine so she knows exactly what to expect. This way, naptime won't be a nasty surprise to her. She'll know it's coming and will be ready. Babies generally tend to fight things that they find surprising - by nature, they have a hard time with transitions. They can't go with the flow like we can.

Good luck and let us know how it turns out!

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answers from San Francisco on

All kids are vastly different. I have one son that stopped napping altogether at 6 months old. He would sleep 12 to 16 hours at night though. My younger son, now 2, naps once a day for 2 to 4 hours, and is up and down all night. Sooo different from each other :)

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answers from Sacramento on

I'm so sorry you are tired and frustrated. We have all been there, and it's such a relief when our babies are finally able to get big blocks of sleep. I know I, too, was pushed to that brink when my babies were little and I'm so grateful for my straight 8 hours now. You'll get there too! As a psychology major, I am passionate about why we do what we do and how it effects ourselves and others. So yes, this is long, and yes, this is opinionated. Please hear me out, and thank you for being open enough to post the question.

My first advice is to read, "The No Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley--great book, a fast read, and you only read the parts that apply (such as co-sleeping vs. non co-sleeping).

My second (and bigger) piece of advice is to reconsider your method. In my opinion, your job as a parent is to lovingly and gently guide your baby in how to grow and navigate this world. No easy task, I agree. But leaving your baby (yes, remember she's just a little BABY still) to cry is not loving, it's not gentle, and it's not helpful in guiding her. Please consider it from her viewpoint...she's doing everything within her power to beg for your attention (too young to manipulate)--she's desperately crying out for you and her Daddy to come help her. No one responds to her--FOR HOURS! How would you feel? The people who she is supposed to be loved by and who she is supposed lay her trust in are not answering no matter what she does. Remember she doesn't have the reasoning abilities that we adults do--she's developmentally so new. Please respect that by answering her cries and soothing her. Then read the book so you can soon both get the restful sleep you need. She's over tired and must hate her crib by now. Remember too that she may be hungry/hot/cold/bored/tired/teething/have a tummy ache/etc.

At the risk of copyright infringement, I found this on a website (googled "learned helplessness / cry it out". The address is,
and here's in part what is said:

"There is compelling evidence that increased levels of stress hormones may cause permanent changes in the stress responses of the infant's developing brain. These changes then affect memory, attention, and emotion, and can trigger an elevated response to stress throughout life, including a predisposition to later anxiety and depressive disorders."

I hope you take about 10 minutes to go to the site or do your own search--I think if you educate yourself on just how this method can affect your baby you and your family will reconsider. Good luck, C.!

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answers from Sacramento on

Are you positive she isn't crying and refusing to nap because she is still hungry? Sometimes we think a baby has had enough to eat when just another ounce of milk or formula would be enough to satisfy them so they could go to sleep.



answers from Redding on

The book "baby whisperer" by Tracy Hogg has some great advice on how to sleep train a child that went through the cry-it-out training and still doesn't sleep or nap or both. It involves sleeping next to the child during a trust rebuilding phase. The trick is that you have to be there when she falls asleep and be there when she wakes up so she trusts you and learns to like her bed and sleep time. Good luck!

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