Great Night Sleeper but Horrible Napper

Updated on May 08, 2008
A.L. asks from Irvine, CA
21 answers

My 6-month-old sleeps through the night just fine, usually about ten or eleven hours. So i know she can soothe herself to sleep. My problem is that she will only catnap during the day (ten to 30 minutes, two or three times a day after sometimes crying for 45 minutes!). I've tried nursing her to sleep, watching for sleep signals, giving her the pacifier, putting her in a dark room, stroller rides, car rides, white noise, swaddling, schedule. Nothing works! I wouldn't be concerned except that she wakes up fussy and remains unhappy. I'm so frustrated with dealing with a constantly cranky baby. I don't know what to do! Any suggestions?

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G.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hang in there---my little guy started this at 3 months. Finally, I went out and bought a peanut sling. I pretty much had him attached to me all the time for about 2 weeks. The first few days, I would put him in the sling and give him a pacifier and bounce him a little. It was a lot of work at first, but it was worth it. After the first few days, he would calm right down once I put him in the sling, and he would just suck on his pacifier and then fall asleep. After a few days of this, I would leave him in the sling and slowly slide it off and lay him in his crib. After about two weeks, I could just give him his pacifier, bounce him a little and then place him in the crib. He only slept about 30-45 minutes at each nap, 4 times a day, and slept from 9 pm to 5 am, but was a much happier baby. About two months later, I "lost" the pacifier---just bounced him to sleep. I would then only use the sling if I needed to get something done around the house and he wanted to be with me.

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N.P.

answers from Reno on

I feel for you. I know exactly what you are going through. My daughter was like that too. What I do is when I hear her get up I give at least 15 minutes before I go in and get her because many times she will fall back asleep. I know how you feel my daughter would get up from a 20 minute nap and be so crabby and refuse to go back to sleep! She finally just got on a schedule by herself when she was 14 months old. I know that sounds horrible but hang in there.

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N.R.

answers from Los Angeles on

My 4-month old son is the same. He has known the difference between night and day from an early age and has no problem going right to sleep at bedtime. But he won't take any kind of organized, scheduled naps. He catnaps in the carseat or occasionally right after I nurse him. I worried about it at first, until everyone I consulted said that some babies just don't nap and don't worry about it as long as he is getting good sleep at night. It is way more of an inconvenience for me than for him! Your daughter could be fussy for a number of reasons, but it's unlikely that it's because she's tired. If she were tired, she would go to sleep. Just don't force her! Personally, I think crying it out is pretty cruel and think 6 months is way too young to let a baby just cry. They don't understand why their needs are not being met with love and nurturing at that age. Try wearing your daughter around in a sling or carrier, bouncing with her on a yoga ball or walking around outside. I bet she'll calm right down! We just walk out onto the porch for a few minutes with Henry and let him touch all the leaves and flowers. He gets really happy and quiet. Good luck!

PS...it is NOT true that crying strenghtens a baby's lungs! They do not need to cry for long periods of time, nor is it good for them. That is very old-school thinking.

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S.G.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.,

I'm definitely no expert, I'm a first time mother. Based on my own experience with my 10 month old I have come to realize when my baby cries he is indicating that he is seeking comfort from me. It may not be for hunger, diaper changes, etc simply just to be held and comforted. (my baby nurses for comfort far more than he does for food nurishment)I believe that if you immedietly attempt to sooth your baby's fussieness, your baby in turn will come to develop a subconscious level of trust that when she cries she knows her needs will be met immedeitly. Even if your baby is insesantly crying in your arms - it is better than the baby crying all by herself in a dark room, or other conventional ideals of "self-soothing".

Also based on my own research through Dr. Sears and other acclaimed child care experts I have learned that baby sleep patterns generally are to sleep for a couple of hours and they naturally wake themselves up so that they can remember some of the most basic living instincts that are inate with fully developed humen beings, e.g. breathing.

You mention that you are nursing your baby. If that is the case it is unusal for her to sleep for 10+ hours straight. Are you supplementing her with formula and solids? Are you feeding her more at night so she sleeps longer? The answers to these questions will determine why your baby is not taking enough nap-time during the day and why she is so over-tired. Babies are wired differently for sleep than we are and they need there food and sleep staged out in a manner conduscive to your baby's paticular needs. I recommend Dr. William Sears "The Baby Sleep Book" for further information. This book has really assisted us greatly in understanding how to conform to our baby's sleep needs, rather than attempt to change them.

I wish you the very best!

S.

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I.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

My baby didn't nap very much either at that age EXCEPT in a sling. If I carried her in a sling for 2 or 3 hours while doing household chores, she would sleep the whole time. I used the mesh pouch from kangarookorner.com, if you want to try it. Also, my daughter cried during most of her waking time before she hit three months. Neither her doctor or we the parents could ever find a physical reason. At three months, though, it was like a magic Happy Baby button was hit and everything got better. Good luck!

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K.K.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi! My son did the same thing. His naps would be an hour at best. My friend gave me the book "Healthy sleep habits, happy child" and it helped so much. It takes a couple of weeks to really get the routine down. It will be hard on you and you'll probably have some moments of tears yourself, but it is worth every second. Don't worry about letting her cry it out. It is not bad for her. If she is dry, fed, and not in pain then she is fine. Children NEED to learn how to soothe themselves. Crying helps with that as well it is strengthening her lungs. Get the book, follow the schedule with the little tweeks for your child and in a couple of weeks you will have a happy baby who will go to bed without a fuss. My son (now a year old) goes down for a nap without a problem and will sleep anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 3 hours and goes to bed at night without a word. A schedule and routine is so important. That way if you have a day or two where the schedule gets messed up, it won't take anytime to get back on it. Good luck and take care.

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M.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

I know what you're going through! My son was never a good napper either, or a good night sleeper! At 15 months now, he is napping much better - I think as a baby gets older, he/she will sleep better. It sounds like you have tried everything that I would suggest. Just count your lucky stars that your daughter sleeps well at night! I would take good night sleeping over daytime sleeping any day!! Some babies/kids just don't nap as much as others. But she will likely change these patterns soon. As an aside...saying that crying it out helps a baby strengthen her lungs is nuts. Crying it out is not necessary to help a baby learn to soothe themselves to sleep. It takes more work to gently help your baby to sleep, but it is worth the attachment and trust it builds between the two of you. My son now can sleep 9 hours straight by himself (and he's breastfed) and I have never let him cry it out. And when he wakes he can put himself back to sleep.

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N.L.

answers from Reno on

HI A., I had the same problem with my daughter. It was not fun at all! I would recomment CIO & stick with it. It WILL work but you have to stick with it and be consistent. It took my daughter 2-3 weeks to finally sleep past that 30 minute mark but she did! The crying should really die down after she starts getting the routine but it may still take a while for her to lengthen the naps. Do a routine similiar to what you do at bedtime. Do NOT rock her to sleep, nurse her to sleep, etc. Oh, and, the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" is FANTASTIC. Good luck!

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R.G.

answers from San Diego on

A. - I agree with everything that Erin S. said. I went through the exact same thing with my son. He is now 22 months old and still not a great napper - he only takes one nap per day and sometimes it is 40 minutes, sometimes it is 2 1/2 hours! I do know that most of the time when he wakes up too soon, I will go in his room now and tell him it is still nap time and he needs to go back to sleep and he usually does. If he wakes up crying, I know he has not gotten enough sleep. And yes, at 6 months, they do need more than 12 hours.

But when they are so little, you do have to go through the checklist: make sure she isn't hungry, poopy, to cold, too hot, etc. We def. did the CIO method too. It is super hard, but it works if you are 100 percent consistent!

Also the thing about putting her down 2-3 hours after first waking up - that really worked for me with my son. I just got on that schedule, whether he showed signs of being sleepy or not and it seemed to get him to nap much better.

I know it is sooooo hard to have a baby who won't nap - it is hard on you also if you count on that time for yourself to rest too, but hang in there. Things really do getter easier and better!

Good luck! p.s. You are very lucky that she sleeps so well during the night!

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T.R.

answers from Los Angeles on

It is a little early for this but maybe she is more ready for a mid day nap versus many in between. My daughter was my only one who was done with napping by just over a year old. She went to a mid-day nap by 6 mo. My boys were VERY different. Needing more sleep a lot longer. One still wanted his mid-day nap well into school starting for him. I would keep her awake a morning until just after mid-day feeding....then put her down. Also, don't let her sleep in the later afternoon. Keep her awake until normal bedtime. It is what my daughter made me do, and it worked within a couple of days. Each baby is so different, but girls are so much faster at everything until school age. Good luck and God Bless!!!

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A.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

I had the same problem with my son. I started sticking to a rigid sleep schedule and it worked miracles. I started putting him down at night between 6:30-7:30pm and putting him down for a morning nap 2 hours after he got up in the morning and 3 hours after he got up from his morning nap. I started nursing him while laying down in our bed to start, then transitioned to nursing him and laying him down on our bed, then finally nursing him and putting him in his crib for naps. His naps slowly go longer and longer. He eventually napped, on average, 1-2 1/2 hours in the morning and about 1 hour in the afternoon. At 11 months he is now just finally sleeping through the night while maintaining the naps. Sleep schedule worked for me!

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S.O.

answers from San Diego on

I really like the Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child book too. But with anything else, you need to do what you think is best for your child.

I think it is totally normal for your baby to sleep that long at night. My DS slept 12 hours straight at 4 months and never looked back. He was formula fed. My DD slept 12 hours at night at 3 months and she was breastfed.

I would just stick with a consistent nap schedule, but allow for some flexibility. With DS he would nap 3 times a day for 3 hours each time until he was 1 years old. With my DD, she would only take 2 1.5 hour naps a day. And now at 1 years old she takes a 2 hour nap in the morning and maybe a 1 hour nap in the late afternoon, if that.

I think at 6 months your baby definitely still needs to nap at least twice a day. Unfortunately you may need to try a bunch of different things one at a time for a week or so before you find the right combination. Some kids like having loud music to fall asleep to (my DD), some need a paci and a specific blanket (my DS) and some kids need a few minutes of back rubbing. Have you tried putting up dark curtains and mimicking nighttime for naps? There was a period when I would have to make my DS's room completely dark for him to nap.

Good luck! I know it is frustrating...but it is a phase. Eventually your baby will get he nap thing down pat, as long as you stick to a consistent schedule. And then just when you get used to a schedule, your baby will change it's schedule to keep you on your toes :D!

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E.G.

answers from Los Angeles on

some kids nap and some don't. my daughter has always taken cat naps, if she napped. She's 5 now and it still hasn't changed. All children are different; if she's tired she'll sleep and if she's not she won't.

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K.R.

answers from San Diego on

Whatever method you choose, you have to stick with it for a week or two. It sounds like you have chosen several ways to help her sleep but used each only a few times at most. The best way is to let her get herself to sleep so avoid nursing, rocking, etc. I also had a non-scheduled poor napper until she was close to 6mo old at which time we established the same routine for naps and bedtime - stories, song, in the crib. We got her used to this at night first then at naps. She cried for 45-60 minutes initially but then by the 3rd or 4th day slept fine for 3 naps and bed time. She is 20 months old now and we still do the same thing for her one nap and bedtime though bed also includes a bath. We found it also helped to have several people do the routine so she can easily have a babysitter (she has had a nanny, grandmas, mom, dad, uncle, babysitter all put her to bed and did fine). Your baby should still wake up at 5mo for a feeding during the night. Some babies do not, but sleeping through the night is generally 5-6hours for a baby her age. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is a great book. Use the index to find what you need as it is not laid out very easily but the information is great.

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A.V.

answers from Los Angeles on

Is she teething? My son was a terrible napper until about eight months. It just took that long to figure out when his tired times were. Sometimes giving him teething tablets calmed him enough to nap. Most of the time, though, he just wanted to be with me at that age. I wasn't working, so I put him on my chest and read or snuggled him in bed for a shared nap. At the time I worried that I might teach him not to nap on his own, but now he consistantly naps for an hour in the morning and two hours in the afternoon in his crib.

I didn't have any luck with letting him cry it out. I've learned that when my son is fussy, there is a reason, teething, growing, fighting a bug, and that these times are just phases.

For me, it got easier within the next few months. Hope that's the case with you, too.

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J.M.

answers from Las Vegas on

You may just have a child that gets plenty of sleep at night and may only need one little nap during the day. Try her with an early afternoon nap, and don't expect much, maybe 15 minutes. 10 to 11 hours at night is a lot of sleep at one time for a little one, especially if she sleeps straight through.

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B.C.

answers from San Diego on

Hi A.,
I feel for you. I went throught the EXACT same thing. For months I tried everything I could possibly think of to try to get my son to take naps! I knew he wasn't getting enough sleep because he would wake up rubbing his eyes and would be super fussy for the rest of the day. It was like the only good times we had were in the morning after he had had a good night's sleep. I recently found the one thing that is working without fail (at least for us.) He has been on an "eat, wake/playtime, nap" schedule for a couple of months and what I discovered is that he was only taking cat naps because his feedings were not holding him over through his nap time. Now we are still on the same "eat, wake, nap" schedule but I now feed him 2 ounces of food right before nap time just to hold him over until his regualr feeding which happens after he wakes up from his nap. He has been taking 1 1/2 to 2 hour naps without fail. It was like a miracle had just occured in our house. And now both mommy and baby are rested and happy. Maybe this will help you too. Good luck from one who knows what you are going through.
B. C.

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E.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

First off, how awesome that she sleeps that well at night! You're doing something right! It took me about 9 months before I could get my son to sleep through the night (when we finally moved to a two-bedroom place and took away his binky). He has always been a bad napper, too. It is still a rarity to get him to take a 2-hour nap. I disagree with another mom who said they only need 12 hours of sleep at 6 months. I think it's more like 14-16 hours of sleep (15 hours has always been the max I could get out of my son).

With that being said, how is she growing? Is it possible that because she's sleeping so long at night that she needs more to eat during the day? It took me a long time to figure out that my son wasn't getting enough milk from me (he was a slow eater and I was told by several people that more than 10 minutes per side was just pacifying... they were wrong in his case).

Also, as a new mom and not really familiar with tired signals, I waited far too long to put him down for his naps. My son would hardly ever yawn or rub his eyes or anything that I expected to know he was tired. Now his signals are more obvious to me (he gets quiet and his eyes look a little red), but back then by the time I saw obvious tired signals, he was overtired and had a hard time falling/staying asleep. At 6 months of age, a good rule of thumb is: put your baby back down within a couple of hours of initial waking. And yes, two naps are better than three at this age, but you will probably need to give an earlier bedtime (between 5 and 6 pm) initially to avoid her getting overtired. Also try to be consistent with whatever method you choose for soothing.

Other things to consider at 6 months of age that might be interfering with sleep: Introduction of Solids (sometimes new foods can upset tender tummies). Teething (never fun)? Growth spurt?

I hope this helps you even a little bit! If she's already a good night time sleeper, it will get better with time, I'm sure!

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H.A.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi A.,

Sounds like you have already received lots of advice, but since your situation is so similar to ours, thought I'd let you know what we're doing.

Our little girl is now 8 months old, but she stopped napping on her own at 4-5 months and would cry all evening because she was so tired. She slept through the night at 2 months (lucky us!) without any sleep training, and only stopped at 7 months for a couple of weeks when she was teething.

I spent a few weeks of staying at home every day and just focusing on getting her to nap in her crib, following some tips from Elizabeth Pantley's "The No-Cry Sleep Solution". As soon as she showed even subtle signs of tiredness (in her case, eye rubbing, ear pulling, head scratching, slight crabbiness or getting quiet), usually about 1.5 hours after waking in the morning, I'd nurse her until she fell asleep, hold her for a little bit and then put her in her crib. It took a while until this worked, picking her up when she would wake up and cry, and start all over again. It almost drove me crazy because it was so time consuming and frustrating, but it did work in the end, though she still would only sleep for 30 minutes. I know 30 minutes doesn't sound great, but it was a huge improvement.

She would then sleep in the middle of the day for another 30 minutes, either in her crib again or in my lap or in the baby Bjorn if we were out of the house. I also laid down with her in our bed in the afternoon (nursing her to sleep) when she'd sleep 1-3 hours. If she woke up in that time I'd offer her the breast and she'd suck herself right back to sleep. Again, time consuming, but at least I got a lot of reading done and a few naps myself! And it made a huge difference in her evening mood. It seemed to be just what she needed.

I know, it is ridiculously time consuming and takes a lot of patience (I kept telling myself that she'd be off to college before I knew it and I'd wish I could hold her and nurse her again), and I have no idea what parents do when they have more than one child or work out of the home. But we had a nice little nap schedule that was lead by her. It was great because I could plan my day around it and she was in good spirits until we put her to bed.

That said, at about 7 months she stopped following her nap schedule, I think because of teething (she also started waking up every 2 hours at night!). So keep in mind that as soon as you get a schedule worked out, it might all fall apart as your baby grows and changes. But we're just getting back to a similar schedule and it's MUCH easier this time since we'd already been through it before. And the hope is that her naps will get longer and longer and she will be able to do the long afternoon nap by herself.

One more thing to consider is that we found there's a middle road between responding to every peep our daughter makes and the cry-it-out method. When she started waking at night we couldn't stomach the CIO, so were up with her for a week or more, every 2 hours, usually for an hour each time trying to get her back to sleep. That just wasn't sustainable so we did our own "complain-it-out" method where we listen carefully and let her complain a bit and she'd eventually fall to sleep on her own. I still felt guilty about this, but if we jumped up to get her as soon as she made a noise she'd start to really cry when she saw us (and fall right back to sleep in our arms, so we knew she wasn't suffering from pain or sick or anything). We'd go to her if she sounded really upset, but let her whine a bit if she just sounded kind of annoyed, and it worked! The very next night it was better, and now she's sleeping 9 hours, wakes for a breast feeding, and then goes right back to sleep for another 2-3 hours. Though, we've only gotten this to work at night, not during the day. But it might work for you for naps as well!

Hope this helps a little. Most of all, I think it's helpful to realize that our babies grow so quickly and will be sleeping through the night eventually, sooner than it seems. Hang in there! I hope things get better for you and your baby very soon!

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D.P.

answers from San Diego on

I had the same problem with my son. When he was 5mos old I would wait until he finished his catnap and then get into the shower so I couldn't hear his crying. He would go back to sleep after 20-30mins and learned to sleep for an hour and a half at a time. Typical schedule for 6mos is up around 7am, nap at 9ish for 1 1/2-2hrs. Nap again around 2 for about 1 1/2 hour down for the night around 7pm. As they get older the second nap gets shorter and they will want to go down later for the first. For example, my 11mo old takes her morning nap around 10am now.

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N.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

When my son was about a year his pediatrician said he only needed 12 hour of sleep.
If your daughter is sleeping to good at night, maybe you can try putting her down later or waking her up earlier (this works well for my son).
Another issue might be that she is transitioning from three naps to one or two. Try putting her down a little later and see if it helps.
Good luck!

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