Baby sleeps at night but doesn't nap
April 26, 2015 10:48 AM   Subscribe

My 7-week old baby doesn't nap. She sleeps pretty well at night, but terribly during the day. How do we fix this?

She's OK on the weekends (sometimes), because we tend to be out doing things and she can usually sleep in the car even if she won't sleep elsewhere. But during the week, when I'm at work, my wife spends most of her day rocking, bouncing and otherwise trying to make the baby go down for a nap. This often goes on for hours at a time. The same goes for the first few hours when I get home. I get tired after just an evening of this, so I don't know how my wife does it all day long.

Medically, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with her, and this seems like a weird thing to complain about since she usually sleeps through the night (waking only once or twice to eat), but she needs the sleep and cries a lot during the day because she's overtired. (She's not colicky, so the lack of sleep is the issue.)

We've tried baby-wearing, and it helps sometimes, but the results are pretty inconsistent and it often feels like the only difference between wearing vs not wearing is that, when we're wearing her, the screaming baby is now physically strapped to us.

Everything I find when googling is about getting babies to sleep through the night and doesn't seem to apply for daytime napping or is about much older children.

Help us, MeFi, we're at our wits end!
posted by asnider to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Get the Happiest Toddler On the Block DVD and watch it

For a 7-week old? We watched the Happiest Baby on the Block video. Those techniques worked like magic for about a week and a half and then ceased to be effective.
posted by asnider at 11:13 AM on April 26, 2015

Great advice! And the swing, the swing, the swing! It was a lifesaver with our youngest, never failed. Also, if the car works to put her to sleep, don't hesitate to load her in the carrier and drive around. It's worth it. If you don't want to drive around, turn on the clothes dryer and set her baby seat on top of it...again always worked with our youngest. Best of all...she'll outgrow this, it won't last forever.
posted by txmon at 11:15 AM on April 26, 2015

Can you update with when she goes to bed, when she wakes up, and when you start trying to put her for nap?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:16 AM on April 26, 2015

What about the tissue trick? I've known a couple of parents who swear by it.
posted by manderin at 11:18 AM on April 26, 2015

we have a three month old and we've found that our problems with a cranky baby that won't nap are usually related to waiting too long to put him to sleep. now we only let him stay up for 1-2 hours before he goes down for a nap again and we've had much more success.

naptime currently includes a tight swaddling (we just use a blanket), pacifier, and the swing set on the lowest speed that seems to be working for him.
posted by noloveforned at 11:20 AM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

As you go through this process -- and I'm a big swaddle + swing + loud white noise person -- start keeping a chart by scribbling down the times the baby wakes up in the morning, and what you learn about her napping or dozing periods. Through all of this I was able to learn that my baby's best combo was: wake up in the morning; first nap one hour later; 2nd wake-up; next nap two hours later; next nap two hours after waking, and so on throughout the day.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:40 AM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

If she sleeps in cars, can your wife take her out for a drive? It seems like overkill, but honestly, at this age do whatever works. Mine would only nap if she was in the sling and moving and either outside in the fresh air or being blasted with white noise.

Agree with the above suggestion to take another look at medical issues and particularly hunger, though. Reflux might also be an issue - if she sleeps a bit better in more upright positions like sling and car seat, that could be a culprit.
posted by Catseye at 11:55 AM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I hate to break it to you, but it's possible your baby just doesn't like naps. My daughter was the same way from day one, and now at 3.5 years old she still doesn't like to nap. (We usually can get her to "rest" in her bedroom on the weekend (no actual sleep), but otherwise it's just the occasional car nap. And she definitely gets this from me, since at 36 years old I still can't nap either.) But just like your kid, she slept GREAT at night.

When she was as young as your baby, we found that she could do a morning nap if we put her down about 1.5 hours after she woke up in the morning. That nap would only last about an hour, but it would put her in a better mood for the rest of the day. Then afternoon naps were hit-or-miss - she might have one if I took her for a long drive or walk in the stroller.

In retrospect, I wish I hadn't stressed out so much at the time about napping. Sometimes there's not that much you can do.
posted by barnoley at 11:59 AM on April 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

My kid was a terrible napper in the house but would pass out in the carrier if we went for a walk. Similar to the napkin trip upthread, and driving around as you mentioned, there was something about needing to get enough stimulation to sleep, even when he was tired. (once he was in daycare, they pushed his crib into the most active part of the room when he was wakeful.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:04 PM on April 26, 2015

My kid was like this as a newborn and I'm sorry to tell you that despite our best efforts (all the Happiest Baby tricks included), we really just had to wait for him to grow out of it. Basically if he wasn't sleeping or nursing he was screaming, and I was putting in 8+ hours of nursing/day for a looooong stretch. (Not an exaggeration, we logged it all. I have metrics.) He is a champion napper/nighttime sleeper now at 11 months but the first 3.5 months or so were pretty hellish for us. I hired a nanny to help us through my last month of maternity leave; she had a bit more success at getting him to sleep than I did, and I was able to get a break for a few hours a day. Highly recommend this if it's feasible for you.

My best advice is if baby doesn't resist it, make sure you're swaddling, and try starting your naptime routine 30 minutes earlier than you presently are. Like, if she's up for 2 hours before you try naptime, cut it back to 90 minutes. If that doesn't work, cut it back to 60 minutes of uptime before you try for a nap. Slow pacing, binkies if you use them, lights dim or out.
posted by trunk muffins at 12:21 PM on April 26, 2015

Response by poster: Extra info, as requested:

She usually goes to sleep for the night some time between 7:30 - 9:00 p.m. There's no real routine yet, but now that she's past the 6-week mark we'll hopefully start to see one develop. She typically wakes up sometime between 6 and 7 a.m.

During the day, she breastfeeds every two hours, like clockwork. If she was napping, she'll almost always wake up right on time.

We generally try to put to down for a nap every two hours or, what usually happens, is we try and fail. Then we feed her and immediately try again. If she actually was napping, we usually start trying to get her back down within 10-20 minutes of a feed. Usually, well, you saw the original question.

The problem is definitely that she's not going to sleep soon enough and becoming overtired. We just can't seem to get her down...

I also just tried the tissue trick a few different times. It seems to either a) calm her down very slightly, b) do nothing, or c) piss her off. It definitely doesn't make her go to sleep. I may try it again when she's more obviously tired.

Also, we have a Mamaroo swing. She sleeps in it pretty well. For now we've been using the swing instead of a bassinet because it at least helps her sleep through the night. However, it only works if she's already asleep when she's put down. She doesn't fall asleep in it no matter how tired she is. White noise -- radio static at absurdly loud volumes -- seems to help get her to sleep, but even then she'll fight going down. Sometimes, I think it just masks her cries so it feels to us like it's helping. But, the constant hum of static is starting to drive us a little crazy (other types of white noise have proven mostly ineffective).

Also, if she just didn't like to nap, that'd probably be fine. It's the constant screaming once she hits the "I'm really fucking tired!" stage that's becoming incredibly difficult to handle.

We've resisted using a pacifier because she had some tongue tie/feeding issues early on (which, thankfully, seems to have been resolved), but are probably going to end up buying one ASAP. Of course, everything we've read says, "Don't use a pacifier to help your child fall asleep" so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by asnider at 12:29 PM on April 26, 2015

Response by poster: Not to keep beating this drum, but who helped you with the tongue tie and feeding issues? Were they good? You might want to get everything re-checked out with them.

We've had a few different consultants. The last was good and ended up recommending surgical intervention to correct the ties. That went well. She's still recovering, but the sleep issues were going on even before, so I don't think it's a pain issue or otherwise connected (though it could be making this week particularly bad).
posted by asnider at 1:44 PM on April 26, 2015

Two hours awake time is probably way too long at that age. My 4 month old can barely manage that. I'd try for naps after 60, 75, and 90 minutes and see if one of those is the sweet spot for your kiddo. Is she swaddled?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:41 PM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: She's swaddled. We'll try different times. We've pretty much got to the point that as soon as she wakes up we're trying to put her back down, since it takes so long.
posted by asnider at 6:11 PM on April 26, 2015

I know you said you have tried baby wearing, but what type of carrier do you have? When our son was itty bitty I tried and failed so many times on the baby wearing front and neither of us could find the love. It wasn't until I tried some other carriers that we finally both enjoyed it.
posted by MayNicholas at 6:40 PM on April 26, 2015

Oh yeah, definitely try the pacifier! I would have gone insane during the first year without my daughter's many pacifiers. Even if you just use it to stop the screaming it will be worth it.
posted by barnoley at 6:57 PM on April 26, 2015

For what it's worth, my son didn't take real naps until he was 4 months old or so. Until then he just did what I call nursleeping, where he snoozed and nursed intermittently basically nonstop the first 2 months and then every 2 hours until he was 4 months. If he wasn't attached to me he woke up instantly and cried. At 4 months though he started to take a morning and afternoon nap on a schedule and off my lap, where if I put him down asleep in his swing after nursing at 9:30am and 2:30pm he would stay asleep for 90 minutes or so. His nighttime sleeping got jacked up at that time too, but that's another story.

So, all is not necessarily lost. The 4 month sleep regression is a total game changer and anything your baby does now is liable to change. 7 weeks is still very young and you are still well within the "4th trimester". I'm sorry I don't have any real advice for you right now, other than to hang in there and keep trying. I thought my son would never, ever EVER nap; he is 19 months now and is still napping 2x per day, which is basically a super old baby napping unicorn.
posted by gatorae at 8:09 PM on April 26, 2015

I remember being shocked when my pediatrician suggested that my baby needed a nap 90 minutes after she woke up in the morning--that would be like 7:30am which seemed crazy. She suggested I watch for signs that she was sleepy about that time (rubbing her eyes and nose, getting that glazed faraway look) and nurse her until she fell asleep. That worked pretty well when I was observing closely and really stuck to that (and then didn't move or try to put her down). The second nap was the one that was always harder to come by. But for that one, it was always hit or miss--the stroller, the car, the swing, the carrier...there was no regular formula for it.
posted by biscuits at 9:13 PM on April 26, 2015

When my son (now 9 months old) was tinier, I had a lot of trouble getting him down for naps. We actually had a (probably terrible for him) schedule that involved keeping him up until around 1 at which he would just conk out for 3 hours. After our doctor suggested a more consistent early bedtime at around 7.

We tried to do that and my method was to nurse, play, and then nurse to sleep again. Does your kid fall asleep nursing? I could sometimes move him to the crib without waking him as long as I swaddled him before nursing him to sleep, and sometimes I would just nurse lying down and just lay with him for as long as he napped for (audiobooks were a godsend when I was doing this). My kid never gave me what I felt were clear drowsy signs (no glazed eyes or whatever), so I could never go by that.

His napping improved dramatically at 6 months and now he's practically a pro, so don't give up hope on him ever having good naps!
posted by that girl at 9:51 PM on April 26, 2015

Hire a sleep coach. Do it now. Yes, it's pricey, and yes, it's worth every penny - you're investing in your sanity. Mortgage your house if need be. Angelique Millette worked well with us over Skype, but I'm sure other coaches are great too. Best of luck!
posted by equipoise at 10:26 PM on April 26, 2015

Hi. It's a long time since I had my kids and of course the advice given has changed radically since then. But here is what I have observed with my own daughters' babies.

Nowadays the advice is to breastfeed more or less as soon as the kid opens it's mouth, for as long as it wants. There is a lot of scientific research supporting this. However the advice in my day was to space the feeds. I didn't give another breastfeed until the child had been to sleep. After a feed and a bit of awake time if they started whimpering I would rock them to sleep. My four thrived, were peaceable but active, and slept well early on. Digestion is quite hard work for the body even for adults, you know? So it's just a suggestion, but if the child is fussing and you know she's fed, clean, not too hot and had some interactive time, don't give another feed until you've managed to get her to drop off? Maybe it's worth a try.

While breastfeeding rates were very low in my day, on the other hand extreme nipple distress in new mothers seemed to be rare, whereas nowadays it seems to be routine, so personally I've been wondering whether the feeding advice nowadays is actually for the best. All babies are different and maybe yours just doesn't like naps, but the fact that using a sling isn't working for you makes me think something is actively preventing sleep, and at a guess it may be the feeling of being uncomfortably full?

The other thing is, your wife must be stressed out of her head. And a kind of spiral of stress and unrest can develop between mother and baby. So if someone can take over for a couple of hours a day, as someone suggested above to get a nanny in, that might really help her.
posted by glasseyes at 3:19 AM on April 27, 2015

I'll second barnolay here, and suggest that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. My daughter wasn't a napper until she was almost 18 months. She'd doze for 10-20 minutes once or twice a day, but that was it--the rest of the day was party time. It was exhausting, but the upside is that she slept like a rock, from 6 until 6 most nights. Long stretches of uninterrupted sleep at night are the Holy Grail of infant parenting. Bask in their gentle warmth.

The only thing I would add to this is a standard recommendation for Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, which had some eye-opening tidbits in it (just ignore the parts where he tells you your kid will turn into a serial killer if s/he doesn't get 14 hours of sleep a day). Primary among those: move bedtime up to what seems like an unreasonably early hour. We found consistency with a 5:45 bedtime early-on. She still slept until 6:00 AM, and was able to make it through long days without becoming screamy-tired. As an added bonus, we got an hour or two of adult time in the evenings when we were both home and she was asleep.
posted by Mayor West at 8:19 AM on April 27, 2015

Response by poster: Welp, she won't take the pacifier. I guess that's out.

Maybe we'll try a sleep coach if things don't get better soon. *sigh*
posted by asnider at 6:53 PM on April 27, 2015

Response by poster: Update: We've basically been told that she needs to be nursed to sleep, that she may have some gut health issues after all and that we should see a naturopath. I guess that's that, for now.

Thanks for all the help, everyone. It was at least enough to let me know that we're not crazy and not the only parents going through a tough time.
posted by asnider at 11:36 AM on May 2, 2015

Response by poster: Just an update for anyone who might find this when having similar problems. It turns out that she had pretty bad reflux. We had to basically figure this out on our own, but our new pediatrician agreed and gave us a prescription that has worked wonders. Our little girl sleeps so much better now.
posted by asnider at 10:47 AM on June 1, 2015

« Older Screen tent for the whole summer   |   Screw it? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.