8.5 month old baby hates napping, tips please!
January 30, 2019 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Our 8.5-month old baby fights naps. Any tips? Wall of details inside.

He's 8.5 months. Huge (98th percentile) & healthy. 8 teeth.
Early milestones- rolled both ways at 3 months, crawled at 5 months, pulled to stand at 6 months. Very alert with noticeably keen hearing.
Breastfed on demand (ie, constantly), with snacks. Rarely gets bottles, no pacifier.

He will only nap on someone's chest, and occasionally in a moving vehicle. His naps are usually only 20 minutes long, and quite light- he wakes up very easily and becomes fully alert instantly.

We co-slept to 6 months and I nursed him to sleep for naps, but if I moved, or my knuckle cracked, or a fairy farted in a tree outside, he'd wake up- even as a tiny infant. I used to just nap with him, bc otherwise he wouldn't sleep. If we sleep with him he falls deeply asleep for a long time. If he's alone, it's a light, reluctant sleep.

When he's transferred from arms to bed for a nap, he often pops wide awake instantly, leaps to his feet, and yells- usually not crying, just really annoyed. Recently we tried to wait him out to force a nap. HE STOOD AND SCREAMED/CRIED AT FULL VOLUME FOR 2.5 HOURS. It was impressive.

If there is a nap, it'll be around 10am, 2pm, or 4pm, but not religiously and rarely more than one per day.

Coaxing a nap out of him means 30 mins of my partner snuggling him in a dark room to get him to sleep; the nap lasts 20-40 mins, and that's it for the day; he rarely naps twice. Or, every 2-3 hours he gets grumpy, dozes off on the boob for 15 minutes, then catches a second wind and is alert and curious again. By 5pm it accumulates and he's fairly grumpy.

Bedtime starts at 6:30pm with a very short routine (he's often too cranky for more) and breastfeeding to sleep. When transferred, he'll briefly wake, fuss for 1-15 minutes, then give up, drop to his belly, and sleep. He sleeps from 7pm-7am, fairly deeply, with 1-3 wakeups per night. I'm working on night-weaning him, so right now I only night-feed if he's really crying, generally around 2am but sometimes more.

He sleeps in a pack'n'play, in our room, which is fairly dark (but not perfectly dark due to some window bleed / electronic LED indicators), with a loud air filter for white noise.

Our paediatrician was like, "He's huge, healthy, and alert, which means he's fine, some people need less sleep, suck it up". I only need 6 hours of sleep a night, and my partner has been an insomniac since childhood, so baby comes by it honest.

Currently, I do bedtime, and my partner does naps. I'm ok with the situation, but I have the magic boobs so I can always get baby to sleep on me, as long as I stay still. Similarly, my partner can almost always cuddle the baby to sleep, but then he feels annoyed that he can't put the baby down.

When he's well rested, baby can play independently for 20-40 minutes! When he's tired, he gets clingy and frustrated easily, and can't be left alone for even a moment. I do find it tiring to have to be "on" with him all day, or else having him strapped to me (he's 25 lbs!) or be pinned under him napping- hard to get stuff done. I'd also like to get pregnant again asap, so night-weaning to get my fertility back, and having a baby who can nap independently while I'm making a placenta, would really help.

My partner finds it really frustrating to unsuccessfully try to put baby down for a nap twice a day, and is having some ergonomic issues from how he holds our 25 pounder when cuddling him to sleep. He's more concerned / annoyed than I am, and it's causing some conflict between us.

Is we normal? Can we teach this very alert baby to be a better napper?
posted by nouvelle-personne to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My anecdotal evidence is that babies wake up when hungry. All the babies I know who haven't transition to 90% solids and full meals by 8 months, and who are breastfeeding through the morning and night, have sleep issues.

Also omg pacifiers! The parents I know who don't use pacifiers have huge, huge issues with getting their babies down for nap and sleep. This is not a fort that we choose to defend. That's their choice, and good luck to them if they choose to take on the extra work.

Last week we had our friends and their 10-month old come over to stay. Their little one took 1-2 hours to get down at night and at naptimes. Ours dropped off within 5 minutes -- nap and sleep both. Every parent is different, and every family will choose to take on different "costs". It's not for us, but it was right for them.

Caveat: all anecdotes. YMMV.
posted by moiraine at 9:08 AM on January 30 [5 favorites]

You're normal. He's normal.

I had one kid who took two three hour naps every day for the longest time. I have one who has fought sleep like the devil right up until she was about four.

The non-sleeper was also breastfed and coslept for a long time. What finally worked for us was putting her to bed not in a crib or a pack and play. When she was little it was a queen sized mattress on the floor. Later a regular queen sized bed. This 1) let me lay on the bed with her and extract myself from her without waking her sometimes and 2) seemed to keep her from freaking out and waking up. It's like she hated being in a cage (unlike my older daughter who is now nearly ten and would still sleep in a crib if we let her. She likes to be cozy. Little one wants no blankets and no walls and is just weird).

We also turned her bedroom into a montessori bedroom - basically that means you put the bed on the floor, put a few toys and books around that are baby-safe, a mirror, and nothing else. Then can be sure he is safe even if he isn't sleeping.

I also think half hour naps are totally normal - maybe try pushing the bedtime at night back about a half hour, and then put him down for a nap EARLIER. I think the rule was awake for 2-3 hours, sleep for 30-60 minutes, awake for 2-3 hours, sleep 30-60 minutes, stay up til bedtime. I also think that this works better after about 9 months.

We had help because your kids went to daycare and the infant room grandmas were magical.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:12 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]

Doot doot doot do do! This is well within the range of normal, sorry.

When my kid was tiny my lactation lady explained that babies have a totally different sleep pattern than adults do - their lightest period of sleep is just after they drop off, so if you want them to stay sleeping you have to wait like 10 more minutes before it's safe to move them. I can't remember now when it switches over to the pattern most of us follow, where the deepest non-rem sleep is just after they crash and you can move them around easily. You might not be there yet.

My experience (kid is now 3) is that she fought sleep from the tiniest baby on up, forever, amen. How many times have I watched my infant, my toddler, my big kid jerk herself awake just as I began to plan what I would do when I went back downstairs (ah, the siren song of reading my phone on the couch!) She fights so hard sometimes.

My partner and I have both had to swallow so much of this. Other friends have sleep trained at various ages, but it has never worked for us. Bedtime is still a 45 min - 1 hour process, and nap refusal is an intermittent fact of life.

It will probably get better, you have to wait it out. The first year was really really hard in terms of sleep deprivation. Once teething was over (around 14 mos) we had a much easier time of it.

Also, there is nothing wrong with a boob nap. Make sure there is reading material and water in all the preferred nap spots, to keep you from going crazy, and then try to enjoy the calm you do get from it.

(YMMV, we were not trying to get pregnant again, that sounds like a big complication)
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:13 AM on January 30

9 months is crap for naps. But I will say that at that age getting the meal times regular helped. Your baby is maybe aging out of it too but we found a 2-3-4 cycle helped a bit - first nap 2 hours after waking, second 3 hours after waking, bedtime 4 hours after that.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:18 AM on January 30 [4 favorites]

A trick that worked for both of my kiddos at this age was a stroller nap. They would doze off after a few trips around the block, then I would take the stroller inside the house and enjoy an hour or two of freedom.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 9:18 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]

Our pediatrician swore by Weissbluth, and we had good success with his methods, specifically the sleep training option. I am aware that sleep training is controversial in some circles, but with our first one, we went from: I will only fall sleep while being held; to I will only fall asleep while being rocked; to I will only sleep while being rocked specifically by mom and if she tries to put me down I will complain loudly. We did not regard this as a tenable position, and did sleep training at three months, as our doctor advised.

Our second, we put down 'drowsy but awake' as soon as possible and as much as possible to avoid this happening again. We did not have to sleep train our second at all, and she has been a pretty great sleeper (slept through the night at three months, etc).
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:21 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]

Your nighttime situation sounds like heaven compared to what a lot of parents are faced with. Twelve hours, sometimes with only one waking? When my first was that age she almost never slept for more than 2 hours at a stretch. Yeah, she took a daily nap but I would gladly have traded it for that kind of deep nighttime sleep. Do you really want to make the opposite trade? I get that your baby is more difficult to deal with when he doesn't nap and he's tired but the trade-off is that he falls asleep easily and early. Asleep by 7:00! Leaving you enough time to have several baby-free hours and 8 hours of barely-interrupted sleep!

If you want him to nap better that will probably mean having him get less sleep at night. You could try getting him up earlier, for instance. Or if you want to try figure out some trick that works to put him to sleep for naps, like the stroller or car or swing, you'll probably want to couple that with trying to keep him up later at night to ensure he's tired enough to nap. You can't make him need more sleep, you can only try to adjust when he gets it. I would be inclined to give up on trying to make naps happen and enjoy the resulting good nights. It's a pain to have to schedule around naps anyway. I found things got easier once my kids gave them up.
posted by Redstart at 9:27 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]

Sounds a lot like my first except he did not sleep through the night as well - the same size and personality and patterns and feeding. 16 years later, he is still much the same minus the breastfeeding of course - doesn't like to sleep and/or has a hard time getting to sleep but cranky without enough sleep. We tried a lot of things. He wouldn't take a pacifier. Don't let anyone tell you that it is anything you are or are not doing. Sure, keep trying, but just do the best you can in the moments. Exhausting it is. And, heads up, he stopped napping altogether around 18 months though I had to avoid accidental 10 minute car naps after 3 PM or he would stay up then until midnight. OMG the memories, exhausting.
posted by RoadScholar at 9:36 AM on January 30

My 16 month old was a 30 min-max napper for soooooo much of the first year of her life.

Here are three things that helped:
(1) I learned that babies are on a 90min to 2 hour sleep cycle. This means that after about 90 min of being awake, your baby is ready to sleep again (or 2 hours; they vary so you have to look for cues. It took me a day or two of observing before I learned her cues). You want to have your baby in their crib/sleeping place as they hit the 90 min-2 hour mark. Putting your baby to sleep when they are naturally tired helps them get into a deeper sleep cycle.
(2) My husband and I made a "controlled crying" plan. After a few good naps, I figured out that she needed an hour or whatever at that stage. If she woke before that, we were going to keep trying to make the nap happen for the whole hour. For us, this meant crying for 1 min then going into comfort for a minute, then crying for 2 min, then going into comfort for 2 minutes etc. If she wasn't crying, but just hanging in her crib, that was fine, we didn't go in. Having a plan helped. It's also a shift in mindset. My goal isn't to get her to go to sleep it's to help her find her calm so that she can help herself go to sleep (or just be calm).
(3) Time. At some point (I think it's fairly soon for you guys), babies shift from their 90 min - 2 hour sleep cycles and get on a 24 hour clock. Sleep changes once this happens. They sleep longer and longer stretches at night (again, we had to do controlled crying to help this) and then consolidate their naps into fewer and longer naps.

I also agree to start experimenting with solids. It's crazy because in my experience it doesn't replace breastfeeding at first so it might feel like you are just putting food in your baby's mouth all day long. That will right itself over time!
posted by CMcG at 9:36 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]

Oh also, I will say: E was the same about night. A great night time sleeper. I totally understand why you still want/need the naps during the day.
posted by CMcG at 9:38 AM on January 30

dpx.mfx, Lawn Beaver, warriorqueen, etc have it right.

Welcome to sucky period #1 for the "raise your baby" game!

Yes, they used to be all baby nice, coo-coo, and fun, then suddenly boom - their poop stinks like hell, and they won't do what you want, like sleep. Ever.

I commiserate with your issues, though - meaning the tension this causes with your partner. One of you will always be able to "hold out" longer than the other, and the other will get increasing annoyed and frustrated. And you'll argue. And get in a huff. Repeat.

All I can say is you both need to agree to a proper schedule up front, and stick to it. Baby will, eventually, conform. (of course, time to conforming may be months).

But you have a 7pm to 7am sleeper? That's, like - Holy Grail territory. So, you are just mainly looking at some breaks during the day.

Agree on the times - looks like you have a schedule, but don't keep it regularly. Try to keep it regularly.

Second, weaning.. so partner snuggles for 30 minutes. Cut it down to a strict 25 for a week. Then to 20. Use a timer. Then cut to 15, etc etc.. you get me, until it's drop and go.

If baby doesn't like it, don't matter - they stay there and wail for the prescribed time..

Consistency. But more so v- partners must be on the same page and be willing to support each other.

Me? Have 3 boys 17-21 now. They're mostly well-adjusted.
posted by rich at 9:42 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]

The rule about kids is that just about every damn thing they do is normal. Hate naps? Normal. Love naps? Normal. Eat like a horse? Normal. Don't actually eat anything ever at any time? Totally normal.

If the baby is healthy and happy and getting enough sleep at other times (sounds like it) then I'd say you are doing fine.

Similarly, my partner can almost always cuddle the baby to sleep, but then he feels annoyed that he can't put the baby down.

This is why we have Kindles/Nooks. Or netflix on your phone (with headphones).

When I was trying to get the baby to nap on me I would strategically arrange pillows so that my arms, elbows, etc were supported by something. Made it a lot easier. It's also how I read a lot of Wheel of Time.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:45 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]

Pardon the self-link, but here's a thing I wrote that will hopefully be helpful. (Spoiler: it won't "solve" your issue, though.)
posted by The Deej at 10:24 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]

I actually think that your baby is normal for non sleep trained babies and not so much for sleep trained ones, both in his sleep patterns and reaction to overtiredness. You’re unlikely to get much of a change without sleep training. If you’re interested in that route, then both Ferber and Weissbluth have good information on how sleep associations develop, why they can be detrimental to sleep, and what an age appropriate schedule may look like. Weissbluth’s theory is that “sleep begets sleep,” and overtired babies nap less and wake up more at night. He his big thing is limiting wake times (probably keeping baby awake for no more than 2-3 hours at this age). If you’re not interested in sleep training, I’d at least try to get consistent meal and nap times to see if that helps.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:06 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]

Our kid was the same and the one great trick that solved it was a Jumperoo by Fisher-Price with a cushion under it so her little legs could reach the floor. Some kids need to get a whole heap of physical energy out before they can nap and their limited mobility prevents them from using up that energy without a contraption to help them out. Ours bounced joyfully for hours then ZZzzzz.
posted by merocet at 11:53 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]

Okay, My two boys are GREAT sleepers... and I started sleep training them easy by moving them to a 7,11,3 feeding schedule and then when they could manage it removing the 3am feed. Naps were tougher for my second and it was never easy for him but we used the 2,3,4 schedule as much as we could and now as a 2.5 year old he sleeps for an hour from 1-2pm (or so) and 7-7. The older one napped much better but to the point of it being detrimental since he could sleep for 3 hours at 2,5 but then would be awake until 10 at night. SO. My point is: definitely start moving this kiddo towards the ultimate goal- a good nights sleep without you making it happen. I read so much about baby sleep it was crazy (bed time, sleep cycles, feeds, baby weight and feeds, total needed sleep by age) and we kept a excel chart for each of them... but it was worth it!
posted by catspajammies at 12:34 PM on January 30

Normal. Sounds a lot like my first as well, though he woke up more at night than yours. My god I tried everything. Mine would vomit from crying when left to fall asleep on his own. Naps were so short and infrequent they often seemed over before they began. He would not sleep in the car but would wail and then vomit as we drove. He would not sleep in a baby carriage. It was hell. I can still hear the little "I won't fall asleep" grunting noises he would make as I walked back and forth in the house, or bounced up and down on a ball for hours, with him in a sling. Never rocking, that didn't work. The swinging chairs didn't work. The bouncy exercise thing didn't work. My sister in law, mom, mother in law etc all thought we were doing something wrong and tried all kinds of tricks to make him sleep more/better/longer/more easily and they all failed.

He's almost 13 now and still sleeps less than his peers. He goes to his bed at 9-9:30, falls asleep between 10-11 and wakes up between 6-6:30 am every day, no matter when he has fallen asleep. Everyone keeps making jokes about teenagers sleeping so much but that's not the case here. I can count on one hand the number of times in his life that he's slept past 7:30 in the morning. Maybe it'll change in the future. These days I'm actually kind of grateful because waking him up for school has never been a problem.

So try all the tricks, suggestions and ideas above, as well as the ones that you will doubtless get IRL and if they work, great. But if they don't it isn't necessarily because you are doing anything wrong or anything is wrong with your kid. Mine's doing OK, grades are decent, he's a high level athlete in his sport and a sweet, loving kid who just doesn't sleep that much.

BTW our kid #2 was nothing like #1 and slept beautifully on her own pretty much from day 1.
posted by Cuke at 2:48 PM on January 30

Comrade_robot: "Our pediatrician swore by Weissbluth, and we had good success with his methods, specifically the sleep training option...

Our pediatrician WAS Dr. Weissbluth. We had three children a total of 30 months apart. I swear by Dr. Weissbluth's methods. He is responsible for us getting through the early years. Consider his methods.

One of the things we learned was that sleep begets sleep. A well rested child is a happy child.

To this day, my kids who are all in their 20s are terrific sleepers. Granted, they party until 2:00 am and sleep until 2:00pm on the weekends, but they go to sleep early on the weeknights. I am an insomniac so it is great to know they are not burdened with that. Yet.
posted by AugustWest at 2:50 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

Throw a bunch of board books in there with him and let him have executive time for a couple hours. This phase comes and goes.
posted by padraigin at 5:36 PM on January 30

Our baby was somewhat similar in terms of nursing to sleep. We started having a caregiver help around 7 months, and by about 9 months, they were on a schedule that involved sleeping in a stroller (a) for about half an hour on the way to the park around 9 or 10, and (b) for about 90 minutes right after lunch, lulled to sleep by a walk and then left in the stroller (which reclined flat) while the caregiver ate lunch and read her phone nearby. I think being on a set schedule helped, because until then, the only way to get him to nap was basically to lie there with him as you describe.

I also agree that food might help. Even with my toddler, I'm surprised at how important snacks are. You mention snacks but don't give much detail on the bottle / boob / solids feeding schedule, so that might be something to troubleshoot. There are definitely some growth spurts in this time period.

Also, I got my fertility back without night weaning (albeit further out from birth). It's interesting that you mention wanting baby to nap independently while you're making the placenta, as I was suddenly okay again with completely sleeping when baby sleeps.

It sounds like a main thing to consider might be how to make the process more comfortable for your partner. Could your partner do "side lying cuddling" in your bed while reading on a handheld kindle or phone? Would your partner enjoy the regular walks of the stroller approach? Also, maybe if you got on a schedule, then they'd know that from 10-10:30 and 12-12:30 they'll be reading or walking and then either giving up or not. It'd take some of the "how long will this go on?" out of it.

Anyway, if none of this is helpful, it might help to read about the Wait It Out approach to baby sleep. :) I found that whenever I was suddenly at the end of my rope, it usually turned out to be related to teething or some developmental shift and got at least a bit better shortly. But I'm not trying to discourage your search for better approaches - good luck!
posted by slidell at 6:37 PM on January 30

A classic case of baby SNAFU, totally normal and totally annoying.

I had great sleepers with zero training or pacifiers, my littlest slept through the night at six weeks. Some of my friends had great eaters right off the bat, mine would turn down boob and formula and food and snacks and anything but air, so they went from giant newborns to tiny peanut toddlers. Different babies are good at different things!

Sleep train if you want, it’s a good time to start. Teaching them to soothe themselves to sleep is one of the most helpful things for parents, it only gets harder here on out.
posted by lydhre at 5:53 AM on January 31

Our baby sounds similar. She stopped napping for more than 20 minutes, once a day at daycare when she was seven months old. The daycare teachers told us 'we spend 25 minutes trying to get her to sleep, she sleeps for 20 minutes, and then wakes all the other kids.' This went on for months, and I read all of the books and internet about how lack of sleep was killing her brain and how seven month olds need 14 hours of sleep a day.

But now, at almost 14 months, she seems to be fine. She naps for 1-2 hours at midday, at daycare and at home. She goes to bed at 7 and is frequently up at 5:30, but I can deal with that. What helps us was:

1. Committing to a one nap a day schedule, around noon, even though all of the books and internet said that she was far to young for that. Holding onto the two naps was not doing any of us any favors.
2. Being relatively consistent with how sleep would happen (for us, boob or bottle + a few minutes of cuddles and then in the crib). We did sleep train around three months, so this was a little easier for us.
3. Waiting until she got older

Nightweaning did not substantially change the nap situation for us. For awhile, it even made it worse because she would wake up for the day even earlier (5am), go down for an early catnap, and then refuse her normal midday nap. I really loved sleeping through the whole night again, but it did have temporary negative effects.

Good luck!
posted by oryelle at 6:04 AM on January 31

Not great help, but, this was my kid until he was about a year. Just to chime in with "not outside the realm of standard". Nothing worked for us but time. Hope one of the above things works!
posted by annabear at 9:02 AM on January 31

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