3 Reasons Your Baby is Fighting Naps

fighting naps nap time naps overtired baby overtiredness Apr 12, 2022
3 Reasons Your Baby is Fighting Naps

Naps are an essential part of your little one’s day… and yours! It’s a time to tackle that to-do list you’ve been trying to get to or to take some much-needed “me time” for yourself to rest, relax, or whatever fills your cup. But, in order to make these mini-breaks happen, your baby has to actually nap! So, when your child begins fighting naps or suddenly becomes a catnapper, frustration can set in! 

If these poor naps persist, your baby can become overtired, and as a result, will take longer to fall asleep, have more night-wakings, and generally sleep less. Not only do naps allow babies to rest physically and get the necessary amount of sleep they need, but they also contribute significantly to your little one’s cognitive functions, emotional processing, self-regulation, immunity, and cardiovascular systems [1]. 

It’s an important cycle to pay attention to (and try to correct if it’s become a problem), as a well-rested baby usually sleeps better at night, and then takes better naps during the day. 

Here are 3 reasons why your baby is fighting naps and what you can do to fix it. 

Why is My Baby Fighting Naps?

  1. Your baby is overtired. 

It may seem like the more tired your baby is, the easier they would fall asleep, but this is unfortunately not the case. When babies reach a point of exhaustion, they release an increased amount of adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol [2]. The combination of these two hormones can cause more crying, and less sleep, and unfortunately, can quickly cause your child to reach a sleep-deprived state. This constant cycle of overtiredness makes it extremely difficult to get into a rhythm of solid sleep habits with your baby!  

The best way to try to avoid this is to pay close attention to your baby’s age-appropriate wake windows and EARLY tired cues. Timing is key! Remember, a baby’s wake windows are the max amount of time a baby can handle being awake between naps, developmentally, and they change and grow as your baby does. The goal here is to get your baby down for their next nap before the end of their wake window….EVEN if you’re not yet seeing tired cues! 

Download my FREE Sleep Tips for a list of sleep needs and wake windows listed out by age that you can screenshot and keep handy on your phone! 

Babies are always giving us cues, but figuring out exactly what they mean can be daunting! Here is a list of early tired cues vs. overtired cues - when you notice that your baby is exhibiting the EARLY tired cues, it’s time to start the short nap routine and get your baby down. 

Early tired cues:

  • Rubbing eyes/nose
  • Pulling ears
  • Zoning out/staring off
  • Less social/clingy
  • Red brows & eyes

Overtired cues:

  • Yawning
  • Crying
  • Difficult to calm
  • Turning away
  • Hyperactivity

When used together (in combination with an eat-play-sleep schedule), wake windows and knowing your baby’s specific tired cues are the key to avoiding an overtired baby!

If you’ve been following me on Instagram for a while, you know that I often give this advice on how to avoid allowing your baby to get overtired and overstimulated. BUT, sometimes things don’t go as planned. Maybe it’s been a day of poor naps, they’ve had too much stimulation, or your errands ended up taking longer than expected. Whatever the reason, it happens! 

If your baby has passed the point of tired into overtired and they’re screaming and crying, you’ll want to focus on getting your baby calmed down before attempting to get them to sleep. 

Check out this blog for 6 ways to calm a fussy baby.

2. Your baby is not tired enough.

If your baby is not acting tired when it’s time for sleep (would rather keep playing when bedtime rolls around, energetic [but not exhibiting signs of hyperactivity, which is a sign of being overtired], or not crying but taking forever to fall asleep, etc.) or they have begun taking regularly shorter naps during the day, it could be that they are simply not tired enough for sleep yet [3]! If this is the case, it may be time to lengthen your baby’s wake window or to drop a nap!  

I also get asked a lot, “What if my baby is showing tired cues way before their wake window is up? Why is this happening?” Of course, it’s possible that your baby could be tired earlier than when their wake window is complete, but, in this situation, it’s not uncommon for your baby to simply just be bored! Before laying them down for a nap before they’re actually ready for one, I recommend trying to switch up the activity or environment for your baby and see how their mood can change. Though yawning can be a sign of a baby being overtired, it can also be a symptom of boredom. Usually yawning alone wouldn’t constitute a baby being overtired - look for yawns paired with fussiness, crying, and time near the end of their wake window. 

The best way to avoid boredom and keep your baby awake and alert for the entirety of their wake window is to ensure that your baby is active enough during their wake windows with various age-appropriate mental & physical activities.

Check out this Instagram Reel for some ideas of what to do with your child during their wake windows. 

3. Your baby is ready to drop a nap. 

Naps can be TOUGH. They are constantly fluctuating and changing for babies in the first 12 months of their life, and it can be hard to know when to transition down in the number of naps your baby is taking. Should you keep things the way they are? Should you push your baby’s wake window a little?

Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider dropping a nap:

  • Your baby is suddenly up at 4 or 5 am every morning and won’t fall back to sleep.
  • Your baby takes 30 minutes (or more) to fall asleep.
  • Your baby keeps waking in the night, sometimes for hours, and is usually not upset. They simply just can’t fall back to sleep!
  • Your baby’s last nap of the day keeps shifting bedtime later by more than 30-60 minutes.
  • Your baby is suddenly taking 30-minute catnaps when normally they sleep for at least an hour.

Check out my FREE Sleep Tips Download for children 0-3 Years old for typical nap transitions by age!

Baby sleep is ever-evolving and just when you feel like you have it all figured out...it changes again! Try not to stress. This is normal, so just try to go with the flow! And if you find yourself still struggling with your little one’s sleep, please know that you are not alone and that I am here to help. Download one of my comprehensive sleep guides or schedule a call with me for some personalized support. 



[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5851571/ 

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5440010/ 

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5465131/

Need help transforming your child's sleep? Check out my sleep offerings for children 0-3 years old!


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