Babies: 3 - 6 Months

baby won't nap independently

hi all. my 5 month old is not a great napper. she fights sleep and sleeps very lightly. we put so much effort into getting her to nap. (thankfully she sleeps great at night though!) she still will only nap if  I'm holding her.if I try setting her down she often wakes right up. occasionally she will stay sleeping but rarely for more than 20 mins. I'm typically so desperate for her to get sleep that I just end up letting her sleep on me. I'm at a point where I need that time and independence of my own. she does consistently sleep great in the car but there's only so much driving around i can do. she will sometimes sleep in the stroller travel system or swing too but these are inconsistent. 

sidenote- we had a really traumatic birth and were separated at birth.  she was transferred to the regional health center nicu and I was recovering at the local hospital from a cesarean.  she underwent a hyperthermic procedure and it wasn't until that wrapped up, about 5 days later, that we were able to be together in the same hospital room. I've worked hard to ensure our bond is strong by breastfeeding,  bedsharing and staying home with her. I'm needing to go back to work soon though. I'm happy to say that we are close and she is perfectly healthy, seems well adjusted and is meeting all her milestones on time.

I'm sure our attachment style has perpetuated the issue but was non negotiable so that we could heal from our birth experience,  so here we are. has anybody else dealt with this and have any tips or insight as to when it may shift? thank you for reading this!


  • This did not improve until we sleep trained at 4 months. It sounds like she sleeps through the night ok, so she is capable of sleeping long stretches in a non moving/contactless environment. You just need to get that to translate to naps and eliminate her crutches. I would follow the same routine for naps as you do for night sleep and consider letting her fuss/work through the new way of things somewhat. I’ve found that changing routines or breaking habits isn’t without some tears (giving up pacifiers, bottles, etc). If you don’t want to full on sleep train, there are resources out there for more gentle methods/no cry methods, but I found I really didn’t need to try those because my babies adapted fast/fussed minimally. 
  • We had a short stint of difficult naps around 4 months and they resolved after binging a ton of content by Cara from Taking Cara Babies. We didn’t take the classes but I’m sure they would be even more helpful than the free content. 

    First we put up blackout curtains in the nursery. Then we dropped the temperature of the house a few degrees and got a thicker sleep sack (I don’t remember if this was a TCB tip or from family). We were super strict on nap times. Even if he slept in his first nap was at 10 (or earlier if he was showing signs of being sleepy). No naps allowed to be longer than two hours… we didn’t have that problem until about two weeks after starting all this. We still had short morning naps and his last nap (starting at 5) would be really long, like he thought he was going to bed. Finally at 5 months we were having very regular 1.5-2 hour naps at 10, 1:30, and 5. Now at 7 months we are starting to stretch those wake windows and are hoping to drop the third nap by 8 months. 
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  • thank you for your insight! I appreciate it and am working on my game plan. wish us luck!
  • Will she sleep in a baby carrier? I think it is developmentally appropriate that she still needs reassurance during naps. 
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