Nap Strikes: How to Get Naps Back on Track

Your child may not be ready to give up their nap

Ulza | Shutterstock

If you are a parent, then you know how difficult sleep can be for a child. You worry that your child isn't getting enough sleep, or that they're not sleeping independently; or they're waking up too often at night, or avoiding bedtime altogether. And just when you get one sleep issue sorted out, your little one goes on strike, and naps are now under negotiation!

The first thing to remember when your child skips a nap or two is not to panic. Skipping a nap is actually quite common and although there are numerous reasons for it, you may never really figure out why it happens. Generally, a child younger than two-and-a-half to three years is not ready to give up their naps. So take a deep breath, stay consistent, and keep offering the nap. And if your child is a little older than that, check out our guide to giving up the nap.


What is a nap strike?

A nap strike is when your little one, who had previously been napping well, suddenly seems to be fighting naptime. It most commonly happens when your child is getting close to the age to drop a nap, making you think that they are ready to do so before they actually are. However, a nap strike can happen at any age, for any number of reasons, and seemingly out of the blue, they may fight naps or may even not nap at all for a day or two.


Nap strikes at home

If your 10 month old decides she no longer wants to nap and you know by the schedule below that she should still be having 2 naps, you can be certain that she is not ready to drop those naps. This is a nap strike. Your child needs that nap; she is simply refusing to actually fall asleep.

3-5 months

6-9 months

9-15/18 months

15/18 months - 3 yrs

3-4 naps

2-3 naps

2 naps

1 afternoon nap

Be mindful of both how much sleep your child needs, as well as when they are sleeping to ensure that the naps you are offering are at the right times. If all is on par, then you may just need to ride out the nap strike for a few days. If after five days or so, you are still not seeing any improvement, there may be other challenges going on and determining the root cause, and some tweaking of the schedule and routine may be needed.

Tip: 10 or 11 months is a common age for a morning nap strike! Often parents think that their child is ready to drop the morning nap but in reality, they still need it and need consistency to get through the nap strike.


Nap strikes while travelling

If you are on holidays and your child misses a nap here and there, don’t take that to mean that they are done with that specific nap. If they are still far from the recommended age, it is likely just a nap strike due to a shift in schedule. Keep offering that nap and know that once you return home, your first goal will be to work on the schedule to help your child re-adjust to her typical day to day.

What may also happen while you're away or busy for the holidays, is that your child may miss a specific nap and then go down fine for bed and sleep well, perhaps even better than they usually do. This does not mean that they are ready to drop that nap. It is more than likely that they have just crashed from exhaustion and not because they are ready to give up the nap. Another 3-4 days of the same missed nap and they would be in full sleep regression mode.

Naps on strike

Lufimorgan | Dreamstime


How to handle the nap strike

Here are some steps to help you learn how to handle this new bump in the road!

Step 1: Don’t panic! Again, this is quite common. A missed nap here and there, or even 2 or 3 days in a row is no reason to worry.

Step 2: Take a look at the schedule. Is your child sleeping when they should be during the day? Are they getting enough daytime sleep? Oftentimes, if little ones are not getting enough sleep it will cause them to fight sleep even more. If they are not sleeping at the right times throughout the day, they might either be too tired or not tired enough.

Step 3: If the schedule looks good, keep offering that nap. Your child may need more support falling asleep or staying in their bed and that’s okay. Try and keep it as minimal as you can but know that a little extra support can help. The goal after a nap strike, especially once a few days pass, is to get your baby or child’s system back on track and used to sleeping at those specific times.

Step 4: Most nap strikes should only last a few days to a week. If your child is still struggling after that you may need to dig a little further. Have there been any changes in your child’s day to day routine such as new daycare, travelling parent, new sibling, new provider, illness, or hospital visit?

Nap strikes can be a source of frustration and upset for both you and your child. However, the less discouraged you get and the calmer you remain, the more likely your child will fall back into their old schedule. Considering their current sleep routine, environment, and the emotional aspect of your child’s day to day can help you determine if there is anything that could be tweaked. For the most part though, the more consistent you are, the faster they get back on track.

Yes, a routine is important for a child's nap and sleep hygiene, but life isn't always routine. Here's how to manage sleep schedule interruptions so everyone stays rested.

*Originally published February 10, 2017