If you landed here, then you've probably in for a fight: the afternoon nap fight. Suddenly your baby just doesn't want to nap in the afternoon anymore. But you are not alone. Many parents around the world fight this fight. But it doesn't have to be like that. Continue reading to find out more.

Afternoon naps can be a real battle. Over are the newborn days when your little one fell asleep anytime and anywhere. They wouldn't care if it was day or night. They would just snooze.

But now things have changed. Your baby got bigger, and so did their interest in the world. Day by day, the afternoon nap started to become a struggle. Instead of sleeping, your little one's eyes are wide open, analyzing their environment with great interest. Meanwhile, you are jumping up and down, going back and forth, thinking to yourself, "why don't you just sleep, please?"

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So what is it about that dreaded afternoon nap? Why is the last nap of the day so hard to achieve?

Well, believe me, you are not alone. You are not the only parent trying to desperately get their baby to sleep, and your baby is not the only baby driving their parent crazy.

In this article, we will discuss why babies have a hard time falling asleep in the afternoon and what you can do to get them to sleep peacefully without walking a thousand miles.

This article covers:

1. Why Is The Afternoon Nap So Hard?

I have seen babies that sleep through the night but would not nap in the afternoon. Ok, those were not my babies, but still. Even if you have the best snoozer at nighttime, you can still end up in a nap battle in the afternoon.

But how come babies have such a hard time falling asleep in the afternoon?

Naturally, the afternoon nap is harder to achieve, just like the morning nap is the easiest of all. The drive for sleep is the lowest at this time of the day.

There are several reasons for that. But the main reason your baby starts to fight the afternoon nap is simply that they are getting older.

As your little one grows, they need less sleep. They have less sleep pressure during the day, and they are much more interested in the world around them than in sleeping.

2. Reasons For Nap Refusals

The growing age plays a main role, but there are other causes that can lead to regular nap refusals. Let's take a closer look at all the possible reasons for nap refusals.

4 Month Sleep Regression

This one you just got to love. The 4 month sleep regression does not only bless you with frequent night wakings and a grumpy baby. No, it also comes with nap battles. This sleep regression can start between 3-5 months of age.

Related Article: How To Survive The 4 Month Sleep Regression With An Actual SMILE

Low Sleep Pressure

If your baby has a lunch nap, chances are that they are not tired enough in the afternoon to take another nap. Midday naps are super restorative for babies, and if they have a good stretch of sleep for about 1.5-2 hours, they are not going to develop enough sleep pressure for the afternoon nap.

Related Article: The Undertired Baby Is Real - 5 Signs Your Baby Is Undertired

Nap Transition

If our baby is around 7-8 months, they might approach their first real nap transition. At this age, most babies drop their afternoon nap completely. Typical signs of an upcoming nap transition are fighting naps, taking a lot of time to fall asleep, and bedtime becoming late.

No Regular Naps

While you do not need to follow a strict nap schedule, regular naps can be helpful. It's easier to spot under- and overtiredness and can better predict when the next nap is going to happen. Usually, babies develop a regular nap pattern on their own after about 2 months. But if your baby's naps are all over the place, it can be really difficult to achieve that last nap of the day.

Related Article: Finding Better Sleep With a Sleep Schedule


If you have a baby younger than 6 months, they might be overtired by the time you are trying to get them to sleep. Young babies are very prone to getting overtired in the afternoon. Their cortisol levels are too high to fall asleep, and they get either hyperactive or are inconsolably crying.

Related Article: Typical Signs of an Overtired Baby and How to Get Them to Sleep

Sensitive Babies

Together with overtiredness, sensitive babies and very young babies up to 3 months experience something that is called purple crying. All the stimulation from the day accumulates, and they get unsettled or cry inconsolably. This can already start in the late afternoon. Often parents then try to get their baby to sleep but fail.

Sleep Environment

The sleep environment can also play a role. If your baby is exposed to too many distractions, they can have a hard time falling asleep.


You and I are not the only ones suffering from FOMO. Your baby is just like us, having a fear of missing something out on something. A bird, a car, or the 100th time playing peekaboo. It may not be huge for us, but it is definitely huge for them.

I don't think my baby realizes that that nap is not for them but for me.

3. How To Get Your Baby To Nap In The Afternoon

Now let's talk business: how can we get that baby to sleep without a fight?

Figure Out if They Really Need a Nap

We are all grieving every single daytime nap we have to let go. I mean, nap time is holy to us. I get it. But sometimes, it's for the greater good. You need to figure out if your baby really needs that nap or if maybe they are indeed ready to drop it.

If your baby shows any of the following signs, they are probably ready to drop the afternoon nap:

  • Your baby is about 7 months old
  • Your baby fights the afternoon nap for more than a week
  • Bedtime becomes late
  • Your baby is in a pretty good mood in the afternoon nap and doesn't seem that tired
  • They take a long time to fall asleep in the afternoon
  • They wake up at night to play
  • Night sleep gets increasingly disrupted by night wakings
  • Their nighttime sleep decreases

If your baby shows some of those signs, you might need to consider cutting the nap completely. In my other blog article, you can find out how to make the nap transition as easy as possible for your baby (and you).

Related Article: When Do Babies Transition To Two Naps? Signs Your Baby Is Ready For 2 Naps

Read Baby's Tired Signs

Timing is key when it comes to daytime sleep. Reading your baby's tired signs is crucial to figure out the right napping time for your baby. When your baby doesn't show any sleep cues before the afternoon nap, it means they are not ready for it.

Tweak Your Naps

Baby naps can be a really delicate matter. 15 minutes are not just 15 minutes in the baby sleep world. 15 minutes can change the whole nap game.

In order to achieve a stress-free afternoon nap, you might need to shorten the nap before and increase the wake window until your afternoon nap. A longer nap and too short wake time before the afternoon nap will decrease your chances of getting your baby to sleep.

Have The Nap On The Go

When it comes to the afternoon nap, the main goal is just to get your baby to sleep. It's as simple as that. Don't worry about bad sleep habits or sleep associations. Just get that baby to sleep ANY WAY YOU CAN. Drop the pre-nap routine and all your expectations about how your baby should fall asleep.

Having the nap on the go is often the easiest way to get a baby to sleep. Use the stroller or carrier to get your baby to sleep. The combination of movement and going outside is the sleep potion that works for many babies.

Check The Environment

Whether you are having the nap on the go or outside, make sure you are not facing too many disruptions. If you have the nap at home, keep it dark and quiet. When you are outside, prefer quiet streets where not too much is going on.

Keep Your Cool

I know it can be difficult to stay calm and relaxed when your baby is having a nap strike or screams because they just don't want to nap. But you need to remind yourself that you are your baby's source of calm.

Babies are extremely receptive to stress, and they feel every little cortisol drop in your system. If you are all stressed out, they are never going to go down peacefully.

Give It Time

It is completely normal for your baby to need time to fall asleep. Everything between 10-20 minutes is actually quite good. Give them the time they need to unwind from everything they experienced until now.

Stop After 30 Minutes

If you have been trying to get your baby to sleep for more than 30 minutes, then it is definitely time to stop for your and your baby's sanity.

If you believe they do need that nap, then you can try again in half an hour. Until then, give yourself a break.

4. What To Do If You Baby Doesn't Nap

If your baby doesn't nap, don't panic. I guarantee you they will survive. Remind yourself that you can never force sleep on your baby. And your mental health will be better off if you stop fighting.

If Your Baby Is Unsettled

I know it can be difficult to have an unsettled baby on your hands. But it is not your job to prevent every little cry. Just support their emotions with your calm. Use soothing techniques like rocking, nursing, and a pacifier. If your baby wants to nurse frequently, just let them be. Or go out for a walk even if your baby doesn't sleep. Getting outside always works wonders for crying babies.

For yourself, you can use headphones or earplugs to reduce the volume of their crying, so it doesn't get to you. You can listen to affirmations, classical music, or nature sounds to help you keep calm.

Related Article: 10 Amazing Tricks to Calm a Crying Baby

If Your Baby Is Happy

If your baby is actually doing fine and doesn't sleep because they are not tired enough, then your goal is just to make it to bedtime.

If your baby skipped the afternoon nap, chances are they are going to get tired earlier. It's ok to move bedtime forward, but a bedtime too early can also lead to early morning wakes. Therefore, engage in more quiet time and offer healthy snacks to preserve your baby's energy levels. Have your bedtime routine earlier than usual, so when they get tired, you don't struggle with a crying baby while doing your bedtime routine.

5. FAQ About The Afternoon Nap

Why is the afternoon nap important?

The afternoon nap is practically a bridge to bedtime. Many babies cannot yet handle one long awake time. The afternoon nap can help them make it to bedtime without getting overtired. That's why it is often called a power nap.

How long should the afternoon nap be?

The afternoon nap is usually a very short nap. Most babies even wake by themselves after one sleep cycle. You don't want to go for a too long nap in the afternoon. If you let your baby sleep for too long, then you will need a later bedtime. A 15-25 minutes nap is often enough.

When do most babies drop the afternoon nap?

Most babies show the first signs of dropping the afternoon nap at 6-7 months. That's when the first nap battles can begin. However, most babies drop the nap completely only at 8-9 months.

Until what time should my baby have the afternoon nap?

That really depends on when you want your bedtime to be. Bedtime will always depend on the last nap. I usually recommend not having a nap past 5:30 PM if you want to keep a bedtime of 8:00-8:30 PM.

How much time should be between a baby's last nap and bedtime?

That really depends on your baby's age. For babies around 3-6 months, it is mostly 2 hours. After 6 months, it can be 2.5-3 hours. Watch your baby's tired signs to figure out their individual sleep needs.