What to Do When Your Toddler Refuses to Nap

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If you would rather read than watch my above video then here is the transcript of this week’s video:

Hello, I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady. Today, I’m going to answer Emily’s question about her toddler who refuses to nap:

I have a 25-month-old who refuses to nap-he is in month 6 of nap refusal. He was napping 2-3 hours per day until my daughter was born. Since then, it is a mess. He still needs to sleep because he’s so tired. The only way he will nap is if he falls asleep in the car or the stroller. I can then transfer him usually to his bed. If I put him in a bed awake, he screams or simply comes back downstairs. Please help! I feel like a terrible parent as I’m sure a lot of this is my fault.

First of all Emily take heart, because I’m not sure it’s all your fault. Honestly, I think you should forgive yourself because feeling guilty is not going to help you fix the problem. We all do whatever we need to do to survive, particularly when you had a newborn and a very young first child under two when you bring the new baby home. I have to commend your son! He has an incredible amount of stamina-6 months of refusing a nap. That’s amazing. Obviously, you cannot make him sleep. You can only create the environment; have the right timing; and then give him the rules about staying in his room.

Crib or Bed

I did notice that you said that he comes out of his room, so I get the impression that he’s not in a crib anymore. I do have to say that  this may be part of the issue. He doesn’t completely understand what it means to stay in your bed all night long (or for nap time). Toddlers don’t have impulse control, so usually they just pop out and come running, which is exactly what he’s doing. Did you did move him to a big bed because of the baby? If so, it’s likely that the baby is in the crib. If  you don’t want to backtrack by putting your son into a crib, or you don’t want to get another crib for him, then you’re  going to have to completely safety proof his room and gate his doorway. Then just say something along the lines of ‘you have to have quiet time in your room, but we’re not coming out until the timer goes off’ (or you could get a great wakeup light).

Use a Modified Shuffle

You may even want to consider trying for the onset of sleep (if you can do this with your other baby) by staying with him and doing a modified Shuffle just for naps. You’ll have to pay attention to see if that could be over stimulating if you chose to try. To do a modified Shuffle, first sit by his bed, then after a few days move by the door, and then on the other side of the gate. I would only try for an hour and I would try everyday. After, if you have tried for  2 days (a maximum of 3), or he doesn’t nap and you start to see him fall apart (which you’re probably already seeing), then I would just put him in a stroller or the car. It’s okay to do whatever works. Let him have at least a 45-minute nap and do not try to transfer him.

Don’t do any risky business just because he refuses to nap, okay? Let him have a nap so that he could have a little tiny bit of catch up and make sure his bedtime is early, especially on the days that he doesn’t nap. It’s got to be 7:00 p.m., possibly 8:00 p.m., but only if he takes a 45-minute nap that day. I think right now he’s sleep-deprived and he has a lot of catching up to do. Don’t lose hope.

Sweet dreams,

Kim West,

The Sleep Lady

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have struggled with a child who refuses to nap, feel free to share your experiences and support. Please feel free to click the “reply” link under this article and leave them a comment. Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!


Our 23 month-old naps very well, but has difficulty going to sleep at night.  He's been taking 1 nap per day, usually 2 to 3 hours long for the last 5 or 6 months.  After his lunch and usual routine, he'll  fall right to sleep without fussing in about 5 minutes.   However, going to sleep at night is a different story.  Even though we have nighttime routine that we've read about in many books, when we finally put him down he doesn't seem to be ready for sleep.  We'll put him down and sometimes he'll roll around, talk and play in his crib for 30-60 minutes before finally passing out.  We usually just have one teddy bear and a blanket in his crib, but he finds ways to keep himself busy.  Other times he'll cry or fuss for the entire 30-60 minutes.  It seems odd because he does so well at nap time.  Our bedtime routine includes bathing, brushing teeth, dim lighting and about 15 minutes of reading books and rocking.  

Another thing I find odd is that every-so-often his consistent nap schedule is thrown off by a sudden bout of not being tired.   99 out of 100 times he'll fall right to sleep at naptime, but every once in a while (usually when we really need him to take a nap, like before going out of the house) he'll act likes he's not tired at all.   Is this normal?  He'll skip his nap completely and then resume his long 2-3 hour nap the very next day.   On these strange days, we did nothing different during the day as far as diet and routine.   

breefawn moderator

@daddydaycare2014  Thank you for sharing! I would encourage you to post to The Sleep Lady's Facebook wall so that a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach can help you: www.facebook.com/thesleeplady

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