We've got a 16 month old girl who has been on a fairly regular sleep schedule for a long time now. Recently, in the matter of about a week, she refuses to nap anymore though. We do our normal nap wind down, and when we get to her crib she whimpers and when put in the crib she screams at the top of her lungs standing at the edge. She will do this for the entire minimum of an hour, which we try to enforce. Before this she was pushing up to 2.5hr naps, which were great. The nap time is on a regular schedule, and since she's started doing this she is clearly showing signs of being tired as it approaches.

Her ideal sleep schedule is:

  • Wake 7am.
  • Nap 9am
  • Wake 10-11 on her own.
  • Nap 1pm, or 2pm (about 2-2.5 hrs after previous wake)
  • Wake 3-4pm
  • Bedtime routine about 4 hours after last wake (bath, change, book, milk bottle, in crib)
  • In crib usually about 745-830, depending on day's timings
  • Generally cries about 15-20 minutes, sometimes needing an extra rocking, but then goes to sleep well.
  • Sleeps through night ideally, sometimes one wake.

This all went out the window recently with her refusing to nap. Its also gotten more difficult to put her to sleep at night since, when she cries more than usual. She has always cried when going to sleep, but now more. She has been waking more than usual at night as well, sometimes for 2 hours when she is not hungry, but wants to be awake, held or running around her crib talking/babbling to herself. Of course, we are required to be there and she screams until that happens. Sometimes she tries to fall asleep in our arms, but generally can't do that. The moment we put her back in her crib to sleep she screams a piercing scream.

We generally have found letting her cry for a bit will let her fall asleep, but lately it is all scream or be held, a very strong attachment need happening. How can we get past this and resume naps? Why might she be doing this now?


3 Answers 3


I'm no expert as my baby doesn't sleep as well as yours at night but that seems a lot of daytime napping for a 16 month old. I would think she's ready to at least start transitioning to one nap, if not drop one nap completely. She's probably crying because she isn't tired when you put her in bed for her nap.

From what I've read there are two main ways to drop to one nap:

  1. Limit the length of the first nap so that the child can still manage a longer second nap and eventually cut out the first nap when ready

  2. Gradually move the first nap later and adjust the bedtime earlier if you can't fit in a second nap. Allowing some rest time later in the day might help

My baby is only 12 months but has always been on the longer end of suggested wake time length and is already starting to transition to one nap. For us I had to keep moving the first nap later in order for him to sleep a decent length of time. This ended up making the second nap short. Now more often than not he takes a later (12 ish) nap which lasts a good amount of time - up to 2 hours if the timing is right. On days when he manages 2 hours, we can't fit in a second nap and we have a bit earlier bedtime.

If your daughter has been managing 2 naps happily until recently, she's probably not ready to drop the nap completely yet but I think you'll need to start adjusting the schedule. I should think this will help with nights as well as the behaviour you describe sounds like she is not tired enough to sleep well.

It can be a tricky time when dropping naps and from what I've read, this one is the hardest so you should read up some more about how to handle it as I haven't described how to do it in detail. Good luck.

  • We tried dropping a nap about 2 months ago, by moving up the first to be more of a middle nap, but the result was a slumped over exhausted baby for much of the day. It may be time to revisit this now though, your detailed tips are helpful.
    – Miro
    Jan 4, 2015 at 18:05
  • +1 There's no reason to expect a 16mo to nap two hours after waking up in the mornng. You say the schedule is her ideal schedule - but on what basis? :-) Kids continually change and grow up - I think you need to switch to one nap per day. Also I think it's very likely the crying will reduce greatly or stop! Good luck
    – MontyBom
    Jan 25, 2016 at 14:54

How is the little one doing with teeth? Our little dude just broke two teeth and slept better the whole next week. Now we are back to screaming but his canines looks close.


We've also made a similar experience around the same age, our daughter simply didn't want to go to sleep during the day. In the retrospective, I can definitely say that this was merely a phase. She made a leap ahead in her development and this made her day too interesting to accept a mandatory break. Eventually this effect faded away and the simple day sleep routine came back.

However, I would consider crying a clear sign of trouble. Children should feel safe and comfortable in their crib, once they associate something negative with it getting away from that perception will be very hard. Here is the things we did to make sure our daughter doesn't despise sleeping during the day:

  • Sleep in our bed rather than her crib (change).
  • My wife or me will always lie down next to her, and show that we want to sleep as well (lead by example).
  • In the bed, read a few pages from a book she chose before switching off lights and actually going to sleep (fun and gives her a chance to quieten down).
  • During the very problematic phases we would also do something to relax her, e.g. "baking a pizza" on her back (massage).

In addition, it should always be considered whether the times are still right for her. Obviously, she will need less sleep as she grows. But there will also be temporary phases where she needs more or less sleep than usual. Note that crying takes away lots of energy - if she cannot fall asleep without that then maybe she really isn't tired. You can just try to let her play a bit longer. Of course, you should watch out for signs of her being tired (children being fretful in particular is usually a sign that they are overdue for sleep).

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