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I have a wonderful 15 month old little boy who has started refusing to nap. Up until now he was mostly a good sleeper and would take naps in his crib without issue or too much resistance. About two months ago he had to have surgery which came with a very unpleasant recovery period. Part of this meant that sleep was difficult. After the recovery period was over we were advised to start working on a few things, including weaning him off of formula and onto cow's milk and eventually off of bottles altogether (his doctors had us keep him on them up until now). We also started working on self-soothing sleep training (putting him down while asleep / drowsy and letting him get himself to sleep, checking on him if he is crying at increasing intervals). While he did not care for that, he did get the hang of it and was able to get himself to sleep for naps within a few minutes for a week or two.

And then something happened. I don't know what it was, but he has staunchly refused to nap for the last week. We still give him a bottle before naps (though it is getting smaller to try and wean him and it's only cows milk at this point) and he will almost always fall asleep in our arms. The problem comes when putting him in the crib. Any attempt to do so causes him to wake up and start crying and kicking furiously. Very rarely do we actually make it from the chair to the crib without him waking up. If we are lucky enough to get him to the crib he will wake up as soon as we try to put him down. We try to rub his back to get him back to sleep to no avail. He will sit up and cry and scream to be picked up again. If we leave him to cry it out (checking on him at increasing intervals) he can go for over 2 hours and still not go to sleep.

At this point my wife and I are losing our sanity. He's grumpy, fussy and whiney during the day. He has dark circles under his eyes from not getting enough sleep. He clearly needs a nap but will not take one.

Things we have tried:

  • Sleep training / letting him cry it out
  • Taking him for car rides (might get him to sleep but the sleep is never good and this isn't a sustainable option)
  • Taken him to the pediatrician. She suspects it's just part of a normal sleep regression, but this has been bad for over a month. The recovery period might have made it worse but it shouldn't have lasted this long (right?)
  • The pediatrician checked him for ear infections. He had a mild one and took antibiotics for it. It has cleared up, but hasn't made a difference in napping.
  • The pediatrician also advised that we should probably just give up on a nap if he hasn't gone to sleep after half an hour. We've tried that for a bit but that seems to have just reinforced the idea that he can scream his way out of a nap.

Other advice we have gotten so far:

  • "He doesn't need a nap anymore" - He is very clearly tired. He gets between 10 and 11 hours of sleep at night but that does not sustain him throughout the entire day. He becomes increasingly grumpy and fussy as the day goes on. Sometimes he's even laid down and almost fallen asleep (but of course he never quite does and trying to take him to his room to nap ends up being a giant failure).
  • "He only needs one nap" - Sure, I'm ok with that. The problem is I can't get him to take even one at anytime during the day. We've tried going to one nap around lunchtime but he won't sleep. We've tried earlier. We've tried later. We've tried waiting until he is showing every sign of being tired before attempting a nap. No success.

We are also getting worried that letting him cry it out for this long is causing him harm, which is adding to our stress.

The most agitating thing about all of this is he has demonstrated that he is capable of self-soothing and sleeping on his own. He just won't do it. He can be stubborn if he wants to be (and I know exactly where he gets it from, both Mom and I can be very stubborn if we need to be).

What can we do? What haven't we tried? My wife and I are stressed and tired and losing our minds. We don't have time to hold him through naps and dealing with him in a napless state leaves us both drained long before bedtime. We need help and we need it bad.

I've seen this question and we've been trying to move to one nap but again, it hasn't worked at all. We know he is tired when we go to put him down so that answer on that question also did not help. We've tried googling for how to deal with a kid who could self-soothe but now won't and that just brings up a ton of articles on "How to teach your child to self-soothe" which are unhelpful because we have already done that and are still doing it.

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    This is not medical advice, it’s a question: have you ever tried giving acetaminophen maybe half an hour before nap time? IOW, have you ruled out teething pain in any manner? Pain throws everything off. Nov 13 '21 at 22:59
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    We've tried giving him Tylenol before nap and bedtime. It hasn't seemed to make a difference. I can see a molar coming in so I'm sure that isn't helping things.
    – Becuzz
    Nov 14 '21 at 0:19
  • After your child fell asleep in your arms, have you tried putting him down somewhere else than his crib (on your own bed for example)? Does that also wake him up? And if he wakes up, can he get back to sleep if he just feels your presence next to him? Nov 15 '21 at 8:59
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I can’t tell you how to get your baby to sleep on his own. But maybe your sanity will return if you get him to sleep at all.

… he will almost always fall asleep in our arms.

So you’re right, he’s tired and needs a nap. You can feel confident when you refute those who say he may not need a nap. If he falls asleep in your arms, he will probably fall asleep if you wear him. Bound to you correctly, or in a good carrier, he’ll probably go down for as many naps as he needs, and you/your partner can move about doing something more productive than tearing your hair out!

It’s not ideal. It is tiring. But your child will get the sleep he needs for now. Something’s going on, be it teething or anxiety or whatever.

The recovery period might have made it worse but it shouldn't have lasted this long (right?)

Acting differently after a procedure, even a good while after the procedure, is as common as potty regression when a sibling comes along. The more painful the procedure, the longer the disruption (in my experience.) Crying it out won’t help him, and it’s really hard on parents, too.

I wish you the best of luck.

I hope your baby’s PCP ruled out any organic cause of crying, i.e. pain. Whether it’s his ears, his belly, a complication of his procedure or something else, the PCP should be a bit more helpful in giving you some direction.

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    How would you recommend wearing him? I've never done such a thing outside of a carrier thing we can use to wear him on hikes. I doubt that would be very comfortable for him. And I'm having trouble envisioning how to get him to fall asleep in there (he usually falls asleep as we rock him).
    – Becuzz
    Nov 14 '21 at 0:22
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    @Becuzz - Google baby carriers. When mine were little, we only had these metal-framed monstrosities, and as uncomfortable as they looked, our kids fell asleep in them; today there are some truly excellent carriers. He will fall asleep; rocking is rhythmic movement with contact. So is carrying. Maybe a friend has one you can borrow? They can be extremely helpful. Nov 14 '21 at 2:02
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    @Becuzz I am a huge fan of the cloth type ones, although they do have a bit of a steep learning curve. (Mine was a Didymos, basically just five yards of fabric, but a life saver.) There are also a lot of other soft carriers on the market and you can probably find a group of “fans” online or locally, where you can learn about tips and tricks and try them out. Having my then ca. 1yo baby on the back allowed me to explore the rocky shores on holiday trips with hubby and 4yo for example. And I wouldn’t have gotten anything done during year 1 of my first baby’s life.
    – Stephie
    Nov 14 '21 at 12:44
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    My wife swore by the cloth ones. I found them uncomfortable so went with a Baby Bjorn, which worked perfectly for me. We could get on with whatever we wanted - hiking, housework, gardening, and the baby slept like a log.
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 15 '21 at 12:48
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    We had the same problem as the OP and we did exactly as anongoodnurse suggested. In our case, they started to have trouble sleeping during the day in the early weeks. Driving around worked, but was not feasible for ~6+ hours a day, so I started to carry her with a baby sling. A lot of the bigger baby sling sellers also have how-tos on their webpage. E.g., the one from Didymos: didymos.de/en/babywearing-advisor/tutorials/…). For us, our midwife showed us how too bind it.
    – Libranova
    Nov 29 '21 at 8:56

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