My 9 month old baby won't nap unless he's being held

by Christa Bowling
(Houston, TX)

Question: My son has always been happy and generally a good sleeper. Up until the age of 4 months, we swaddled him for naps and bed and he would sleep on his own. At 4 months, he started to roll over and decided to stop being swaddled at the same time. So, we let him cry it out at night since we couldn't hold him all night and he was sleeping fairly well after only 2 nights. We always gave him a bath, changed for bed, did a bottle and put him down almost asleep and he did fine. Over the next few months, we even managed to cut out the night time bottles without too much crying on his part. Naps, however, have been totally different. I tried the cry it out method for naps at 4 months, since the book I read said to do naps and bed time all at once and get it over with. But he would cry for an hour at nap time and get no sleep. I would give him a bottle and wait until he was asleep and try to put him down and his eyes would pop open immediately. So after about 4 days, I gave in.

Since that time, he's been held for his naps every day. They went from 3 naps to 2 around 6 months. Now, he's 9 months and 23 pounds and getting harder to hold for so long. So I tried the cry it out method again. For a week now I have listened to my son cry for over an hour at each nap and then finally give up only to sleep for 15-30 minutes and wake up in a worse mood than when he went to sleep. I have had enough.

My main question is, since he sleeps so well at night and even can go down awake and go to sleep, what's the harm in holding him for his naps? And if I should put him down for naps, how can I do it without all the screaming?

I miss my happy baby boy and I miss my cuddle time with him. The pediatrition suggested one nap, but I don't know that he's ready for that yet. Any help would be appreciated. His normal schedule for the day is up around 6-7am, first nap between 8-9am and, if held, he would sleep from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, and then lunch and second nap around 1-2pm sleeping 1-2 hours and then bed around 7pm. Right now his schedule is erratic and we try to do a morning nap around 7:30am, but he usually won't take a morning nap, so we try to do a 12pm afternoon nap, and when he doesn't do that either, it's a 5pm bedtime resulting in a 4am wake-up which means we give him an extra bottle to get him back to sleep until 6 or 7am and start all over.

All my instincts are telling me to hold him for his naps, but everyone around me is telling me to let him cry it out. Please advise.

Thank you,
Christa Bowling

Heidi's Answer: Dear Christa,

Crying it out obviously is not working for his naps right now. Holding him does. It gives you and him nice regular days with good naps, and good nights ... Those are such important things to have that there is really no reason no to try and keep it that way.

So for now, do keep the two naps and do hold him to help him sleep at those naps. Be sure to keep encouraging the self settling for the night of course.

Then, start working with the gentle method I describe on the self soothing page. This will help you to gradually move from holding until deeply asleep, to less and less asleep, to awake. It may take a while and some patience but does result in good self soothing that lasts and that will also help with the nights if necessary.

Good luck,

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