How to Stop Contact Naps

How to Stop Contact Naps

Learn tips about how to stop contact naps.

When your baby is a newborn, you can’t hold them enough! Looking down at your new baby asleep in your arms is the best feeling.  You can hold them all day and snuggle for every nap if you want to. But there comes a time when you need to lay them down for naps and end the contact nap cycle. Contact naps are essentially when you hold your baby, co-sleep, let them lay on your chest, or any other form of laying on or near you for sleep. If your baby will only sleep on or near you, this post is for you! 

When babies fall asleep on or near you only, they don’t ever enter that deep sleep phase that we want them to reach. If they’re not ever getting good, solid, deep sleep, they aren’t recharging their bodies. Babies and toddlers both need good, restorative sleep to grow, learn, and develop. Because they aren’t getting deep sleep while napping on you, they aren’t learning how to connect sleep cycles which can prevent independent sleep habits from forming. As rewarding as parenting is, it’s also hard– especially when it’s filled with sleepless nights. Below I’ve listed some sleep tips that can help you get out of the cycle of contact naps and get them sleeping on their own so that you can buy back time for yourself!

How to Stop Contact Naps

Sleep Training

Sleep training is the first and best tip I can give anyone looking to stop holding their baby for nap time. If your baby is 4 months old, you can start sleep training. Please remember that sleep training does not mean setting your baby down in their crib wide awake, letting them cry and scream themselves to sleep! There are SO many different ways you can sleep train your baby. From slow, gentle sleep training methods to faster methods involving some crying- but not torturous crying, don’t worry! I have an entire post dedicated to the benefits of sleep training that goes into more detail!

Sleep Environment

Make sure your baby’s sleep environment is conducive to getting good sleep! Your baby should sleep in a safe sleep space (firm, flat mattress with nothing else in the crib) in a dark room with white noise of some kind in the background. Getting your baby to sleep independently is so much easier when you have a calming room or space set up for them to sleep soundly. There are a ton of baby sleep products that can help them sleep better!

Nap / Bedtime Routine

Babies and toddlers THRIVE on routine! A good bedtime routine signals to their brain that it’s time for sleep. A nighttime routine does not have to be long and drawn out with many steps. It can be as simple as changing, feeding, rocking, and putting them to bed. Apply whatever routine you choose for day and night sleep.  If you’re consistent with your routine, your baby will learn that these steps lead to sleepy time and develop solid sleep patterns. 

Be Consistent

Consistency is KEY when teaching your baby the new skill of sleeping independently. Once you decide to stop contact napping and have them start sleeping on their own, it’s best to stick with it. If you’re not following a routine every night, it sends mixed signals to your baby and can ultimately lead to confusion and lots of protesting, because they know you’ll eventually give in and soothe them.

Avoid an Overtired Baby

Overtired babies lead to grumpy babies which leads to babies who have a hard time falling asleep. Keep a close eye on age-appropriate wake windows for your baby when you’re switching to independent naps from contact naps. If your baby is overtired they have a much, MUCH harder time falling asleep in their crib. 

Don’t Give Mixed Signals

This goes hand in hand with being consistent! If you are going back and forth and eventually giving in to holding your baby for naps, this sends very mixed signals to them and can confuse them. Stick with a process and follow through- they will learn to self-soothe and your life will get a lot easier! 

If after trying these steps you’re still having trouble, please let me know! I’m happy to offer one-on-one support to help your baby start sleeping through the night independently. My 3-4 month sleep guide is also a great way to get started with sleep training. Follow me on Instagram for more updates!

29 Comments on “How to Stop Contact Naps”

  1. Help lol!

    My 15 week old (13weeks, he was early)
    Will not take to his crib or bassinet for naps. I want to stop the contact naps but I cave after 3 attempts of setting him in his crib bevahze I don’t want to miss the nap…

    I co sleep and want to end this too

    1. Happy to help you! Contact naps are common for this age, I would definitely try some of the tips in this blog and then if you are still in need of help, checkout my 1:1 or group sleep coaching services. Contact napping is normal but once baby is closer to 16 weeks adjusted we can definitely teach independent sleep skills!

  2. My 17 week old boy sleep great at night we have got into a really good routine for bedtime he sleeps 10 hours at night straight , our problem is during the day naps he just wants contact naps during the day or he will only have 10mins naps on his own

    1. That’s a great sign that night sleep is going well, daytime sleep takes longer, typically babies consolidate and settle for nighttime sleep first, this is biologically normal. If you want to introduce crib naps, I’d start with coming up with a schedule and sleep training method to help them go down awake and independently. I can help you with this or I have many resources that you can do this on your own including my infant sleep training guide here

  3. I have a 10 week old who only contact naps. I follow the age appropriate wake windows to time his naps and let him sleep however long he wants. We sit in the recliner in his room, he nurses to sleep then I move him to my chest. Sometimes I can transition him to a swing and have him sleep there if I time it right. When should I start getting him to nap independently? I also co sleep, should we make the transition from co sleeping at the same time? Or is it better to do get naps independent then work on transitioning from co sleeping? Sometimes I can get him asleep in the bed with me for his nap and slip out but he always wakes up soon after. Same thing at night if I get up to pump even if he is dead asleep I will get 10-15 minutes into pumping and he will be awake. He was sleeping through the night until I started getting up to pump due to mastitis.

    1. Hi Abby – contact napping and wanting physical comfort is SO normal. I would wait to work on independent sleep until closer to 14 weeks and I’d do it for days and nights together, if you’re ready. I have lots of great (Free and paid) resources on my website on where and how to start independent sleep. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

  4. Help!!!
    My baby is only 5 weeks old and I contact sleep with her at night she would independently sleep for naps but now she is starting to want to contact sleep for naps and bedtime. How can I break her from sleeping on my chest

  5. My 12 week old girl only wants contact naps and every time we set her down she will wake up. she also seems to start experiencing a regression since 2 nights because after 4 hours of night sleep, she wakes up every 1 hr. She was a great night sleeper with up to 6 hours of straight sleep and only 2 night wakings. I’m desperate to start formal sleep training-what’s the earliest week I can do it? Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi mama – I hear you, the developmental stuff going on at 12 weeks is a lot!! If your baby is showing signs of sleep changes and it’s harder to get them to sleep and to stay asleep, you can definitely start working on sleep sooner than later. I’m happy to help you with this! Send me an email or checkout my sleep services on my website. Thanks!!

    2. Hi Caroline!
      How has it been with your little one since you wrote the message? I’m in the same boat and curious how things are going.

  6. Hi, our kiddo is almost 2 (22 months) and still insists on contact napping. He’s always been a great night sleeper (on his own!), but refuses to budge when it comes to naps. We can sometimes sneak away after he falls asleep, but if he wakes up mid-nap he’s inconsolable. Once he realizes we’re trying to sneak away for naps, he’ll refuse to go to sleep.

    We’ve tried the sleep wave, but he’s headstrong – he’ll simply choose to cry for two whole hours than give up and go to sleep. How can we break this habit before he starts school? Any advice you have is appreciated, thanks.

    1. Hi Alyson – thanks for your comment and for reading my blog! I know it feels impossible but babies can definitely nap on their own. They respond to the cues we lay down for them are what they will use to learn and to be consistent with us. Daytime sleep is ALWAYS harder than nighttime sleep just based on the time of day, stimulation, digestive system is active, etc. Try to work in a 15-20 minute wind down routine before naps, aim to put them into their crib/sleep space 20 – 30 minutes before you want them asleep, since you know it’s going to take them a bit longer to fall asleep. I’d pick a method like the chair method or shorter interval check in to address him going to sleep. Be consistent with it for a week and if there’s no improvement, reach out to me for 1:1 support!

  7. Hello!
    My little one is 10 weeks old and we’re trying to cut daytime contact naps. At night he does well wakes up about 1-2 times for feedings and stays in his bassinet., but in the day as soon as I put him down he wakes 10-15 minutes later crying. I go there sooth him but I end up caving and picking him up. Is it too soon to stoop daytime contact naps ?

    1. Hi there! This is very normal and likely the age! I would wait until she’s 14-16 weeks to start trying to do all naps independently I’m happy to help you navigate this if you’d like!

  8. Hi there! Desperate mama here. 🙂 My baby girl is turning 5 months next week. She will only take contact naps during the day but sleeps great at night in a doc a tot bed that lays between me and my husband. She wakes up about twice a night to feed. I am not quite ready for her to be in a crib at night, but during the day, I am over ready for the contact naps to stop. When I try to lay her down in the crib, she almost always wakes up during the transition or shortly after. She also like to lay on her side and can’t do so in a crib. Any advice is appreciated.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Kaitlyn! The best way to start introducing crib/independent naps is to start with the 1st nap of the day. It’s also best to start to introduce independent sleep, this way she is falling asleep on her own and not getting startled when waking up. I’m happy to help you more if you’d like to setup a call with me!

  9. My daughter is 22 months old and we have contact slept since she was 2 weeks old. We know it’s time to begin that transition to independent sleep but not really sure how to do that. We are moving soon and will temporarily be staying with my parents and will not have her own room or a spot for her bed during that time. I work part time and my mom watches her and she refuses to sleep for them. She will lay herself down and pull up a blanket and relax a little but won’t fall asleep. My mom tries to have her fall asleep on her and tries to get her to sleep on walks in her coach but she has stopped falling asleep for them. It turns into a struggle since her mood completely declines for the rest of the time she is there until we drive home and she naps in the car. They want me to set her somewhere and just let her cry but I’m not sure I can bring myself to do that and even if I did, I have nowhere to just set her down and leave her by herself anyway.

    1. I’d be happy to help you with introducing independent sleep in a way that works for you and your daughter. At this age, I would introduce a more gentle sleep method to get her to sleep on her own. Please reach out if you want to connect further – molly@sleepshore.com

  10. Hi my 7 month old does only contact naps cos we made her used to it ., we feed her to sleep and then try to put her down but she wakes up . Pls help

    1. Hi! I’d recommend to try and start to introduce independent sleep so that she can put herself to sleep on her own and back to sleep on her own, then there won’t be the sudden wakeup when you put her down. I have other blogs on this and can help further if you need!

  11. My baby is about 8 weeks old, and we co sleep, but this has led us to contact naps as well. She used to nap on her own, and was pretty good at it (didn’t need any snuggles to stay asleep), but waking up so many times during the night was taking a toll on me, so to be able to care for her better I brought her to the bed. Now I can’t get her to sleep without me at all. I would like to continue cosleeping, as it helps me feel more rested, but break contact napping throughout the day if possible. What can I do?

    1. Hi there – I’d start to practice independent naps by starting with the first nap of the day. I’d aim to have her asleep about 75 minutes after waking up for the day. Using a wake window that ensure she is going down at an age appropriate time and isn’t overtired before going down. Be consistent with how you put her down and practicing crib naps. Reach out to me if you need more tips or help!

  12. My son is 10 weeks old and I recently started to transition from all contact naps to one to two naps in his cot but the most I usually get out of him is 45 minutes, sometimes it’s only 10 minutes. I can sometimes get him back to sleep after a short nap but often not. At the moment I can only put him down asleep for naps. Should I be trying while he’s awake? I feel he wouldn’t sleep

    1. Hi there – at his age, I would just focus on getting him to sleep for naps, I wouldn’t focus on putting him down awake at this time. I would focus on introducing independent sleep training closer to 16 weeks, here to help if you need!!

  13. Hello 🙂

    I have 8 weeks old girl which wants only contact nap. My husband is back at work and since 4 weeks I am alone home, and she contacts nap only with me. In the evening when my husband is home, she also wants to be and sleep with me… it is getting too much for my mental health to sit with her all day. Also I have to do things at home but she wakes up if I put her in nest or crib. How can I break contact naps at this age? It is too much for me 🙁

    1. Hi Joanna – Thanks for reaching out. I’m happy to help you with getting her to sleep more independently and in her bassinet. Your mental health is important! Please reach out to me here molly@sleepshore.com

  14. Hi my 12m use to sleep fine, he got the flu and we did a lot of cuddling, now he won’t sleep unless he’s laying on me. I will let him sleep on me for about a hour then try to lay him on the bed and he will immediately wake up screaming crying. It’s to a point I’m up all night

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