After working so hard to get sleep on track, thinking about going off track can be a little nerve racking. Have no fear! Restful Parenting has some great tips below to help you plan your off track day and strategies to ensure you get back on track again:)
With the nice weather upon us we recognize how important it is to get everyone out. The challenge though, especially with mixed age groups is that getting out and having the time to do what needs to get done can get tricky with naps.
Before we jump in with our tips for getting out and about, know that having a great sleeper now isn’t going to be completely ruined if there’s a late bedtime or nap on the go here and there. As long as you guide their sleep once things are back to normal, your great sleeper will return.
When first getting started with the schedule (recommended around 6 months) or during sleep coaching we do recommend that you stay home for all of their sleep periods. We want to set your child up for success and a consistent sleep space during the adjustment or learning phase. However, it’s short term. Once they have mastered their new skill or have adapted to their daily schedule, you’ll be able to help them maintain their great sleep and you’ll be able to get out and about, socialize and enjoy the time you have off with your little one.
Rearrange the schedule for a day
Try to pick and choose your times that you are going to do naps on the go when you can. If a party is happening at the end of the day, try and stay home for the first part of the day to get the first one or two naps in their sleep space and then rearrange the next one(s).
If your activity is in the morning you can wake your little one up first thing in the morning 15-30 minutes earlier than usual, have their first nap a little earlier and cut it a little short. If they usually sleep 9am-10am, wake them around 945am and make your way out. If there’s another nap to be had perhaps don’t stay for the full duration of the activity so you can be home for their next sleep in bed There were times where I would go late to a birthday party or leave slightly earlier so that my children could get home to nap. I was not missing the entire party and my children were still able to sleep!
Have an occasional nap on the go
Before 2-3 months of age, your little ones are quite portable and sleep well enough on the go. Just be aware of their need for sleep while you are out and about and try to bounce them a bit to help them doze off. However, once they become a little older, they become more alert, which is when the on the go naps don’t always work out as planned.
Sleeping in motion for all naps is not the best option on a regular basis. Motion sleep tends to keep babies in a lighter, more fragmented sleep which means that they don’t necessarily get that deep restorative sleep they need. However, this does not mean that they can never again sleep in motion. You just want to be selective about it and try not to do it all of the time!
Think about how you feel after you have slept in the car…Not the best sleep right?!
If you do a nap on the go, try to aim to have the first nap of the day on the go so that the 2nd nap can be a restful sleep in their bed.
If you do one nap or all naps on the go for a day here and there, it shouldn’t set you back too much (unless your child was still in the learning/sensitive phase of just having learned to fall asleep on their own.) It is important to note though, that if their schedule has been altered a lot it could cause them to become overtired that day, which could mean a little more night waking or early rising the next morning. No biggie though! Spend the next few days focusing on getting them back on track.
In order to maximize the time you have while you are out, have snack prepared, have yourself and anything or anyone else that will be going with you ready to go so that as soon as baby wakes up, you can leave right away.
If you have dinners or events at other people’s houses, you can plan to put your little one to sleep there and then transfer them once you leave. This does not always go as planned so you would just need to go with the flow that night. Bring a playpen and all of their favourite sleep items to make it easier on them to settle into sleep.
The other option would be to keep your child up slightly later and allow them to fall asleep in the car and transfer them to their own bed once you get home.
Anytime you go somewhere close to bedtime, bring pyjamas so that if your child falls asleep in the car on the way home, you can simply just place them in bed with minimal disturbance.
Remember that any time you throw your baby’s routine off track or they miss a nap, they may very well become overtired, which could cause more upset for sleep times that day, more wakings during the night or a very early morning. As long as you spend the next few days getting things back on track and not going off of schedule or missing naps every single day, things will go back to normal in no time!
Important to note: Restful Parenting has PARTNERED with Jennifer Taun of North Bay Counseling Services and we are beyond excited to announce that we are bringing our holistic approach to even more families to help with all things sleep and parenting! This also means that our services may be reimbursed by health care benefits under social worker.
**Editors Note: This post was originally published in September 2021 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.