As you may have noticed, babies need a lot of sleep – A LOT! When they are newborns they can sleep anywhere and seem not to be disturbed by noise or light. This starts to change as they get a bit older and a sleep conducive environment becomes important. BUT, they still need a lot of sleep. This can make parents feel like they are stuck at home, thus trapped by the nap.
I have been down this road twice with my own kids. I also talk about this often with my clients. Honoring the sleep our babies need is a bit of a sacrifice of freedom to go anywhere at anytime. It is though, important for our children’s health and growth.
So how can we find that balance where they get the rest that they need and we can get out a bit? This here is the question I will answer for you:
Ensure that your baby is getting the rest they need
Here’s the deal; a baby will bounce back a lot faster from naps on the run or skipped naps if they are getting the rest that they need. So, first and foremost, establish a set nap schedule based on your child’s needs for their age. For example, a baby 4-8 months, likely needs 2-3 naps a day with an early bedtime. If you’ve got a well rested child to start with you are in a better place to make exceptions to the routine.
Yup, once you have a well rested baby, you can and should make exceptions now and then. It is good for us parents and babies to get out. They need to explore life a bit and we need it for our sanity, right? So, how do you do that?
It’s fairly simple, just keep 80/20 in your mind. 80% of the time you want to stick to the schedule and honor your baby’s sleep in a sleep conducive environment and 20% of the time you can skip naps, do later bedtimes or take naps on the run. The one thing to remember here is that you want to make up for the lost sleep with an earlier bedtime that night or the following night.
Another piece of good news: the cat-nap can be taken on the run!
On those 80% days, you can still get out between naps. Maximize your time by preparing all that you need for yourself and for your baby when they are napping. This means, pack the diaper bag and throw it in the car. Even prepare their lunch or dinner and have a meal on the run. My boys and I used to do picnic lunches every day when they had multiple naps. This way, you can just get them up and go.
You can also stick to the schedule somewhere else. As an example, if you can set up a portable crib at a friends or grandma’s house, you are still sticking to the plan. Good news right?
A set schedule makes planning easier
Rather than feeling trapped by the nap, consider an alternative: a set schedule makes planning easier. If you want to meet a friend at the park or for lunch, you know exactly when your baby will be sleeping and awake.
Know this is temporary
This is the truth. Before you know it, your baby will be down to one nap or none and your days will feel much more free than they do now. You may even miss the naps ;).
Hang in there! You are giving your child a great gift by honoring the sleep that they need.
Certified Sleep Consultant
Good Night Sleep Site Florida