Life After Sleep Training
Sleep training your little one is a demanding endeavor. I’ve never had a client who said it wasn’t worth it, mind you, but nevertheless, it’s a lot of work, and requires a fair amount of discipline.
But once parents get their baby on a steady, predictable nap schedule and sleeping consistently through the night, they sometimes find they have a new issue facing them. They’re scared to deviate in any way from their routine.
It’s totally understandable. After all, they’ve usually gone from a horrible situation where neither they nor their little one was getting any sleep to a completely opposite scenario where everyone is well-rested and happy. That’s a big improvement in the whole family’s quality of life, and one that parents are really, really hesitant to risk upsetting.
But if you’re the parent of a very young baby, that might mean three naps a day and early bedtimes each night, so when are you supposed to, you know, live? And I don’t mean, when are you supposed to get out for a fun night with your girlfriends? I mean, when are you supposed to buy food?
After all, if you’re sticking to a rigid nap schedule with a newborn or young infant, you’ll get about an hour or two at a time when you could conceivably get to the grocery store. Or go to the dentist, or get your hair done, or do any number of essential things that, let’s face it, take longer than an hour.
So, for those times when life insists on impinging on your baby’s sleep schedule, I’ve got some advice for minimizing the impact that shaking things up can have.
First off, wait until you’ve formed a solid foundation for daytime naps. If baby has been sleeping well during the day for about two weeks, you can feel pretty confident about switching things up a little bit every once in awhile.
How often is once in awhile? Well, I like the 80/20 rule. If you’re consistent 80% of the time, you can live your life the other 20%. This balance should be consistent enough so as not to throw anything out of whack, but pliable enough to let you get some things done.
If you have to skip a nap or need to have one take place in the car or the stroller, I suggest you prioritize having the first nap of the day at home. That’s usually the one where baby will get the most deep sleep, so save the car nap for later on in the day if you can.
If you do end up needing to let baby nap in the car (whether that’s for the first nap of the day or later ones) do what you can to make sure she gets a full nap. If your departure for an appointment or errand is around your baby’s nap time, you can plan to leave a little earlier so that she can sleep for at least 30-60 minutes on the go.
Maybe you spent too long browsing the Target aisles (hey, we’ve all been there) or your doctor appointment ran late. Now the nap you thought was going to happen at home may very well happen on the way back. Let’s say your little one falls asleep five minutes into the drive; you might consider just driving around for a bit until she’s had a decent nap. Hit the Starbucks drive-through. Park in your driveway and catch up with us on Instagram. Just keep your babe sleeping and call that her next nap!
If your babe has had a day of on-the-go naps or maybe they weren’t great quality, don’t hesitate to shift up bedtime a bit to help her make up some of that daytime sleep.
Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for some help if you can get it. Ideally, baby should be in their crib for their naps the majority of the time, so if you can pass her over to a spouse or a friend for a few hours, you should absolutely take advantage of it. This is especially important on Mother’s Day this Sunday, so I hope you have plans to hand over that monitor, give your partner a quick kiss, and go celebrate you!