As a sleep consultant, I tell my clients that they should honor naps and do their best to allow their baby to sleep at home in the crib at all times. In theory, I stand by this suggestion. If you have been working hard to get your child sleeping through the night, poor naps during the day can derail your progress. Afterall, consistent naps in the crib are going to be the most restful option for your baby.
In contrast...as a mom, I need to get out of the house! I started taking Fit4mom classes almost 3 years ago right after my son was born. It saved my sanity. I had just moved to a new town months earlier and was battling some fairly crippling postpartum anxiety. Coming to class was literally my only social outlet during the day, and exercise felt too good to pass up. It became a non-negotiable for me.
Currently, I am Stroller Barre instructor and I have a 9-month-old daughter. Guess what... her nap time falls right dab in the middle of my class. Some things are worth deviating from the schedule.
If you have young babies who nap multiple times a day, or you have multiple kids with different schedules and nap needs, you may be stuck constantly juggling whose needs come first. My guess is mama gets the short end of the stick nine times out of ten.
First off, I will say that deviations from the schedule make the least amount of disruptions when your baby is currently sleeping well through the night and taking solid naps. If you are just starting sleep training, I do recommend holding off on things that interrupt their sleep...for a few weeks.
But for those times when life impinges on your child’s schedule or one of your own non-negotiables, I’ve highlighted some ways to minimize the damage...
The 80/20 nap rule: If you aren’t able to provide 100% of naps in the crib, shoot for 80%.
Make it a rule that one nap a day happens in the crib: If you decide to skip a nap or need to have one take place in the car or the stroller, I suggest you prioritize the first nap of the day. That’s usually the nap where your baby will get the best deep sleep. If the first nap is the one that must be missed, make sure that your child isn’t out and about for more than one nap a day.
If the baby ends up sleeping on the go, make it count: If you do end up needing to let baby nap in the car or stroller, do what you can to make sure she gets a full nap. For me, this means getting my babe to sleep in the stroller right at the start of class so she has an hour to snooze. If your baby falls asleep on the car ride home, consider driving around a bit, listen to a podcast and hit up a coffee drive through. You could try and bring her in the house and leaving her in the car seat to sleep, but that doesn’t usually work out in your favor.
Another option is leaving to your destination early to give the baby a nap in the car before you get to where you need to be.
What I don’t recommend is trying to move baby into her crib in the middle of her nap. I don’t see a lot of success with this approach and I think you’re usually better off just letting her sleep wherever she managed to fall asleep in the first place.
If, however, baby does fall asleep minutes before you reach home, you’re better off getting her out and waiting for about an 30 minutes to an hour before you try again in the crib.
Make it up later: If being out and about has resulted in poor napping, you will likely need to move bedtime up earlier before your baby becomes overtired. Consider a bedtime 30-60 minutes early and enjoy an extra couple of minutes to yourself before bed.
Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for some help if you can get it. Ideally, the baby should be in their crib for their naps, so if you can pass her over to a parent or a friend, or maybe even your husband for a few hours, you should absolutely take advantage of it.
And if you need some more support with helping your baby to get the sleep they need, I’m here to help as well. www.sleepilyeverafter.com