By: Andrea Howe
The first year of Baby’s life revolves around very few things other than eating, playing, and (hopefully) lots of sleeping. Of course the ‘sleeping through the night stage’ is the end goal for all new parents, but napping during the day can be just as important in creating a calm and happy environment for Mom and Baby. If your baby does indeed nap, it can sometimes leave you feeling house-bound in order to preserve the nap time schedule. Here are a few tips to help preserve a nap routine, and also allow you to get out of the house.
Typically a consistently good napper will have at least one nap that is better than the other — for instance Baby will sleep for a longer and more sound stretch in the morning than the afternoon. If this is the case, schedule your activities around the one “good” nap, staying home so Baby can sleep in his own bed, and then venture out for the afternoon and possibly sacrifice the nap that usually isn’t as good. This will ensure Baby gets at least one good solid stretch of sleep during the day.
Plan outings closer to home so that if Baby starts getting fussy, you can make it home rather quickly…and before Baby falls asleep in the car. Ask just about any veteran mom and she’ll tell you that the car to crib transition doesn’t always go smoothly, so keep an interesting toy or book with Baby to keep them awake on the short ride home.
If the plan is to have Baby sleep in the car during nap time because of a road trip, or timing issues, plan on playing music softly in the car as to not disturb Baby too much, and always keep a book or magazine with you in case you arrive at your destination and Baby is still sleeping. Sometimes an extra 15-20 minutes added on to a Baby’s nap makes all the difference in their mood, so it can be worth it to sit back and relax a bit while you wait for Baby to wake.
If visiting a friend or family member for the day, plan ahead. Instead of rushing through your visit, bring a portable crib with you and set up a nursery away from home for Baby, complete with favorite blanket, pacifier and favorite book. Keep your nap routine consistent and try to settle Baby down for a nap on-the-go so that you don’t have to cut your visit short. While this doesn’t always work, it’s at least worth a try. The added bonus is it gets your baby used to sleeping in other environments, which is especially great if you plan to travel with Baby.
Consistency is key in any sleep routine, but the occasional alteration will not veer you completely off course, especially during the first 3-4 months. During this time newborns usually haven’t quite settled into a consistent routine anyhow, so this is the time to be a bit more flexible with your outings and straying from the routine. Once Baby is 4-6 months old though, a solid nap routine usually starts to settle in, so you’ll want to stay on course more than veer off it. Skipping the routine 2-3 times a week is perfectly okay, especially if it helps mom feel better.
Remember that a sleep routine and schedule only works if it works for the entire family. If Baby’s routine is preserved at all costs, at the expense of mom being able to occasionally visit with friends and get important errands done, then it’s not working. But making a few minor adjustments and not being afraid to alter off course every once in a while will ensure a happy, well-rested baby, and a happy, well-rested mom.