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What About Life Stuff?

Sleep training your little one is a demanding endeavour. Don’t get me wrong I’ve never had a client who said it wasn’t worth it, but it’s a lot of work and it requires a lot of discipline.

Something that isn’t often talked about is when to be a little flexible in the routine. Many parents once they get their baby on a steady, predictable nap schedule are then hesitant to deviate from this routine in any way.

It’s completely understandable. After all, they’ve often just transitioned out of an awful situation where no one in the house was getting any sleep, to a much more calm scenario where everyone is well-rested and happy. That’s a huge 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 young baby, that means three naps a day and full nights of sleep every night, so when are you supposed to, you know, live?

I don’t mean, “When are you supposed to get out for a fun night together?”

I mean, “When are you supposed to buy food?”

After all, if you’re sticking to a rigid nap schedule with a newborn, you’ll get about an hour 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 schedule, I’ve got some advice for minimising the impact that changing the schedule can have.

First off, wait until you’ve formed a solid foundation for daytime naps. If baby’s 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 a while.

How often is once in a while? Well, I’d say 4 out of five days is consistent enough so as not to throw anything out of whack, but pliable enough to let you get some things done. And no, you can’t “bank” those days. No keeping to the schedule for 12 days and then breaking the rules for three in a row.

Second, if you have to skip a nap or need to have one take place in the car or the stroller, I suggest you prioritise the first nap of the day. That’s usually the one where baby will get the most deep sleep, so keep 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, do what you can to make sure they get a full nap. If they fall asleep five minutes into a ten minute drive, you might consider just driving around for a bit until they’ve had a decent nap.

What I don’t recommend is trying to move baby into their cot in the middle of their nap. I don’t see a lot of success with this approach and I think you’re usually better off just letting them sleep wherever they managed to fall asleep in the first place.

If, however, baby does wake up after before they’ve had a decent nap, don’t try to put them back to sleep right away. You’re better off waiting for about an hour before you try again.

Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for some help if you can get it. Ideally, baby should be in their cot for their naps, so if you can pass them over to a parent or a friend for a few hours, you should absolutely take advantage of it. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to pay the favour forward down the road.

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