Flexibility on a Schedule: You can have both!
Having a baby can sometimes feel like we are “stuck” at home for every nap and an early bedtime EVERY DAY, especially for my Type A moms - I see you! Obviously, as an advocate for baby sleep, I believe in the power of a well-rested baby and know that routine, predictability, and baby sleep are a winning trio! Scientifically speaking, all daily activities regulate our baby’s internal clock, which influences their circadian rhythm. The more predictable the day is, the easier it will be for our babies to sleep. That doesn't mean we have to turn down special family events, trips, and fun day outings at the sacrifice of our baby's sleep. In fact, flexibility and having our babies on a schedule go hand-in-hand. Babies on a predictable routine are more adaptable to occasional variations. I like to adopt the 80/20 rule: baby sleep is a priority 80% of the time, and 20% of the time, we can let loose!
Here are my three guidelines for enjoying a happy-balanced life with your little one!
1. A well-rested baby will be more flexible
Babies on a routine and schedule will sleep better and therefore be well-rested. Well-rested babies can stand to have occasional disruptions to their schedule and bounce back after an "off" day.
2. Prioritize Sleep
Prioritize sleep the majority of the time for a well-rested baby. If you can stick to your schedule and routine most days, you can be flexible when you need to be. Sleep is SO important for babies and children- it impacts growth, behavior, and learning... it's IMPORTANT! But, your happiness is also important, and if it makes you happy to attend a brunch, dinner, or family event, you should do it! Your baby will recover as soon as you offer their routine again.
3. Have a Plan
If you follow rules 1 & 2, you prioritize sleep to have a well-rested baby. When you need to be flexible, have a plan! Can you leave part of the day undisturbed? Can you keep your baby's first (and most restorative) nap at home? Have a plan and try to stick to it so you can minimize disruptions. In turn, you will have a happy baby and can enjoy your day!
Here are a few examples of how to be flexible on a schedule:
Utilize baby carriers
This is a great option for the first few months with your baby! My rule of thumb with this is to have most naps occur in the crib and then, when needed, have a nap in the front carrier while out and about.
An example is: Plan a dinner out during the last nap of the day. To do this, plan to get to the restaurant right before nap time, place your baby in a carrier, bounce around if needed, then voila, you have 45 minutes to an hour to eat with your baby sleeping on you!
Use the car ride to your destination as a nap opportunity to not waste your baby’s precious (and short) awake time, and then your baby can socialize with your family and friends when you get to your destination. Also, help on-the-go naps by using a portable sound machine. Be sure you supervise your baby while sleeping in a car seat and take them out when you arrive; if they are still sleeping, the position can restrict their airway.
An example is: My grandparents live 45 minutes away, so when we go to dinner at their house, we leave at the start of our daughter’s nap to arrive when she is waking up. We then have enough time to socialize, eat, and head home before bed. This does require your family to eat slightly earlier, but hopefully, they understand you are prioritizing your baby's sleep, and this is the plan if they want to see your baby.
Micromanage your day
I reserve this for larger events that I do not have control over. Essentially, you can mold your baby's day to fit into the event schedule by capping naps and following age-appropriate wake windows.
An example is: We had a retirement dinner for my mom that was not starting until 7 pm. Since it was in Florida, we did not have a babysitter, and it was a surprise party, so we couldn't really coordinate much! We decided that our only option was to bring our daughter to dinner and hoped for the best. Although we did not know how this would play out, we did have a very specific plan in which we micromanaged the day and added an extra nap so we wouldn't have an overtired, grumpy baby during the dinner. Here is what that looked like:
- Harper's normal day looked like:
- 7 AM wake
- 9:30-11 nap 1
- 1:30-3 nap 2
- 6:30 bedtime
- This micromanaged day looked like:
- 7 AM wake
- 9:30-10:15 nap 1 (shortened to 45 min)
- 1-1:45 nap 2 (shortened to 45 min)
- 5-6 nap 3 (added this nap)
- 10 PM bedtime after event
Take a walk
Feel like you are stuck at home for every nap? I love to take the last nap of the day on a walk, which works well if your baby is on three or more naps per day. As a newborn, you can use the bassinet attachment for walks, which requires, and if your baby is still sleeping when you return home, they can continue napping safely! I always recommended naps one and two to take place in the crib so your baby can have a long restorative nap. Still, the last nap of the day is just helping you get to bedtime, so it is often easier and very enjoyable to go on a walk after work or at the end of your day!
TravelingIf you are traveling, I highly recommend a SlumberPod. You cannot always control the sleeping environment when staying at a relative's home or a hotel, and the SlumberPod will give your baby a completely dark, safe space to sleep. There is even a pocket for the monitor! We bought a SlumberPod when Harper was 4 months old and needed complete darkness for her to sleep well at night and for naps -- I am so glad we did! Sometimes, we even have to share a room with our daughter, and because she’s in her own little “tent,” surrounded by white noise, she has no idea! It’s stressful always to wonder if there will be a dark closet or bathroom large enough for a pack and play. When in doubt, pack the black garbage bags and tape and get to work on the windows when you arrive. Darkness helps babies take long, restorative naps and sleep later in the morning!
The moral of this story is, babies on a routine are well-rested. Well-rested babies are more flexible. A well-rested baby on a routine will bounce back to normal after an occasional disruption. Enjoy life with your little one, but also know that sleep is important for them, so it is important for us to prioritize it when we can.
Nichole is a mama to an almost two-year-old, Harper, who is the reason why she started Little Peach Sleep. She is a certified sleep consultant with the Family Sleep Institute and resides in Atlanta, GA, with her family. She recently transitioned from a ten-year career in the corporate world to follow her passion for helping families sleep and to stay home with her daughter. She helps families by using mindful, science-based methods to lay a healthy sleep foundation for babies and toddlers! She helps newborns to 5-year-olds, and their families, get the sleep they deserve. The “right” time for help is when you are ready!
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.