When your day doesn’t quite go to plan…
It’s no secret that infants and children thrive off routine and consistency in their day to day activities. They LOVE a predictable world and it’s no different when it comes to their sleep habits. Routines and great sleep certainly go hand in hand. As parents, we naturally become accustomed to and reliant on our routines and the routines of our children too.
So, what happens when things don’t quite go to plan?
Perhaps unintentionally, your boisterous toddler woke your baby 20minutes into their sleep? Maybe your little one just won’t settle for their scheduled nap despite all of your efforts? Or, you have an important appointment that you just can’t cancel or change? What should you do when you little one’s last nap finished unusually early but you don’t have time to squeeze in another before bedtime?
There are many reasons why your day may not run 100% smoothly each and every day. Whatever the reason, it’s important to not let it ruin yours, or your baby’s day.
Below are my top tips on how to overcome some of those little obstacles that sometimes feel like monstrous hurdles!!
Remember that your baby is human too. They are not ‘set to a schedule’ that they must follow rigidly every single day. Some days they may need more sleep, some days perhaps a little less. Sometimes, things just won’t go to plan for either of you and that’s OK. Take a deep breath and move on! Tomorrow is a new day and another chance to try and get things back on track.
It doesn’t matter if your little one has slept for 5minutes or 2hours, all they know is that they have ‘slept’. Hence, when they wake from whatever sleep they’ve had, they’ll be feeling pretty well recharged and ready to hit their next awake period running!! Therefore, if your child has unintentionally fallen asleep in the car, pram or baby carrier, allow them to have a reasonable nap there, safely of course. Most children won’t transfer well from car/pram/carrier to their cot/bed at home, so understand that if they wake up during the attempted transition, you’re probably not going to get any further sleep from them until their next awake period is up. They feel recharged!!
The same goes if your child is woken by their sibling (or a lawn mower, a barking dog etc.). It’s unfortunate but it’s not worth getting upset over. Give them an opportunity to try and resettle themselves back off to sleep, but if they can’t, put it behind you and move forward with your day.
If your babe has become drowsy in the slightest, has zoned out for a moment or lulled for a period of time, they will still feel that they have somewhat ‘rested’ and when you attempt to put them down for their next sleep, they simply won’t feel ready for it. Drowsiness, zoning out and lulling are all too common occurrences in the car, in the pram, during milk feeds and in front of digital screens. When your little one has these moments, it takes their appetite away from sleep. They simply feel ‘recharged’ to an extent. Be really mindful of this happening during your day as to a possible reason as to why your little one flat out refused a nap. Ensure you keep your little one wide awake and fully engaged throughout their entire awake period, so that when they are due for a sleep, they feel ready for it. If you’ve noticed they have had periods of drowsiness, follow their lead (instead of the clock) when it comes to putting them down for their next sleep. They may need slightly more awake time.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s nothing to get upset about. Sure, if you can change your appointment to a more suitable time so that your little one can have their nap at home, absolutely I’d advise doing that. If not, devise a plan to get through it. It may mean that you set off for your appointment earlier and allow your little one the opportunity to have a sleep in the car on the way (safely, of course). Or try keeping your baby wide awake and then aim to put them down into their sleep space as soon as you get home. Yes, it may be slightly later than usual, but it’s not going to be happening every day so don’t get too caught up about it.
- When it’s too long to hold your little one out until bedtime, but you can’t really fit another nap in either…you have options!
Maybe your little one woke earlier for the day (or from a nap) than what they would usually and now you’re stuck in a conundrum…. Another nap? A super early bedtime? HELP!!
Firstly, consider at your baby’s usual awake times between their final naps of the day and their bedtime. If you can fit a short nap in and still have a reasonable (not too late!!) bedtime, do that. If it means you offer that extra nap in the car/pram if it is a more sure way of making it happen….that’s totally OK!
Secondly, if skipping that extra nap and going for an early bedtime is an option I would also consider doing that. 5:30pm is the earliest bedtime I would offer, if required.
Thirdly, if neither of the above options will fit, you can offer your little one some passive ‘down-time’ in the car or pram. This doesn’t mean you are aiming for sleep to occur, but you are hoping to achieve some non-stimulating time for your little one to relax, get a little drowsy and recharge their batteries. Basically, the things we usually try to avoid during awake periods!!! Achieving this passive downtime will buy you some time as your little one will get a ‘second-wind’ as such. In turn, allowing you to push through with their usual dinner and bedtime routine and then popping your little one down at a reasonable bedtime.
Routine and predictability regarding children’s sleep often becomes an essential part of life for many parents. However, there are always going to be times when things don’t run exactly according to plan. Remember to take a deep breath and move forward. Life goes on and tomorrow is a new day!
Hope that helps!
Nikki from The Gentle Sleep Specialist