You reached the point where you had to do some sleep training for nap. You could no longer rock, hold, or nurse your baby to sleep. Those multiple night wakings were killing your mojo, and if you had to sit in a dark room and hold your baby for naps one more time, you were going to lose it. Let’s not even mention your husband’s tendonitis from swinging the car seat.
You reached the point where you knew you had to do some sleep training for nap to get your child and you more sleep. Perhaps you invested in personal sleep coaching help or read an informative blog overviewing the different sleep teaching methods. Regardless, you have invested your time and/or money on changing your life and getting your little one more sleep. Now how do you leave the house and risk messing up that heavenly nap schedule?
How to get out of the house when sleep training?
When I work with a client, I suggest she stays home and clears her schedule for about 4-5 days when sleep training to give her child the best chance of success to learn new sleep habits. Consistency is the number one factor affecting the success of your sleep training, or as I like to call it sleep teaching. Most people can make significant gains within 4-5 days, however if you have a very strong willed child, this may take longer.
Here’s the secret: when you are changing a habit, you need to be 100% consistent with your messaging. Once that habit is established, you can be more flexible with messaging.
What does that mean?
Once you are confident your child has developed new and consistent sleeping habits and your 7-10 days of sleep training are over, then you can “cheat” a little here and there. In a perfect world, your child would nap in the crib for every nap to be the most comfortable and least disturbed. However, we need to take care of Mom too. When home on maternity leave, it is so important for Mom to connect with other Moms and get out of the house into the community.
Fitness classes where you can bring your baby and meet other Moms in the same stage of life are nourshing for the soul. And let’s be real… this is a big life change, a woman needs a tribe. If you live in Ottawa you have to check out Sue at FitMom Ottawa and Jules at Fitness With Jules. In the Bay Area, I’ve enjoyed Ashley at Baby Boot Camp and Fit4Mom SF Peninsula. But how do you balance connecting with others and breaking the cabin fever, with the sleep needs of your baby?
Your best strategy is to protect the afternoon nap. From 6 months onward that will be the longest nap, and you can make up for a shorter morning nap.
STRATEGY #1 – SHIFT THE MORNING NAP EARLIER
Let’s talk about some strategies for getting you out of the house. Putting your baby down earlier for her morning nap so you can get out of the house on time for that fitness class usually doesn’t work. She likely won’t be ready to sleep yet, and will protest.
STRATEGY #2 – WAKE HER UP EARLY
You can put her down on time for a nap, and then wake her up early. Yes, that really sucks but it is one of the best options. If she can get through one sleep cycle of 45 minutes before you wake her, that is ideal. You’ll still have the afternoon nap later on to catch up on that sleep.
STRATEGY # 3 – GET THE NAP IN WHILE EN ROUTE TO YOUR DESTINATION
The other option, which I prefer, is to head out of the house early and get that morning nap in while driving in the car or in the walking in the stroller. Take the extra extra long route to get that minimum 45 minute nap that she needs. While you were sleep training for naps, all naps were in the crib, but now you can be more flexible.
STRATEGY #4 – BE HOME FOR THE AFTERNOON NAP
Always try to be home for that afternoon nap. While driving home, try not to let your baby fall asleep because most kids won’t transfer from the car to the crib after about 5 months. If she falls asleep for say 15 minutes, it will be very hard to get her back to sleep after that. You usually have to wait the full awake time before next nap and you will have a cranky baby on your hands.
Car naps are killers for a sleep schedule. Drive with the windows open and try and keep her awake before you get home. If she does fall asleep, then drive around to at least get that 45 minute nap in, more if you can.
Here’s a little summary to help you with nap timing based on babe’s age:
Newborn bliss stage, babe usually sleeps on the go and you can go out whenever you want.
The dreaded 4 Month Sleep Regression. Your baby will be on 4 naps, usually around 45 minutes each. Her awake time is only about 1hr 45 min. This is the hardest stage to get out of the house for since the time between naps is so short, and her night time sleep which was probably once pretty solid, has more night waking. Pick one of the morning naps to have on the go.
The 4-3 nap transition occurs. Depending on the length of the naps you’ll be on 4 or 3. If your baby only naps 45 min at a time you’ll be on 4. If even just 1 of those naps is longer than 45 minutes you’ll likely drop down to 3 naps. Your baby needs 3-4 hours of total nap hours during the day at this age. Try and protect the afternoon nap.
Your 6 month old baby should be on 3 naps for a total of 2-3 hours of naps per day. Try and get out between 1st and 2nd nap. Wake her early from the 1st nap if you need to. The 3rd nap here should be a 30-40 minute nap, another great one to be on the “go’ for. I used to pack babe in the car early and go for a drive before picking up big brother from daycare so that my little one could get a 30 min last nap in.
The 3-2 nap transition is occuring here and takes a few weeks to go from 3 down to 2 naps. Don’t forget to get your earlier bedtime in on days when you’re on 2 naps.
10 – 15 MONTHS
Once you are on 2 naps, life gets so much easier. The time between naps stretches to 3-4 hours and you can more comfortably go to a class or run errands.
The 2 – 1 nap transition. The nap moves up to 11:30 ish and is usually a monster in length. Not uncommon to see a 3 hour nap here when you first drop down to 1 nap. Overtime, this nap moves back closer to 12 and then 1 and will shorten in length. Car naps where babe dozes off for 20 minutes or so can be killer.
I hope this article helps you find some balance. Your social and physical needs are important too. Its all about finding balance between those two priorities and it is possible.
I have so much more I want to teach you about baby sleep and how you can help your baby!
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I’m also going to throw in an awake time chart to guide you between sleep periods.