After weeks of staying at home in isolation the restrictions are slowly lifting, and we can start to get out and about. It’s exciting to think we can spend time with family and friends and will soon see our favourite activities start up again!
For many parents, isolation created the perfect opportunity to make changes to their little one’s sleep. Whether it was tuning into tired signs, settling their little one/s into bed (bassinet, cot, bed) for every nap and bedtime, or creating a bedtime routine, many families have seen huge improvements in sleep.
Some parents are finding the thought of getting out and about and testing these new sleep skills somewhat unnerving. Before you go cancelling all the play dates, I have put together some tips to help you maintain sleep AND get out and about:
Prioritise naps at home
This is fairly obvious, but if your little one has found a predictable routine schedule your playdates and social activities around nap times. This will enable you to have your little one home for naps.
If you were previously attending a structured activity like swimming, Storytime, or playgroup, see if you can find an alternative session that doesn’t conflict with naptime. You might be able to find a different time at a new centre e.g. sessions for Storytime differ across libraries.
When you are scheduling playdates, can you have friends and family come to you? That way, you can still settle your little one to bed at/around their regular naptime while you catch up. If you have more than one child, this allows the older child/ren to play with their friends while your younger bub sleeps.
Keeping everyone happy
If you have more than one child, it can be difficult to find a routine that suits everyone. This may mean some naps happen ‘on the go’ to allow for an older child to attend an activity or playdate and that is absolutely ok.
We know that sleep is important and that we want to avoid overtiredness as much as possible. Keep in mind, structured activities and social opportunities are just as important for skill development. It also helps everyone (parents included) to get out of the house and socialising with others.
Ask for help
Again, in the case of having more than one child, do you have family or friends who can stay with the younger child and allow them to nap while you take your older child out or vice versa?
It can be a nice bonding opportunity for grandparents, family, or friends to take your child out to activities. Of course, it depends on your individual situation and preferences.
What can you do if you don’t have the option of rescheduling or have access to help?
Naps on the go
A nap on the go could be in the car, pram, carrier, or possibly a portacot.
Aim for your car trips to coincide with naptime. This might mean you leave a little early to get your little one to settle to sleep. If you are then able to transfer your sleeping bub into the pram or carrier to continue to nap you are onto a winner!
If your little one wakes during this transfer, try and keep your interactions to a minimum and block out any stimulation. You may be able to place a muslin wrap over the pram and cancel out some of the background noise with a portable white noise machine. You could also look at downloading an app on your phone or iPad that will play white noise.
Depending on the activity your older child attends, could you go for a walk with your younger child during the activity? This will allow your little one to have a snooze in the pram or at least have some quiet time.
Note on covering the pram – always make sure there is sufficient air flow in the pram when you cover it. You may need to keep the sides open to achieve this.
Try to maintain a similar naptime routine when out and about so you avoid overtiredness. If you are heading to a friend’s house for a catch up, take the portacot with you. This will allow you to settle your little one at nap time without cutting your visit short.
Make sure you take all the things you need to complete your naptime routine so you can mimic it as best as possible. You might need to pack books, sleeping bag/swaddle, comforter, or favourite blanket depending on how old your child is and what their routine involves.
If you forget to pack something, find a substitute so your routine still looks similar. I forgot a book once, so I read my toddler a Royal Auto magazine! He couldn’t read so I made up a story that correlated with the pictures in the magazine, he loved it!
Short naps are ok
If you have tried all the usual comforts to settle your little one to sleep but they wake after 15-20 minutes, that’s ok. A short nap is better than no nap at all! Try and coax them back to sleep for 10 – 15minutes, if you aren’t successful allow your little one to get up and involve them in what is going on.
If you try everything but your little one fights off all sleep that is ok. At least they have had a little bit of quiet time. You will need to bring the next sleep (either nap or bedtime) forward to avoid overtiredness as much as possible.
Settle back into the routine
If your little one has a nap on the go it is not the end of the world.
To keep your routine consistent, if one nap happens on the go, I would encourage all other naps that day to happen at home. This allows your little one to get back into the familiarity and comfort of their own bed and will allow them to catch up on sleep.
Alternatively, if you have a big day planned where a few naps will happen on the go, plan for the next day to be mostly at home. Again, this will allow you and your little one to catch up and have some extended quiet time.
Note on age
If you have a newborn they will likely settle to sleep almost anywhere and sleep through anything. Because newborns have such short stamina and cannot handle much awake time this does not seem realistic. If you were to organise to be out for only 1 sleep, you would almost spend more time in the car than with family and friends.
This advice relates to babies who have more of a structured or predictable nap routine.
If you attempt a nap on the go and it goes pear-shaped, don’t let this discourage you from trying again. Sleep takes time and practice when out and about, just like it did at home. Your little one might need a few attempts before you see success, and that is ok.
Try a few different options e.g. maybe the carrier works better than the pram? Just remember if you are trying a few different options to give one approach at least three goes before moving onto the next. You might find on the third attempt, your little one naps brilliantly in the pram. Don’t move through the options too quickly or your little one may get confused.
If you get stuck, I’m more than happy to help!