Managing Sleep Schedule Interruptions

Your child's sleep routine can survive!
small girl sleeping on a couch
© Can Stock Photo / websubstance

Sleep schedule interrruptions can be the stuff of nightmares! You have worked so hard and have been so consistent with your child’s sleep, you shudder at the thought of times when you simply won't be able to stick to it. But you don't have to be stuck in the house forever, a captive to your child's sleep schedule! Dealing with schedule interruptions just take a little patience and flexibility.

While working on establishing a schedule or sleep coaching, we do recommend that you stay close to home between sleep periods so that your child is set up for success and has a consistent sleep space during the learning phase. However, once you have established sleep, here are a few ways that you can be more spontaneous and get out while maintaining what you have just taught your little one.

Rearrange the schedule for a day

Instead of going all out and having every nap on the go, you can rearrange your child’s schedule for the day if you have an activity to go to.

For example, if baby sleeps at 9:00 and you have to be at playgroup at 10:00, wake her up a tiny bit earlier that morning so you can try an 8:30 nap and get them up for 9:45 to go. Then perhaps don’t stay for the full duration of playgroup and leave slightly early so you can be back home for the next nap. There were times where I would go late to a birthday party or leave slightly earlier so that my children could get home to nap. I was not missing the entire party and my children were still able to sleep!

Have an occasional nap on the go

Before 2-3 months of age, your little ones are quite portable and sleep well enough on the go. Young babies often need little more than a gentle bounce to help them doze off. However, once they become a little older, they become more alert and curious, which is when the on-the-go naps don’t always work out as planned.

Sleeping in motion for all naps is not the best option on a regular basis. Motion sleep tends to keep babies in a lighter, more fragmented sleep, which means that they don’t necessarily get that deep restorative sleep they need. However, this does not mean that they can never again sleep in motion. You just want to be selective about it and try not to do it all of the time! Think about how you feel after you have slept in the car... not the best sleep right?! If you do a nap on the go, try to aim to have the first nap in that setting so that the second nap can be a restful sleep in their bed.

If you do one nap or all naps on the go for a day here and there, it shouldn’t set you back too much (unless your child was still in the learning/sensitive phase of just having learned to fall asleep on their own). It is important to note though, that if their schedule has been altered a lot it could cause them to become overtired that day, which could mean a little more night waking or early rising the next morning. No biggie though! Spend the next few days focusing on getting them back on track.

Be prepared to get out the door!

Don't wait for your child to wake up to start getting organized. In order to maximize the time you have while you are out, have a snack prepared, and have yourself and anything or anyone else that will be going with you ready to go so that as soon as baby wakes up, you can leave right away.

Nights away from home

If you have dinners or events at other people's houses, you can plan to put your little one to sleep there and then transfer them once you leave. This does not always go as planned so you will especially need to be ready to go with the flow that night! Bring a playpen and all of their favourite sleep items to make it easier on them to settle into sleep.

Another option is to keep your child up slightly later and allow them to fall asleep in the car and transfer them to their own bed once you get home. Bring pajamas so that if your child falls asleep in the car on the way home, you can simply place them in bed with minimal disturbance.

Remember that any time you throw your baby’s routine off track or they miss a nap, they may very well become overtired. This can cause more upset for sleep times that day, more wakings during the night, or a very early morning. As long as you spend the next few days getting things back on track and not going off of schedule or missing naps every single day, things will go back to normal in no time! 

*Originally published July 19, 2017