Making Sleep Flexible
I wanted to share how to make sleep flexible so that, once your baby is sleeping in a good routine, you are able to have days out, an off-routine day or to help you to feel confident at editing your daily routine without affecting your baby’s sleep pattern.
The idea of trying to be flexible
Some people look at the idea of a flexible routine and assume it’s just obvious – that you simply leave your house and it doesn’t matter how that impacts on your little one’s sleep. Those will be the parents who do not stick to strict routines and have very flexible days. If that is your life, then there isn’t any need to worry about flexible sleep! This blog is aimed at those with established daytime routines and naps but might feel anxious about how to make those routines flexible.
What’s obvious to me, is that when you work on your baby’s sleep you can go from a place of broken nights and short naps to having sleep sorted quite quickly (assuming there are no underlying issues, such as reflux) and then you end up with this beautiful routine and everyone’s sleeping well and, although that’s brilliant, you can end up with a fear of wondering how you’ll ever go out again! I suggest staying at home if you can for the morning and afternoon naps in the first week of implementing a new sleep routine, but once your baby is doing that you don’t need to stay in the house every week!
This anxiety is totally normal. You are not silly for worrying about it and you are definitely not alone.
How do I maintain lovely sleep, as well as being able to go out?
Daytime – going out to baby classes / playdates / a couple of hours out of the house
Prepping in advance and getting everything ready the night before will be a huge help because trying to leave the house with small babies or toddlers can take three times as long as when you’re on your own! Getting your changing bag ready, any food prepped in the fridge, spare clothes at the ready to prepare for that rush in the morning.
I find getting ready and dressed before my boys get up is a real help. I am lucky because my boys wake up at 7.30am so I use this time to do a bit of work, exercise, shower and dress. This allows me to feel prepared within myself and my own mindset. For me, this is key, as it allows me to feel ready for the day.
How do I manage my baby’s sleep whilst we are out and about?
Scenario: You’re going out in between naps and you’re going to a baby class.
When it comes to routines and maintaining flexibility I’d always say that if your baby sleeps well in a cot as part of their structured nap routine and a class starts at 10.30am or 11am, you should commit to that class (because socialising and development is just as important as sleep for your baby). As long as you’ve got a tipping balance of 60/40 – 60% of their sleep happening at home (including nights) then it’s totally fine to be out and about for some of their naps.
In this scenario, you could put them down earlier for their morning nap and then get them up a bit earlier, which brings their whole routine forward that day. This would mean that, on this day, they go to bed earlier. For one day a week, this should not affect a structured routine baby’s sleep.
Scenario 2: The trickier baby classes are the ones that are in nap times and I often find these are things like swimming classes.
So if a class is at 11.45-12 during a scheduled nap time, then I would write the whole day’s timings down on a piece of paper to ask myself ‘how can I do this class but without an overtired baby?’ Well, you could give them a longer morning sleep and put them down straight after swimming. Having a nap in the pram or car after swimming is absolutely fine on this day.
Or you might decide ‘my child doesn’t need a long morning nap’ so you might keep them up longer and stretch this awake window before the morning nap, meaning their short morning nap is later in the morning so that they’re not overtired for swimming. Obviously every baby is different but do tweak and play around with that routine.
The worst thing that is going to happen from a routine change is that you have a cranky overtired baby.
This is not ideal but all you need are lots of cuddles and an earlier bedtime routine.
Encouraging your baby or toddler to sleep when you’re out and about
My favourite product for out and about sleep is the SnoozeShade because it cocoons and blocks off all of the outside stimulation for them to be able to sleep in the pram. There’s a 10% discount available to you if you use the code HEIDI10 at the checkout here.
If you’re trying to get baby to sleep in the pram before a lunch or class, give yourself some extra time so that you can have lots of walking time. The SnoozeShade has a slim pocket that you can sneak through to see if they’re asleep.
Some babies will fall asleep really easily in the pram or the car but not all do (mine didn’t!) and I find that babies who are more sensitive often struggle more to sleep when they’re out and about.
The annoying thing about trying to be flexible is that, if they’re light sleepers, they will wake up much quicker than they would at home in the cot.
Having an off-routine day
These are my favourite days! You go out and about and you just roll with whatever their naps are like that day. Prepare yourself well for the day but take off the pressure of routine and whatever happens, happens. You may find that they have short naps but just enjoy them, don’t stress and ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen?! These days are good for you and good for them. They might be cranky in the evening and wake a bit earlier in the morning but having fun days together is so so important.
It’s ok to go off routine and stick to a 60-40 balance
Evening and night-time
Scenario – you have a babysitter or a friend who is putting baby to bed whilst you go out.
I would suggest that you work towards your baby being able to fall asleep on their own and self-settling if you want to go out in the evening. Share your routine with whoever is looking after baby and make sure that baby is used to different people doing the bedtime routine. If people practice bedtime that you know that you can go out easily.
Scenario – you take your baby with you out for dinner.
If you aim to come home later than baby’s bedtime, consider if you keep them up or put them to bed at your friend’s house and then wake them up, bring them home and put them down in their bed. Have a think about the routine and what time your evening will be then get everything ready before you leave and quietly bring them home.
If you’re going to keep them up, then I’d suggest you stretch their awake time in the afternoon and let them have a later afternoon nap. If they’re going to sleep, a travel cot can be really helpful, if not the pram is a good place for them to fall asleep.
Staying away from home for the night
Take all the sleep stuff with you! This could be sleeping bag, white noise, blackout band and even their cot sheet! When you get to your destination, roll through the normal routine and they will be used to their bedtime routine and using their familiar smells and sounds. I would recommend using the SnoozeShade Travel Cot product, which is brilliant for travelling and creates a quiet environment for your little one to drift off to sleep.
The main thing that I want you to remember is that if your baby is in a structured sleep routine, they will be able to manage the odd off-routine day and sleep elsewhere. Keep to that 60-40 ratio and you will be amazed at how flexible little ones are!
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