If you have multiple children, and especially if you have school-aged children as well as a baby or toddler, you know the struggle is real when it comes to juggling all the schedules and also making nap time a priority. Sleep is important for many reasons. Sleep plays a role in behavior, obesity, general health, development and cognitive function. And let’s be honest, nap time is life when you’re a mom! So how do you make sure your baby or toddler is getting the rest she needs, while also meeting the needs of your older children?
Give yourself some grace and be flexible! I’m not saying to throw naps out the window, you need to respect the sleep that your littlest needs, but you also need to be realistic and know that things will not always be perfect. And guess what? That’s okay! If baby has to take one nap on the go, don’t sweat it. My fourth baby has been dragged around since day one. When she was born, it was the first time I had experienced life with a new baby alongside older kids who were in school and extracurriculars.
I didn’t have a choice but to take her here and there and everywhere, and you know what, it was okay! She was the best napper on the go when she was tiny, and as she got older, we learned how to work the schedules so that she always got at least one decent nap a day. She is a great sleeper at night and still takes a solid nap every day at the age of 2. The moral of the story, I didn’t ruin my kid or her sleep by being a little bit flexible and accepting that I was doing the best I could.
If you know that your afternoon will be busy with school pick up and other activities, and your baby might not get that afternoon nap, make sure she gets a good morning nap. Maybe this means that you stick around at home that morning so that you can get her down on time and she can be in her own sleep space. If your toddler is only taking one nap a day, make sure you are getting her down so that she has a solid length of time for a nap prior to needing to leave the house. Similarly, if you have a busy morning and will be out during baby’s first nap, make sure her second nap is a priority. Try not to plan on baby napping through activities, but try to involve her instead. If you need to adjust a nap time on a given day, try for an earlier nap rather than a later one. An overtired baby will be harder to settle down for sleep.
Know Your Baby’s Limits
There is being flexible about baby’s naps and then there is being indifferent. If you are one of those people who likes to do things on the fly and never really plans or schedules things, most likely baby will hit her limit and become overtired and cranky, making any type of nap more difficult. Poor daytime sleep will then translate into poor nighttime sleep. Babies are not designed to go, go go with no breaks and no structured sleep time on a regular basis. If your baby has missed a nap, or two, or you have had to wake her up early from a nap, really try to make bedtime a priority and put her down earlier than normal.
Ask for Help
It’s okay to ask for help if you need it. If your baby just really needs a nap, especially if she is sick or hasn’t been sleeping well, ask a friend or neighbor to pick your child up from school or take him to his activity. Offer to pick their kid up from future activity in return, or offer to do school carpool for them another afternoon. It takes a village, and every mom needs their own village!
As RNs and Mama Coaches, we are here to help. If you have sleep struggles, please reach out to your local Mama Coach to get the support you need.