When I was 21, I was hired at Lonestar Bar and Grill in Kingston, Ontario. Home of my alma mater Queen’s University (woo!), and the best fajitas ever (at the time anyway. I ate a lot of fajitas in University, FYI). Ok, totally off-topic completely BUT all this to say that when you start working at Lonestar, they take you away during training and ask you to pick your ‘work name.’ The list included names like ‘Cowbell’ and ‘Daisy’ and other western-y names. I looked straight at the list and picked ‘Rebel’ and just like that, I was Rebel (without a cause truly…who the hell knows themselves at 21. I was just happy for the free beans, tortillas, and rice they fed me each day).
Maybe this little moment was more telling than I realised. While I’ve never been particularly rebellious, I wonder if this moment solidified my slight revolutionary tendencies, because although I play by the rules, I’m a little naughty when it comes to traditional sleep rules. And for a good reason: THEY MAKE MAMAS CRAZY. I don’t believe in a ‘YOUR BABY MUST DO THIS’ strategy. Why? Because babies are all different and require different things. I DON’T think that there is one way to help your baby sleep. I DON’T think that co-sleeping or bed-sharing is wrong. If you’re sleeping and content with that setup–so am I!
BUT My most significant act of rebellion of a sleep consultant may be that I don’t encourage my mamas to live in nap jail. I remember coming home with my daughter in the first weeks. I think I was ready to go for a walk around three weeks of age. The baby was regularly sleeping, and I was ok with it. Then, I had some advice I didn’t ask for: ‘you know, a nap on the go isn’t as good as a nap in the crib” my well-meaning friend advised me. Crap.
I thought I had this right. Babe was sleeping, I was getting out of the house, and everyone seemed great, but now I just learned that a nap on the go, with all my coffee, alone time, and ability to feel a morsel of freedom, was now, bad. Crap. Then I did the research. My friend was right. A nap on the go isn’t as good as a nap at home. I aimed for 50% of my naps to be at home, and 50% on the go. We all lived. No one died, and I kept a smidge of my sanity.
I’ll be honest: when I began BBS right after my training, I asked my clients to stay close to home for two entire weeks while they were doing their training. I preached the no-nap on the go, but it just didn’t feel right! I knew from personal experience that some naps on the go were fine, so I started asking my parents to stick close to home, juuuuust until the baby began to understand that sleeping in their crib was awesome. Then I worked with them to navigate the outside world with a baby who sleeps well. And, well, the babies kicked ass. I want to share some of those strategies with you today:
How to Leave Your House and Break Out of Nap Jail
(Because you’ll go crazy at home) Let’s work with this example. You have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for 10 AM, but your baby sleeps at 9:30! WHAT TO DO??
- Manage your wake windows slightly earlier/ later
- Figure out how long it takes to you to get to the doctors. For me, it’s usually 15 minutes so we’ll have to be out the door at 9:45 AM minimum.
- It will take me approximately 10 mins to feed, and another 5 to get out the door–which means the baby will have to be awake by 9:15.
- This means I can do two things:
- Option 1: Put baby down around 8:30/8:45 and cap the nap at 30 minutes. Don’t worry; your baby is likely to have their more extended rest of the day at a different time
- Extend wake window to possibly 1030 and expect a nap in the car
- Sleep on the go
- If the nap is at 9:30, hit the car/stroller AT 9:15 and start driving. Hopefully baby will fall asleep because it’s so close to nap time and this will get you at least 30 minutes on the go. Or as stated above, keep baby awake and hope for a sleep on the way home
- Cap a nap if necessary
- If the same situation above were to happen in the afternoon you could potentially cap your first nap to try to get a second nap in before the appointment/fun-thing time.
- Start Your Day Earlier
- If your baby regularly gets up at 6:30, its ok to start his/her day a bit earlier to try to get an earlier nap in for the day. When our day shifts up, so do our naps
- Words of Wisdom
General Thoughts on this/ FAQ from clients about naps on the go
“Isn’t a nap on the go not as restorative?” This was once popular thinking, and I still believe it to be true (all moms know when we stop the rocking or the driving our babies wake–signaling they were never in a deep sleep). But rest is rest and will help relieve some of that sleep pressure your baby is hanging on to and let you have a day. There is new research to support motion-based naps are restorative for adults! See here! BUT this requires several, ongoing hours of motion which is truly impossible to achieve. “Only 30 minutes on the go? Why not more?” If your baby can do more–awesome!
But don’t expect more than one sleep cycle on the go–it’s hard work connecting those sleep cycles when you’re a rested and aware baby. It’s a band-aid solution to get you out! The only caveat to this is at night. Melatonin usually kicks in past dusk. I always advise long car trips to be completed at bedtime. We can’t expect baby to have their whole nap on the go, but we do get lucky at night. “My baby never sleeps on the go. Ever” I hear this so much before working with clients, but it changes after we work together.
I will say that most sleep-trained children start sleeping on the go once they’re rested and restored. However, some babies just will not sleep on the go. That happens. That may mean there will have a longer wake window/miss a nap. No. This is not ideal. But this is real life! Sometimes a bit more protest at bed or at the next nap may be worth it for your appointment/outing — Mama’s sanity matters. “(Insert the name of sleep consultant/ expert/friend) says I need to stay home for naps.” They’re not wrong! I advise the same. BUT I also know that I’m not the kind of person and mom who can’t stay at home all day.
Many of my clients feel the same. Most days I honoured our naps at home, but if I had an outing 1-2 times a week–I went to that. A happy, socially fulfilled mama is a good mama, and if being in nap jail all day doesn’t appeal to you, we try to make it work! “I like nap jail. I like my couch. AND I don’t want to do this” No problem! Enjoy it. Really and truly. I loved nothing more than my couch, bad TV and a coffee. BUT if taking your baby out, and messing with the routine/schedule is very stressful for you or bordering on obsessive, it may be time to talk to someone. Going out should be fun, but if leaving is becoming a problem it may be worth exploring.
There you have it, folks! As always, most of these suggestions are ideal for babies who have great sleep habits, to begin with. If your baby is still struggling to go to sleep unassisted the first step to naps, is a call with me. Sleep well, Amanda