By Natalie Fitzgerald
“We want to get our baby into a good routine but we don’t want to be a slave to our schedule!” As a sleep consultant, I hear this a lot. We know that most babies benefit from having a relatively reliable schedule, especially when it comes napping and bedtime, and that can make it feel like there’s no room for doing anything else. But your schedule doesn’t have to be limiting!
Having a routine can help make the free hours even more enjoyable, and once your baby gets into a rhythm, it can actually feel pretty flexible. Which is a good thing to remember, since any schedule you set, will likely change as quickly as your baby. Here are a few tips for keeping to a schedule without feeling like you’re housebound 24/7.
Schedule Activities Between NapsThe number of naps your baby needs will depend on how old they are; try to schedule activities and play dates during the times you know your baby will be rested, awake, and happy. Younger infants (ages 0–12 weeks) who might take 4–5 naps per day, will sleep almost anywhere so take advantage of it and get out with your baby whenever and as often as you want or can.
Naps on the GoLet your baby take a nap on the go! As long as your baby doesn’t rely on the motion of a car or stroller to fall asleep, naps on the go can be lifesaving for those of us who need to get out of the house, or those of us who also have a toddler (who also needs to get out of the house!). For those babies who need a little more quiet and less stimulation than the outside world allows for, cover up the car seat or stroller and bring a portable white noise machine, like the Rohm.
Sleep EnvironmentThis one’s a gamechanger: You don’t need to be home for every nap and bedtime. If you have plans to be at a friend’s house for dinner (and maybe a glass or two of wine!), try to mimic your baby’s typical sleep environment by setting up a portable crib and sound machine in a dark room, and walk your baby through your sleep routine the same way you would at home.
Skip a Nap on OccasionIt won’t be the end of the world—family events, beach days, or special trips can sometimes mean a nap doesn’t happen at all. But if that’s the case, try to put your baby down for bed early. Since they will miss an entire block of sleep that day, putting your baby down for bed up to 45 minutes earlier than usual can help them catch up on some much-needed Zzzs.