How to Handle an Off-Track Day of Sleep
Once your child is on a consistent & predictable sleep schedule, it can be daunting to think about deviating from it, even for just one day. Sometimes off-track days are unplanned and you just have to roll with it. Other times, you may have planned events or outings that require you to have a different daily schedule than you usually do, and you may be wondering how to handle them.
I don’t want you to feel like you can’t live your life because when your child knows how to sleep it is actually so freeing! Many people mistakenly think that sleep training means more rigidity, but like I tell the families I coach – structure now means flexibility later.
Having a predictable sleep schedule and a child who sleeps well really does create more freedom, so if this is something you’re still working on, I want you to stop reading and explore my coaching packages & courses to find the best fit for your child.
If your child is on 3-4+ naps
If you have a newborn or young baby who is napping frequently during the day, you may be able to get away with napping them in their stroller or baby-wearing them for a nap right on schedule. The nap will likely not be the same quality as it is at home, but that’s okay! It will still get you out of the house and to your event as a family and sometimes that’s what’s most important.
If your child is on 2 naps
If you have a child on a 2-nap schedule, chances are their naps are pretty fixed at specific times (for example, 9:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.) This can make it tricky if you have church at 10:00 a.m. or an older child’s sporting event at 2:30 p.m. Here are a few options to choose from:
Plan to have nap early
This strategy often works well for the first nap of the day when there is still lingering melatonin & sleep pressure from the night before in your child’s system. You can either lay your child down in their crib 30 minutes early and allow for a 30–45-minute crib nap or you can plan to leave the house with extra time and allow for a snooze in the car. This will give them the energy they need to last until their next sleep period (which you can also offer a little earlier if needed).
Push nap a little later
This strategy works best for the afternoon nap, especially if you are able to let the first one go a little longer than normal. If you’re out & about, your child may naturally have the stamina to push their nap time if they are occupied & busy. It’s totally okay to plan for a car nap on your way home too.
If your child is on 1 nap
One-nap days are oftentimes easier to plan around because events typically happen in the morning or afternoon. That being said, occasionally you’ll find yourself with lunch plans or something that interferes with your child’s one midday nap. The older your child gets, the better their stamina will be so if your morning plans bleed into nap time, chances are your child will be just fine & able to go down easily when you get home.
If you have an event that cuts into the end of nap time, you can try a slightly earlier nap that day or just plan for a shorter nap. If you do either of these things, try to prioritize an early bedtime to help combat overtiredness.
There is also the option of bringing your child’s sleep space with you! Think about what your child might need for their nap (sound machine, pack ‘n play, sleep sack) and bring it along with you if you have a place to set them up for a snooze.
The takeaway here is that it is okay to be flexible! Children who are on a schedule and sleeping well generally do better at both going off track and getting back on track.
As always, if you’re struggling to just get to a consistent place with sleep, I’d love to help.
If you’re exhausted, totally overwhelmed by your child’s sleep habits, or looking for answers to the sleep questions that keep you up at night (literally), then you’ve come to the right place. I’m Jamie, founder of Oh Baby Consulting, and my goal is to help your family get the sleep you need to not just survive, but thrive!