3 Tips for When You Need to Alter
Your Baby’s Schedule

March 1    Written by Sophia Duhela

Life happens. There are birthday parties, doctor appointments, play groups, music classes, weddings, and family vacations! You name it, we’ve done it…with our babies!

We went to Mexico last year for our friend’s wedding in Cancun. We made sure to bring the travel stroller and my daughter’s lovey to the reception. I knew this – her lovey – was her biggest association with sleep, and as soon as I would give it to her, she would put herself to sleep. I noticed her eyes getting heavy while we were celebrating, so I put her in the stroller and handed her the lovey. Within minutes, she had quietly put herself to sleep, and my husband and I were able to enjoy ourselves for the rest of the reception while she enjoyed dreamland.

When you’ve got a child who knows how to sleep, these daily life events certainly don’t need to feel like such a big deal. In this post, I’m going to go over exactly what you can do to set your child up for sleep success on days where you may need to alter their schedule.

Plan Ahead

Depending on what you’ve got going on during the day, you can plan to help your child be successful with their day, even if it’s going to be different than normal.

Here are a few options (and examples!) you have for the day/night:

●  Let them sleep in. Let’s say your child has a doctor’s appointment at 9:30 a.m., when they typically take their morning nap. You normally wake them for the day around 7:00 a.m., but today you will let them sleep as long as they want, knowing their morning nap is going to be pushed later because of the doctor appointment. Instead, they wake on their own at 7:45 a.m., happily go to the appointment at 9:30 a.m., and then fall asleep in the car on the way home around 10:15 a.m.
●  Offer a nap earlier or later. Your family is leaving for a 5-hour car ride to go on a little family vacation. You know you’d like your little one to get at least one good nap in at home, so you plan to leave in the afternoon. You start the day per usual and they take a nice, long 75 minute nap in the morning. It’s almost time to leave and you’d love to have another great nap in the car. The afternoon nap normally starts around 1:30 p.m., but since you’ve got a 5-hour drive ahead of you, you’d love for them to be asleep for a decent portion of it. You load the car, do a nap time routine before placing them in their carseat with a portable sound machine nearby, and pull out of the drive way at 2:15 p.m., a bit later than their nap typically starts. They sleep until 4:30 p.m. and you’ve been able to enjoy some quiet and adult conversation to start your trip! You don’t mind that you may need to push bedtime a bit later due to all the daytime sleep.
●  Offer a nap on-the-go. Similar to the example above…any time you have something going on in the day, you can simply plan for a nap on the go! Let’s say your preschooler has a soccer game at 5:00 p.m., right when your 4-month-old takes their third nap of the day. Bring your carrier! It’s time to wear that baby while you cheer on their big sibling.
●  Skip a nap and bring bedtime earlier. Your nephew’s birthday party is right in the middle of the day, and right in the middle of your toddler’s nap time. Of course you don’t want to miss out! You plan to skip the nap that typically occurs from 1:00-3:00 p.m., and instead opt for an early bedtime. You get home from the party around 4:30 p.m., offer a quick dinner (which they don’t eat much of since they just had a piece of birthday cake!) and head upstairs to the bathroom. You do a quick bath and bedtime, and put your toddler in their crib right around 5:30 p.m. for bedtime. DO NOT BE SCARED! I know this seems extremely early, but you’re basically rearranging where their sleep happened today; instead of sleeping two hours at nap time in the middle of the day, you’re going to tack on that two hours at the beginning of the night. They’ll likely wake at their normal time in the morning.
●  Start bedtime somewhere else and transfer. If you’ve got evening festivities or activities, this can be a game changer. Let’s say you’ve got a summer cookout and pool party at a friend’s house. Bring the play yard, a sound machine, and a sleep sack. When your little one is tired, lay them down to snooze until you’re ready to leave. Transfer them to their carseat when it’s time to go, and then to their crib when you get home. They’ll already have their pajamas on so you won’t have to worry about changing them at all. Also, carry the portable sound machine with you during your transfers to help them go smoothly. If your little swimmer is tired enough, they may not even wake up!

See, friend?! There are so many options for you to continue to plan for quality sleep, even when you’ve got stuff going on!

Follow the 80/20 Rule

Now, I know that sleeping in car seats, strollers, carriers, and in new places doesn’t always go as planned. This is where you give yourself a little grace and follow the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule, essentially, is where 80% of the time you follow your child’s regular routines and schedule, keeping their sleep foundation strong, and the other 20% of the time you just allow sleep as it happens. You can break the rules a little bit because you’ve got such a great sleeper on your hands and you prioritize their sleep most of the time!

Basically, you’ve got two days of the week to mess with sleep. Five days to prioritize it.

If you notice that it’s been a few days and things have been off, it’s simply time to tighten things up again!

Start with a Strong Sleep Foundation

The easiest way to accomplish this type of freedom and flexibility with your child’s schedule is to have that strong sleep foundation to begin with…then all you have to do is maintain it over time by following the 80/20 rule.

How does one build this foundation?? Great question, I’d love to answer it for you!

First, you make sure the sleep you provide most of the time is in an environment that is conducive to sleep. The room where your child sleeps should be dark. SO DARK. 10/10, cave-like darkness. You should also play white noise in the background at around 55 dB of sound. This is about the noise level of a shower running.

Then, you make sure you are following both nap- and bedtime routines. You can read more about routines here.

Having an optimal schedule for your child is also helpful. To help you identify a schedule that might be perfect for your child, you can download our FREE Sleep Needs Chart. Scroll down a bit to snag it here.

Lastly, if all of the above is perfectly optimized, and your little one is still struggling with sleep, it may be time to teach them the actual skill of sleep. You can read more about that here.

Putting all of these things together will help you find success, but if you’re not sure how to do it or want to stream line the process, I’d love to help you! This is what I love helping families do, and it all begins with a FREE 20-minute discovery call. I’d love to chat with you!

Kind words from clients