Balancing Naps with Your Needs
Now that you've got your baby taking naps, do you feel like you can't ever leave the house? It's a pretty common feeling for newly sleep trained families, but there are ways to work around it.
The bad news is that for the first two weeks, you'll need to be as consistent as possible with nap times. So, yes, it's best if you can stay home as much as you can; maybe get your spouse to get the groceries and run critical errands. You are committed (plus you paid good money for it!), so you need to stick to your plan. The good news is that once your baby is sleeping on her own, you can make little changes here and there. Maybe she'll sleep in the car while you're running errands or in the stroller while you're walking (but NOT every day!).
Usually after about two weeks you'll have a schedule in place and he'll be taking pretty good naps. Once he's consistently falling asleep on his own and taking hour-plus naps, you can shift to an 80/20 rule. This means 80% of the time he should be in his own bed (this is where he gets the best quality sleep, remember?) and 20% can be somewhere else. Motion sleep isn't good sleep, he won't spend as much time in deep sleep, but it's better than no sleep at all. And better than not having food in the house!
You will eventually need to leave the house, so you'll need to plan your day a little more carefully than you may have done before. It's best to let her have the first nap of the day in the crib; typically that’s the best nap of the day, so you don't want to deprive her of it. (If this is not the case for you, please feel free to adjust and be sure you're home for her best nap time!) If your child only takes one nap, try to work around it. If you just can't, (commute is too long, time doesn't allow it, etc) it's not the end of the world. Just put her to bed early and try to minimize how often you do it. Maybe you'll get lucky and she'll get a full nap in the car!
You're going to find that it's hard to schedule activities around his nap needs. You may have to go to a different play group, or drop an activity because it just won't work. I know it's a pain, but it's worth it. A happy, well-rested baby who only interacts with others once a week is much easier to work with than a cranky, overtired one who throws tantrums every time something goes wrong. And it's not forever, most kids stop needing naps around age 3 (4 if you're lucky!). Sounds like a long time, right? It'll go by SO fast! My daughter is already almost 3 and I am SO not ready for her to drop her nap (she seems to think she is though!)
So what do you do when you get delayed and it's close to nap time? (Try REALLY hard to avoid this! Even 5 minutes of car seat sleep can ruin the nap!)
If she does fall asleep in the car (I should say WHEN it happens!) you can either keep on driving to give her at least half an hour (maybe hit a drive through, take a back road, if you're lucky you can park but leave the car running – I did that SO much when I was working full time!), or you can try to transfer her to her crib. I think I've managed that twice, so I usually just take the long way home.
If you can't drive around for 30 minutes AND you can't transfer him to the crib without waking him, wait about an hour and try to put him down for a nap (or move bedtime up if it’s late). That 5 minute nap was enough to recharge his little battery and there is very little chance that he'll be able to go to sleep right away. No point in getting you both worked up by trying to make him nap if he's just had one.
I know it sounds like you're never going to have a life again, but keep two things in mind:
1. Your baby NEEDS the sleep! And you need the peace of mind.
2. It's not forever. Babies' needs are constantly changing; you'll go from 4 naps, to 3, to 2, to 1 to none faster than you know it.
I hope you feel a little more in control now. If you need help, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm here to help you and your kids get the sleep you all deserve!