Is there an event that you desperately want to attend, but you’re worried you’ll disrupt your baby’s bedtime routine? Whether it’s a baseball game, dinner out with friends, or a street fair, the well-being of your little one is always a top priority.
What do you do?
Should you let yourself enjoy a fun activity that’ll be good for your mental health and risk a cranky child, or do you stay at home?
The good news is if your child has a consistent bedtime routine, having a late night from time to time is not a huge setback.
With that being said, here are five tips for keeping your child out past his bedtime and getting him back on track the next day.
Let’s dive in!
Stick to his routine as much as possible.
If your child is used to a consistent bedtime routine, try not to interrupt his nightly routine more than you have to.
Let’s imagine you’re going to your friend’s place for dinner. Consider bringing your nighttime stuff with you, like your child’s PJs, white noise machine, and maybe even his favorite book. If possible, do an abbreviated bedtime routine to make him feel more comfortable. You can complete the bedtime routine at your friend’s place; simply find an empty room and him down on a bed.
Sneak in a quick nap.
Here’s another idea: try to get a quick nap on the day when you know your child might be staying out late. For instance, if his usual bedtime is 7 pm, sneak in a 30-minute nap at 5 pm or 5:30 pm, or whenever he’s sleepy. Another idea is to let him take a quick nap in the car on your way to the event or your friend’s house.
If it doesn’t work for your child, don’t force it.
All babies are different and have their own temperament and nighttime needs. If your little one is not adaptable to nighttime changes and becomes unbearably fussy, avoid keeping him out past his bedtime.
Consider having one partner stay home with the child in situations like these. If not, remind yourself that in a few short months, your little one will probably be able to stay at home with a babysitter, and you can attend your evening gatherings.
But if your child is okay with a little less sleep than usual, then having a night or two of evening fun won’t negatively affect your little one’s behavior.
Let him sleep in the car on your way home.
There’s always the possibility your baby is going to fall asleep in your car on your way home. If this happens, try not to wake him up and immediately transfer him to their bed or crib. If you have to change his diaper or give him a feed, then definitely wake him up without worrying too much about it. He’s going to wake up either way if he’s hungry or his diaper is soiled.
Do an abbreviated bedtime routine where you skip the bath but do a diaper change and sing him a lullaby. He might fuss a little but don’t worry too much about it; just make sure he’s falling asleep independently.
If your child is asleep and there’s no need to feed him or change a diaper, the best way to transfer him to his bed or crib is by keeping all the lights off. Try to put him down with booty first, then shoulders, and then his head. If he fusses, give him a quick, gentle pat on the tummy—this might do the trick, and he’ll go back to sleep.
Get ready for some crankiness in the morning.
When people are overtired, including children, their amygdala, a part of the brain that regulates fear response, will be in hyperactive mode. Your child’s stress response system will go into high gear, triggering cortisol and adrenaline to flood into his system. When these two hormones are at high levels, your child might have a hard time falling asleep.
The best thing you can do if he wakes up earlier and seems cranky is to make him take his first nap at an earlier time. The first nap is the most restorative, so consider moving it up in the schedule.
It’s also possible your child is no longer taking naps during the day. In this case, insist on rest time. Have him spend at least an hour in bed, even if that means playing with toys and books.
Disruption to his bedtime routine might make your little one too sleepy during the day. If this happens, don’t let him oversleep his naps. Remember, day naps mean less sleep at night. This is a cycle you don’t want to start in motion.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide whether keeping your child out past his bedtime is worth it. Some parents prefer to stick to their child’s bedtime routine as much as possible. Others are willing to risk a day or two of crankiness to attend special events. Children are exactly the same if you think about it. Some of them will have no issue with a small schedule change, while others are much less forgiving when it comes to disruptions to their routine.
Good luck with whichever choice you make!
If you feel like you’re not making some good progress with sleep training your baby, consider hiring a sleep consultant to take an in-depth look at your baby’s sleep history and help you with this. An experienced sleep trainer can make the process easier for both the parent and the child. Connect with us today and get a personalized plan for your baby. We’ll be there to guide you every step of the way.