***If you have more than one child, trying to find some time to yourself during the day can be next to impossible. Sometimes, napping schedules naturally align, leaving you with some much needed time to yourself. At other times you might need to explore some creative solutions for managing different nap times. How can I align nap times? Depending on the ages and stages of your children, you may be limited in how much their schedules can be adjusted to encourage napping at the same time. If one child becomes overtired, then the quality and duration of their nap can be impacted, defeating your goal. If you have a baby that typically has a mid day nap and a toddler or preschooler that is also still napping, you should be able to align these naps to start at approximately the same time. If you are handling naptime on your own, you will probably still need a 10 minute buffer between start times unless your children share a room. If there is a 30-40 minute gap between when your children start their naps, then consider having your older child start nap time 15-20 minutes earlier. Children on one nap a day should start their nap no later than 12:30 PM to avoid becoming overtired. If you want to narrow the gap in timing even further, work on pushing your baby’s awake time by 10-15 minutes so that their nap starts slightly later. If your baby has difficulty initiating sleep and/or starts to have a consistently shorter nap then this may not be an appropriate strategy. Try pushing their awake time for three days and re-evaluate whether or not you should continue or revert back to their usual naptime. If you have more than two children, the logistics of napping will be more complicated and aligning schedules isn’t likely (unless you have triplets!). Instead, you might need to get a bit more creative with how your days are structured. Creative Solutions for Managing Different Naptimes One of the most common issues about napping schedules is having a baby that needs to have frequent naps and an older child that only needs one nap (and needs to have opportunities to be active outside of the home). The following solutions can help:
- Invest in a good quality monitor. A good quality monitor will let you see and hear what’s going on in the house, helping you to feel more confident about spending time in your home’s outdoor spaces while one child naps.
- Rely on a motion nap. A well-designed and safe baby carrier or the stroller can be excellent options for a nap on the go, particularly at a time of day when your baby might be fussy, like the late afternoon. Hit your local park, schedule an activity or just explore the neighborhood to allow your older child to get outside and burn some energy before dinner.
- Sticking closer to home for naps means fewer opportunities to leave the house. This requires more thought and planning to help avoid last minute errands, especially trips to the grocery store. Advanced meal planning and preparation are great ways to ensure you have everything you need and many major grocery chains now offer front door delivery or pick up services at reasonable rates. If your schedule is a little too hectic, when you just need a break from meal preparation or if advanced planning isn’t feasible, there is also a growing trend in family meal delivery services (usually started by other moms) that can be helpful. And don’t forget about coordinating with family or friends to do some batch cooking together to stock up your freezers for quick and easy meals.
- Offer to host. If you have a baby with solid sleep skills, don’t hesitate to arrange for play dates for your older child (or vice versa). Options to host in-home music and sign language classes with friends and neighbors are also growing in popularity. If you are hosting, it will still be important to respect the fact that someone is sleeping in the house, so make sure to set some boundaries on where play can take place. Hide loud toys ahead of time and consider using a sound machine to block out noise during the nap.
- Ask for help. Caregiving arrangements don’t have to cost you a lot of money. Afterschool helpers, an au pair, calling in favors, or trading child care responsibilities with friends or family that have similar daytime schedules are all great options to make sure you protect your children’s sleep without feeling like you are housebound.