Sleep Training and Consistency – When are exceptions okay?
Consistency is Key
One of my biggest rules for parents who are sleep training is to remain consistent. Whether it’s the bedtime routine, where baby sleeps, or what the consequences are for leaving their room in the night, consistency is absolutely essential to regular nights of quality sleep.
However, there’s this crazy little thing called life that tends to get involved and throw the occasional curve ball into your routine. The holiday season can make it especially difficult to make those scheduled bedtimes or nap times. With Christmas coming up soon, you might be worried about how the hustle and bustle might affect your child’s sleep routine.
So when can you make exceptions? Well, I would say, “As rarely as possible, but as often as is absolutely necessary.”
The truth is, if you’re visiting family or friends, and you let your little one stay up late in order to extend their visit, they’re probably going to be a bit of a handful the next day. So ask yourself, is it worth it to have a grouchy baby on my hands tomorrow in exchange for a couple of hours of fun tonight? And there’s no judgment if you decide to delay bedtime a bit! Sometimes it is worth it to stretch bedtime. Just be mindful about the potential grouchiness that might come up the next day.
How Adaptable is Your Baby?
Another important thing to consider is how well your baby adapts to a change in routine. Some kids are quite good at dealing with a slight change in the schedule, whereas others can get thrown for a loop for the next couple of days if they so much as go down late for a nap.
The bottom line is that exceptions should be made sometimes. Sleep training shouldn’t require you to suffer through a lifetime of repetition. Just make sure that you evaluate the costs and benefits and prepare as best as you can for the situation.
In addition, I would advise against making any changes too early into the program. If you just started sleep training a week ago, don’t pick this moment to go on a trip or stay overnight at someone else’s house. Once you’ve had a month or two of really solid, quality nights, then you can start playing around with the rules on occasion.
Continue to Prevent Overtiredness
The other piece of advice I would offer when it comes to breaking the rules is, “Try to bend them instead.”
If you’re going to be at a friend’s place when baby’s supposed to be taking a nap, consider bringing along a Pack and Play or a stroller so that they have somewhere to lay down when it’s time for a snooze, or if you have a bit of a drive involved, try to plan so that baby can sleep in the car when they would normally be going down for a nap. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than skipping a nap altogether.
This may sound difficult, but overtiredness is an absolute monster when it comes to bedtime. Kids who are overtired will have a harder time falling asleep, which leads to a bad night, which leads to more overtiredness, and so on. It’s a cycle you really don’t want to get into.
You’re in the Driver’s Seat
Ultimately, You’re in the driver’s seat. You decide when it’s okay to break the rules. I hope that the information I shared in this post helps you to plan for times when you might need to bend the rules.
If you feel your little one can handle a change to their sleep routine, give it a try. If you feel that it might set back your progress with sleep training, I suggest you play it safe. As they get older, you’ll find they’ll be more accepting of changes in the schedule, but developing them into champion sleepers in these early years will go a long way towards that goal.
Let me know over on Instagram @liveandrestbaby if this blog post helped you. I’d love to hear about how you’re managing your child’s sleep schedule during the holiday season when exceptions to their routine may be more frequent!