Don’t get ‘nap trapped’

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By Jolandi Becker – MD of Good Night

More and more in recent times have I been hearing the word ‘nap trapped’.

Nap trapped is when parents feel ‘trapped’ at home because their little one can sleep well only in the cot or in a specific area for naps. This can even mean that because of the timing of naps, moms don’t want to join friends, go to classes or join groups.

There is an added level to being nap trapped, as it could also mean that your baby can sleep only on you or next to you.

I KNOW I was nap trapped with my babies. For such a long time, my children were sleeping horribly, and once I found something that worked, I was so petrified that if I changed something they would go back to the horrible sleeping. We could never go out for dinner, because my little ones had to sleep at home. Outings during the day or during holiday caused me so much anxiety in the end that I did not want to do anything outside the house as it just made me stress.

One holiday in Cape Town (by this time, my kids were already four and two years old), we had some friends over for an early afternoon braai. I had finally stopped breast feeding, so I could drink some wine again (of course, after not drinking for years, one glass was enough). We had a fantastic time; their kids were a similar age than ours and all were enjoying themselves. Because the sun goes down later in summer in the Cape, with a shock, at 20:00, I realised that my kids were not even close to getting into bed (they had a very strict 19:00 bedtime). And there they were, running around, swimming, playing and having a great time… I had never even given them the opportunity before… And I was fine, they were fine. I was actually the only one who realised what time it was.

Because they normally slept really well, they could cope really well with one night of going to bed later. And that is the reality most of the time. Even the most social couple I have helped had something on three times a week over bedtime (that is really social, I can’t remember ever being that social, even before kids!). AND even for that social couple, it was still the exception. For four out of seven nights, they were at home, could follow the bedtime routine and make sure that their baby got proper sleep. Don’t try to create your life according to the exception and also don’t be afraid of the exception.

Most of the time, you will be at home, and when you are at home, make sure that your baby gets the best sleep that they can. So that when those exceptions happen (they have a short nap or skip the nap or go to bed later), they will be ready and deal with it and will be fine.

There are, of course, some additional things that you can try for naps or bedtime when you do go out for dinner to at least hope you have a good time:

  • Try to relax. In the end, if you are going to be anxious, your baby will feel it and this can make the whole situation much worse. This might mean that you need to plan a bit. This might mean that you need to allow other people to help when they offer. Or, this might just mean that you need to know that whatever you do for those couple of hours will not alter everything that you have done before.
  • If your little one can sleep in the car, well, use it. If you are traveling during time that falls over the nap time, extend the drive a little if you have to (I know petrol is expensive!) to just ensure your baby gets a bit of sleep before you get to your activity.
  • If your little one can sleep in a stroller, use it! Even if it is a short nap, it is better than nothing. Try using a portable white noise machine or white noise app in the stroller as well as closing it and moving it around to see if this helps to get your little one to sleep in the stroller. Some babies sleep great in a stroller when they are small, but might not sleep so well anymore as they get bigger. BUT, then, they might get into it again.
  • If you go to a braai/dinner at someone else’s house, ask them if they have an extra cot or take your camp cot with. Do a short bedtime routine as you would at home. Instead of bathing, you can just wipe your baby’s face and feet with a warm cloth. They will survive one night of not bathing. Try to put them down even if it means helping a bit to get them there. BUT, if they don’t sleep after 10 to 20 minutes, call it. Take them with you to friends and try to enjoy yourself. You can take turns holding the baby with your partner and friends. It is one night.

Too many times, I have heard moms say that they want a baby that can sleep anywhere. These moms would say things like: “I can remember falling asleep under the table at weddings!” My response:  First, how many weddings do you attend? Second, sleeping anywhere has a lot to do with your baby’s personality and age, but most importantly, lastly, why create rules for the exception?