HELP! I’ve Turned Into A Nap Nazi!

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When my first child was born I bought a couple of popular baby sleep books. Without getting into a Big Ol’ Infant Sleep Debate, let’s just say that one of them in particular didn’t mesh with how I wanted to spend the first few getting-to-know-you months with my newborn. It advocated a pretty regimented approach to eating and sleeping schedules right from the get-go. Many of the philosophies made sense to me for older babies, but in those blurry first weeks of motherhood I wanted the freedom to doze off on the couch with my baby after she fell asleep nursing and I didn’t want to worry about how many hours it had been since her last feeding or whether she snoozed in the car for ten minutes or slept in the swing all night long.

Fast forward three years and another child later and I have to admit it: somewhere along the line I’ve become a total crazy sleep lady! I structure our days around naps (two for my 14-month-old, one for the three-year-old and you better believe they nap at the same time); I turn down invitations if they conflict with bedtimes; I live in mortal fear of the 20-minute car nap that can throw off our schedule; and when we travel I go to great lengths to make sure the kids stay relatively on schedule and get their naps in wherever we are.

Last week we vacationed out of town and were around lots of other families with young kids, and the height and depths of my crazy became really apparent to me. I watched as two-year-olds snoozed for a few minutes in their parents’ laps or skipped naps altogether to play at the beach. I marveled at two kids the same ages as my own who danced until midnight at a family wedding. And all around me were calm, relaxed parents who were allowing this to happen and not completely wigging out about it. And guess what? The kids were fine. Yes, there were meltdowns and yes probably everyone paid for it the next day, but no one seemed worse for the wear.

How did this happen? (Or, as one of my favorite blogger/authors would say, When Did I Get Like This?) How did I go from the mom who didn’t believe in baby sleep schedules to the one who can’t let them go, even for a day?

I think somewhere around six months both my kids started needing more predictable naps in a calmer, quieter environment (gone were the days where they could sleep through anything, anywhere). It wasn’t so much that I put them on a schedule as that they, very gradually, put me on one. And the predictability was welcome, too, for me. After months of not knowing when I might get to pee or take a shower, I actually could predict what my day was going to look like. So while the schedule was initiated by their sleep patterns and needs, I quickly learned to reinforce it by planning around their naps. And so the cycle went, I guess, and here we are.

I also have discovered that I really like my kids a lot more when they’re rested. Aren’t we all easier to be around when we’ve had enough sleep? I feel like as their mom it’s my job to provide for their basic needs – food, shelter, sleep – so that they can do their job, which is to absorb the world around them, learn through play, engage in family and social relationships, etc. They can do their job so much better if I do mine, and for that reason I do place sleep at a high priority on the parenting checklist.

But like everything else in parenting (in life?) there’s got to be a balance. Kids are amazingly flexible, resilient – even if I’m not. Sometimes a day at the beach is well worth a skipped nap and a cranky next day, right? And while in other areas of our life I’m more laid-back (we eat healthy at home, for example, but I have no problem with sweets and treats when we’re out with friends or on special occasions), I for some reason have a harder time finding this balance with sleep. I get twitchy just thinking about a day of messed-up sleep schedules! 🙂

So help me out, ladies! Are there any closet crazies out there like me? Do you even bother with schedules? How do you strike the balance between flexibility and predictability?

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Sarah Powers is a writer and Scottsdale mom of two. She came to the valley from Southern California by way of Chicago and would take Arizona summers over Midwest winters any day. A perfect day for Sarah starts with coffee, ends with chardonnay and includes lots of baby giggles and sticky-fingered kid kisses in between. She loves high ponytails, showtunes and using her kids as an excuse to stay in and go to bed early, which she would do anyway. Sarah sometimes blogs and often tweets about the messy, tender, fun, funny and irreverent moments of parenthood.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve always held the belief that it is just as important to give my child sleep as it is to give my child food.

  2. I’m totally crazy about naps! It’s actually in all honesty the highlight of my day in most cases 🙂
    BUT I will say that like in everything in life it’s important to be flexible. Sometimes life just doesn’t allow for a schedule.
    Case in point: Last weekend Nora was in a wedding and we kept her up until 10 pm (normal bedtime: 7:30 pm). Part of me was getting all nervous about putting her to bed so late but the girl totally did great! Sometimes they can surprise us.
    Of course she was up at the same time the next morning… but it was worth it!

    • YES! They are ALWAYS up at the same time every morning!! Still, every time he stays up later I convince myself he will sleep in the next day…nope! Haha

  3. I will admit that I am a bit of a Nap Nazi as well but after traveling out of town with my son for numerous overnight stays I have learned that if I am not flexible he won’t be either! I tried to keep him on his normal nap schedule but there is just too much excitement that sometime he is not ABLE to relax enough to sleep. There is also usually a 2-3 hour time difference and that creates another whole mess of problems. When we are in AZ he still has two naps a day, between 1.5-2.5 hours long and (almost) always in his dark room. I say “almost” because sometimes there are appointments that we are just NOT able to schedule around nap times. However, now when we travel I just make sure he has at least one GOOD nap each day in a dark room. He is a creature of habit so he generally still takes two but if he just won’t go down for one, I don’t try to force it and I also don’t sweat it. I used to also be a stickler about nap lengths. I would decide how LONG he napped. But that was just to get him in somewhat of a routine. In a way I still do determine how long he naps in that he stays in bed for no less than 45 mins-1 hour. If he wakes up before then he lays there and babbles until I come get him. He hasn’t woke up crying since he was around 12 weeks old and he is over 10 months now! This is what works for US. Using some guidelines is a fabulous way to get to know what your baby’s needs are but they are NOT one size fits all! It took a lot of heartache and tears to realize that what. What works for one baby does NOT necessarily work for every baby. I must say though that I remember reading blogs and listening to other moms talk about how their baby goes down without a single tear and wakes up smiling-I promise I thought they were ALL liars! 😉 …until I found what worked for Parker and me!

  4. Thanks for the discussion, ladies! Makes me feel better to know there are other sticklers out there! I think my issue I need to get over is feeling so BAD for my kids when I know they are overtired and cranky. Like Kaarin, I feel like depriving them of sleep is like letting them go hungry or eat Oreos all day long; in reality, that would be true if it were day after day, but once in a while (like your wedding example, Steph) isn’t going to kill them, or me. I end up feeling guilty rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt and letting them enjoy whatever special occasion is allowing us to mess with their schedules. And like all of you point out, they are FAR more flexible than we often give them credit for… 🙂

  5. I, too, believe that providing sleep is as important as providing food. However, my child doesn’t eat the same amount of food every day. So it only makes sense that he might not sleep the same amount each day either. I provide the about same amount of each-both food and time for sleep-each day but I no longer freak out (the way that I used to) if he doesn’t take all that I offer.

  6. This is totally ME!!! And I get SUPER concerned while traveling with kiddos because I feel like I’m doing them a disservice by skipping naps – you hit it – just like I wouldn’t skimp on food for the day! Especially when around family, or doing something out of the ordinary, I feel like I’m the VOICE my kids don’t have – THEIR NEEDS need to be considered and who else is there to stand up for them and say – “you know what, we need to sit this one out so that little one can take a nap” – But, as you say, there needs to be balance.

    xo

  7. Well when I had Ben the first 2 weeks all he did was sleep. Slept through feedings, but of course he was awake all night. Thats when I learned for this baby he needs a regimented schedule. So I went through the waking him up to feed and play and then back to a nap routine. This worked great for him now at 18 months old (almost) we are down to one nap a day. Sometimes it is 1.5 hrs and sometimes it is 3hrs (my favorite ones) but I have never been a real stickler on his bedtime when it comes to going out or being with family. I mean 90% of the time when we have our normal daily routine he goes to bed by 7:00pm but if there is a special event I let him stay up late and yes he is still up at his normal 6:30-7:00am time. He is such a go-with-the-flow kid that if he was up late the night before, he might nap a little longer for me but generally not; his temperment is typically happy. See when he gets overly tired he gets giddy (weird I know). So I guess you just have to figure out what will work for you and your children, everyone and every situation is different. But i am very curious for me how it will go with baby #2 due here in 4 weeks? Naps routine…WHAT?!?!

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