That is the pattern we all have in our heads.
Sometimes, however, that little cutie of yours doesn't seem to have gotten the memo and wakes up early from a nap. Too early for it to be time to eat already. Of course the first thing you check when you have a short nap going on is make sure you don't have a growth spurt or hunger happening. You try to feed the baby.
For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume you have checked the hunger possibility and have been working to try to figure out why the short naps are happening. In the meantime, between now and having the issue resolved and baby back to taking long enough naps, you need to know what to do with baby!
- Do you feed baby right away? Keep that eat, wake, sleep routine in place?
- Do you play with baby first, disrupting that pattern, and then feed? Is the length of time between feedings more important than the pattern?
- Do you hybrid? Play for a bit, feed sooner than you ideally would have, then play a bit more, then back to nap?
The answer is that you could do any one of those three options. I have done all three of those over the course of my parenting life.
Feed Right Away, Stay on Routine
If the baby is hungry, at least hungry enough to eat, I feed right away, then continue on my pattern. If baby will, I then let remaining naps be longer throughout the day. So if baby woke up an hour early for one feeding, I would feed, play, then do nap. I would let a normally two hour nap go 2.5 hours, then let future naps go longer, also, to try to get back on track.
Play First, Stay on Feeding Schedule
Baby might not be hungry enough to eat upon waking. If this is the case, and you can't rock your baby to sleep or use a swing to get back to sleep, then you will have no choice but to have your playtime first, then eat.
If you go this route, be careful when you do feed that baby doesn't fall asleep while eating. It baby falls asleep while eating, there is a good chance baby didn't get enough food and will wake up early again, but this time for hunger.
Also, a high level goal is for baby to learn to fall asleep independently. If this is a random, one-time situation, then you will be fine if baby falls asleep eating (taking out the issue of not getting enough food). If this becomes a norm for a while, though, you want to be cautious of what new habits you might be forming.
Hybrid, Do a Little of Both
Doing a hybrid is a great option for extending the time between feedings while avoiding a situation of baby falling asleep while eating.
If your baby is waking early, any one of these solutions is a great way to handle the situation while you troubleshoot and try to get the short naps solved. Any one works, find what works best for you.