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On Becoming Babywise II reminds us of the need to take situations in context. “…you can focus on the right response in the short-term, without compromising your long-term objectives” (page 21). This means that there are times when you will need to change certain “rules” you have in order make a current situation work. This is the same concept as Why vs. How as discussed in Toddlerwise on up.
I wanted to share some times in the lives of my children when context has changed the rules for a situation.
- Brayden was about two weeks into sleep training. He was about 10/11 weeks old. By then we had figured out that he could not be interfered with while sleep training, or future naps would suffer for a couple of days. In other words, once we put him in his bed, we couldn’t get him out until he had stopped crying, or he would cry longer and harder for a couple of days. It was time to put him down for a nap, and we were having company come over for dinner. Their scheduled arrival time was for after Brayden would typically have fallen asleep, but as we know, sometimes they take longer than usual. We decided rather than risk having to interfere with him, and thus hurt the overall process for a couple of days, we would just put him straight in the swing to sleep. That worked out great. We had no problems with sleep training for the next nap.
- When Kaitlyn was 8 weeks old, she was done crying before naps. We went to a birthday party for a family member. While there, Kaitlyn was around grandparents that didn’t see her as often as they would like. Grandma was holding her, and I let her stay up for her evening nap. She was fine the whole time. We got home, I fed her, and put her to bed for the night. Well, she was overstimulated. She cried. At first I thought, “No, you don’t cry anymore, you are fine.” I figured within a few minutes of crying, she would be asleep. I don’t remember how long passed, I think 10-15 minutes, and I finally adjusted my thinking to the context of the situation and took her out of her crib and put her in the swing. It wasn’t fair to expect her to self-soothe when she was so worked up and overly tired. We let her fall asleep in the swing, then my husband moved her to her to her crib. She slept fine.
- When Brayden was about 7 months old, we were at my grandparent’s house for Christmas. He was to the point of sleeping through the night. Well, he woke up crying around 3 or 4 AM. This was uncommon for him. We were across the hall from my grandparents. I got up, nursed him, and put him back in bed. I didn’t want to disturb the other people in the house. When we got home, things went back to normal.
- When Brayden was 6 months old, we flew East to visit family. On the flight home, our flight was delayed. This put our flight during Brayden’s normal night sleeping time. He has never been one to sleep well anywhere other than his bed. In a car seat, he would sleep at most 40 minutes–long enough for one sleep cycle. Everyone on the plane was trying to sleep. Rather than have Brayden fuss at all, I literally nursed him the entire flight. He didn’t eat the whole time. He would suck to fall asleep, then lay on the boppy that I had brought with me, rouse, nurse to sleep, etc. It kept him quiet, passengers weren’t disturbed, and I wasn’t stressed. He never expected that treatment again (I don’t think he particularly enjoyed it).
- When Kaitlyn was 3 months old, my grandmother passed away. We traveled out of state for the funeral and were staying with my aunt and uncle, along with my parents and sister and their children. Kaitlyn woke up twice that night. Both times, I fed her. No, she wasn’t really hungry, but she was in a strange place and it was much colder than she was used to. By nursing her, she went right back to sleep and we didn’t disturb anyone else in the house. The last thing we all needed at the time was to be sleep deprived.
- This past summer, Brayden was three and Kaitlyn was just over one. We went to Yellowstone National Park with some friends. We played each day by ear. Some days, Kaitlyn skipped her morning nap while we went sight seeing. Other days, both kids skipped the afternoon nap while we went sight seeing. Some nights they went to bed late. By the end of the trip, both were really tired. After a couple of days home, they were fine.
- When Brayden was a baby at church, we put him in his car seat for a nap. He wouldn’t just fall asleep, though. We had to rock him, and he fought sleep. He needed the nap, however, to make it through church happily. We never experienced any negative side effects of this.
- When Kaitlyn was a newborn, at church we gave her a pacifier to fall asleep. We don’t normally use pacifiers. For a month or two, this worked great. Then we found that if she had a pacifier at church, she would cry for the rest of the day at home for naps. We decided the pacifier wasn’t worth it. She didn’t sleep at church after that, but she was completely happy. As soon as we got home, we put her in the swing (since she was over tired) where she took a nap. Following naps that day were in bed as usual, with no crying.
- For most of Brayden’s life, he has not been able to skip a nap and be a happy child. He could get by with a power nap, but he needed at least that. He couldn’t have two disrupted naps in a row. If he did, he was really upset. For most of his life, we have made sure he has had all naps no matter where we are. That meant taking him from relatives that wanted to see him, but in the end it was better for everyone so that when he was awake, he was happy.
- Around age two or so, Brayden was able to skip a nap every so often and be okay. At first this could only be once a week. As a two year old, this was done each week for church since church was during his one nap of the day. As he has gotten older, he has been able to handle more than one day in a week, though never two days in a row. Now he can do a couple of days in a row, but that is about it. As a 3.5 year old, we will let him skip a nap if we are at a family party or have some other event to attend. If a doctor appointment must fall in the time slot of his nap, I don’t worry about it. We adjust bedtime as needed and are sure other days in the week are not disrupted.
- When Kaitlyn had more than one nap in a day, she could skip naps and still be happy. For the first 6-7 months of her life, if a nap got skipped I was careful about over stimulation and would put her in the swing for the next nap just to get her “caught up” before returning to sleeping on her own. After that age, she has done fine. Now that she is 21 months old and takes one nap a day, I don’t let her skip naps. I will let her go down for a nap late if needed or get up early if needed, but she needs a nap each day.
These are just some examples of when we have had to do things differently for the context of the situation. Hopefully these examples can show you how you can adjust for the situation you are in without stressing you out. You can adjust as needed and go back to normal once the context is back to normal.