Handling Church: Weekly Disruption


How to handle the weekly disruption of church without destroying your child’s routine.

If there is one place you might be at a disadvantage with a schedule, it is church. But let’s face it; church is hard for families of all parenting philosophies. Church is a set time that you can’t move around to fit your schedule. It seems to inevitably fall at a time that overlaps a nap, and many Babywise babies won’t sleep in mom’s arms because he is accustomed to and prefers his bed. Now, I 100% prefer to have a harder time Sunday for a while and have a good napper at home than to have a good napper at church but not home. There are some things you can do to try to make your church experience as beneficial as possible for the whole family.

Also, you are only at a disadvantage when it comes to sleep. When it comes to behavior and helping, you are at a great advantage. The nursery workers love Brayden. They are constantly aghast at his level of knowledge in various subjects. He sits well and has great focusing skills. He pays attention to the lessons. He is the only child in the nursery who helps clean up the toys. He has no problems being left in the nursery without mom and dad.

This nap disadvantage only lasts really a short period. Most younger babies will sleep in moms arms or the car seat. Older babies are more flexible and able to miss a nap more easily. Also, the nap difficulty hits most toddlers if church falls during a toddler nap. Most toddlers won’t sleep in mom’s arms anymore. Those moms are left with very cranky children if the child isn’t coming into the church already being well-rested in general. A Babywise child knows how to soothe himself and how to work through difficult situations.

As Babywise moms, we are used to very content and happy babies. Kaitlyn gets fussy for her at church most days, but everyone at church is constantly commenting on how happy she is and what a good baby she is. And they are right; she is much easier to handle at church than other children around her age.

Okay, so on to the tips. Whatever your method, remember to always evaluate it and be sure what you are doing is best for your baby’s current situation. Your church strategy will need to change often over time.

Naptime is the biggest difficulty for most parents at church.

  • If church starts during a nap, there are a couple of options. When Kaitlyn was a young baby, I could put her down, then transfer her to the car seat and she would stay asleep. That was relatively short-lived though. You can also get your child up early on Sunday in order to get a full or at least longer nap in before church.
  • If normal naptime starts during church, you also have a couple of options. One is to try to put the child to sleep either in the car seat or your arms. This worked for Kaitlyn for a short period (maybe a month). This worked for Brayden right up until he was a year old. It was a struggle though. We would bounce him in the car seat for 20 minutes, then he would sleep 20-30 minutes. It was just enough to get him through church.
  • Another option for naptime that starts during church is to skip it and make up for it later in the day. This is our method with Kaitlyn and was our method with Brayden after he turned a year old. But we didn’t lose the nap all together. Once Kaitlyn was at an age where a nap was dropped, I would just give her an extra nap. So she would have an evening nap when she usually didn’t. This is a good method when your child still needs to eat every three hours or so.
  • You can also extend a nap after church. So you put your child down for the nap early and let her sleep longer. I also often need to put Kaitlyn down early for bed.
  • Keep over tiredness in mind. For a long time, I put Kaitlyn down for a nap after church in her swing since I knew she was overtired. I didn’t want to expect her to go to sleep on her own when she was so tired. As she got older, it was wasn’t a problem.


  • Feed early if needed. I have found Kaitlyn will handle missing the nap much easier if she is full. So she drinks her lunch milk 30 minutes early. It really makes a huge difference.
  • Snacks. We also bring a lot of snacks for Kaitlyn. This helps keep her happy and preoccupied.
  • I didn’t bring baby food for either child if church was over a mealtime. I just brought finger foods and fed lunch as soon as we got home.


  • We don’t let our kids run around and play at church (unless it is in the nursery). They can either sit quietly and play/color/etc. or they can sit still on Daddy’s lap out in the hall. There is no playing if we go out in the hall. No walking, no treats, not toys…nothing but sitting still on Daddy’s lap. We have never had a problem with behavior at church. This is a policy we put in place before we ever were pregnant with Brayden simply because we observed the results of that vs. playing in the hall with the behavior of children. We have never had to do anything beyond that.
  • It is helpful to have toys that only come out at church. We have a church bag packed with toys and books in it that are only available at church each week. This way they stay fresh and interesting for Sunday.
  • You have to find the right balance between high enough expectations and not too high of expectations. Find the right balance for your children.

Sample Problem Solving

  • Church was from 1-4 PM. Kaitlyn spent months 0-8.5 on that schedule. We had a lot of different Sunday schedules and employed all of the ideas listed above. For a while I got her to sleep in my arms. After that, she took a “4th” nap on Sundays but no other day (it was at the 4th nap time, but not an actual 4th nap since she missed one at church). At the end of the year, she came home from church and went straight down for a nap. She then ate a little later for the next feeding.
  • Church was from 1-4. This was our schedule from 19 months to 2.5. Brayden took only one nap a day, from 1-4:30. He went to bed an hour early each Sunday night. When he was at the younger end, he would take a short nap before church.
  • Church was from 11-2. This was our schedule with Brayden while he was 13-19 months old. This was my favorite schedule. We had to get him up early from a nap and he went down a little late for a nap, but he stayed the happiest because he had shorter naps rather than no naps. He would also go down for the night early if needed.
  • Church is now from 9-12. No problem for Brayden (almost 3 years old). Kaitlyn (12 months) misses her morning nap (9:30-11:30). When we get home from church, she eats lunch then goes straight down, which is usually somewhere around 12:45. Her afternoon nap usually starts around 1:45 these days. She then naps until her normal wake up time (3:45-4:00). We also put her down a little early for bed, perhaps 30 minutes.
  • [Added February 2009] Church is once again from 11-2. This schedule is absolutely no problem for 3.5 year old Brayden. We get home, he eats lunch, and he takes a short rest period. He rarely falls asleep on Sunday. He doesn’t need a nap every day of the week anymore, so we have no problem. For 1.5 year old Kaitlyn, it really isn’t a problem either. She is really well behaved at church. Monday, she is tired. She has a shorter nap on Sunday and the time of the nap is very different (tending to start at 2:45ish rather than 1:00). So Monday there is fatigue, but she bounces back.[Added January 2010]: With church from 11-2, it started off well for McKenna. But by the end of 2009, it was a challenge. She was going down for a nap at 10, but then we had to wake her by 10:45. Then we had to feed her lunch during church. She wasn’t quite old enough to just eat finger foods for lunch.
  • [Added January 2010]: We now have church from 1-4. This is totally fine for Brayden at 4.5 years old. Any time would be fine for him. It is rough for 2.5 year old Kaitlyn. She typically naps from 1-4:30. The first two week, she was very tired by the end and was on the floor in the nursery saying, “I want to sleep!” By week three, she had adjusted much better, but we will see what the future holds. I think she will get more flexible as time goes on and she gets older. It is a much better time for McKenna than 11 was. She gets to take a full morning nap. She also gets to eat lunch at home. I don’t have to feed her at church at all. She typically naps from 2/2:20ish to 4:30ish, so it does take up her second nap. She doesn’t sleep at church. What we do is get home, feed her dinner, then put her down for a nap. She sleeps until about 7:30, then I get her up, feed her, do pjs, story, etc. and put her back to bed. It works really well. She does have a bit shorter than normal waketimes on Monday, but not too bad.

Please share your tips if you have any!
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Reader Comments/Thank Yous/Advice:

  • Nicole Viola said…
    Hi! Our church service is from 9~11ish, which of course, is smack dab during naptime for our 12-mo. old, Gigi. Last week we randomly tried putting her in bed immediately when we got home and she miraculously fell right asleep (I’m the one who previously asked you about a 2-hour pre-nap-crib-hangout girl- we’re working on that!) and then just had her lunch a little later and afternoon nap at normal time! We’ll see in the future if that works again or if it was a fluke.
    May 6, 2008 5:36 PM
  • LHS Class of 1998 said…
    Thank you so much for this post Val! Megan:-)
    May 6, 2008 8:35 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    You are welcome Megan!
    May 7, 2008 2:11 PM
  • Catherine said…
    What a great article! Thank you!
    May 6, 2008 10:11 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    You are welcome Catherine! Thanks!
    May 7, 2008 2:12 PM
  • Jennifer Brewer said…
    Thanks, this is a great post! I am really blessed that my husband has an office at church! I am able to lay Gabby down for her morning nap before I take her to the nursery. Whew! What a blessing. Her morning nap is her best nap. Glad we don’t have to miss it.
    May 7, 2008 7:00 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    Jennifer, that sounds wonderful! I am jealous!
    May 7, 2008 2:14 PM
  • Krystal said…
    Our church schedule is from 11-2. My daughter’s nap goes from 10-12-so chuch lands right in the middle. (of course). She gets up at 8am every morning, and I just put her down at 9 on sunday’s so that she gets about 1 1/2 hrs. of sleep before church. Then when we get home at 2:15ish, she goes down again until about 4-4:30. She does get a little cranky at church, but not too bad. I hope that helps someone!
    May 9, 2008 10:31 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    Thanks Krystal!
    May 9, 2008 10:54 AM
  • MarthaStuart said…
    Our church is from 8:15a-11:00a and we live 45 minutes away. Since my son normally eats at 7a & 11a and takes a nap from 8a-11a I feed him right before we leave (7am) and have the nursery worker lay him down for a nap at 8a. I then feed him after Sunday School (11a)before we leave for home. He sometimes will sleep in the crib or other times in someone’s arms. Generally Sundays are rough and I end up holding him for part of a nap later in the day, but over all it works alright. Previously he was on a 3 hour schedule and I was able to get him up early (6:30a) and feed him during coffee hour (9:30a), which worked quite well also. He is now 11 weeks old and things on Sunday run a bit smoother than they did at first. 🙂
    November 15, 2008 3:53 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    Thanks for sharing that MarthaStuart!
    November 22, 2008 3:45 PM

Reader Questions:

  • Emily said…
    Thanks for your response on solids on Sundays. I’m going to try that next Sunday. I have another solid question. My DD takes forever to eat solids and occasionaly(rarely) we need to leave and there’s no time. Is it okay if on those occasions I give her solids later (maybe 30 minutes later or so)? Also, what and when were the first finger foods you used? Thanks, this whole eating thing is very new to me!
    August 19, 2008 11:35 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    Emily, that would be fine. I would keep it the exception rather than the norm, but it would be fine to do that sometimes. See this post on finger foods: Finger Foods: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/12/finger-foods.html
    August 19, 2008 9:14 PM
  • Mahal said…
    Hi, we are on day 5 of CIO bootcamp (and very late starters with BW) with our 15WO daughter. You recommended in another blog to dedicate 2 weeks for sleep training. We don’t want to confuse her progress with church on Sunday. Do you recommend that we stay home this Sunday and the next in order for her sleep training to be more concrete? What did you do? I know you started BW late with your son, so did you sacrifice church for a few weeks? Any suggestions would be very helpful.
    October 17, 2008 11:21 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    Mahal, sorry this is late for you for Sunday. I didn’t stay home with my son for church. Church is really important to us and I just had faith that in going to church the Lord would bless us 🙂 With my daughter, I started her from birth and we stayed home from church for the first month to recover from birth and to avoid the end of RSV season, so she did have complete consistency. However, if she had started late I still would have gone to church.
    October 20, 2008 4:35 PM
    Mahal said…
    No problem, I understand and I realize you are not getting paid for this awesome service. I’m thankful that you are sharing your experiences online.We did go to church this past Sunday. She did better than I thought! She took a nap in her sling during service and then in her car seat on the way home (our service is during two of her naps). I’m so glad we didn’t stay home. Thanks again!
    October 23, 2008 12:32 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    Mahal, Thanks for your understanding! I am glad things went well for you!
    November 10, 2008 4:31 PM
  • B. B. said…
    You mentioned that you have your kids sit on daddy’s lap in the hallway if they can not sit still in the meeting. Just curious, at what age did you implement this? My son is 9 months and crawling. It just seems at his age like it is too much to ask for him to sit still for 3 hours without being able to crawl around and move a bit. Especially because I feel he doesn’t have the cognitive ability to understand “sitting still,” etc. Are my expectations just too low?
    November 8, 2008 2:02 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    BB, We don’t require them to sit perfectly still. But they can’t crawl around or walk around the church or room. We have three different rooms we sit in. The first is the chapel where we sit on a bench and it has bit more room for the kids. The next is sunday school where there is basically enough room for them to sit on the floor or on a chair. The third is similar to sunday school. We are also there for 3 hours. I think you can expect him to pretty much sit “still”–meaning I don’t think he needs to crawl around. If you have breaks between things, let him get wiggles out then. It is hard for the little ones, and I would be more lenient if possible the third hour (without allowing things that are “no’s”). Before we had children, we were in an area where there were lots of young families. Most had only one child. This area also happend to have most parents who followed BW. There were some who didn’t and allowed their kids to run around and play as babies. I watched them grow into toddlers that were quite disruptive and wouldn’t stay in classroom but wanted to go into the hall where they would play. If they couldn’t play in the hall, they played in the classroom. I saw that starkly contrasted with the BW babies who sat still and played through church. It is really what turned me on to BW in the first place. At 9 months he definitely can understand. Adjust to how you know him, but always be aware that what you allow now will only magnify as he gets older. Crawling seems innocent, but it morphs to walking then running. The child who was allowed to crawl won’t be easy to tell ‘no, you can’t walk around the room at will.’
    November 10, 2008 4:55 PM

 Going to Church Without Ruining Your Baby's Sleep


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23 thoughts on “Handling Church: Weekly Disruption”

  1. My son is now 15 weeks old (3.5 months) and he will no longer sleep in his carseat or stay in his carseat without fussing/ crying. We use to take him to church and he would nap during service, but he will no longer do that for us. His schedule also recently changed from a 3 hour to a 3.5 hour schedule, which conflicts with nap time.Church is from 11:15am- 12:30/1:00pm. His nap is from 9:15- 11:30. I am torn between:1.waking him early from his nap to get to church on time 2.waking him at 7:30am instead of 8am on Sundays in order to get the full nap in before church. Which do you think is a better choice? I am concerned if his start time at 7:30am (instead of 8am) this will effect his sleeping patterns (possibly causing him to wake early each day). Have you ever tired this with any of your kids?Thanks Again!

  2. Susanne,Sorry I missed your comment! But it looks really familiar to me. Did I answer it somewhere else? Let me know if you still have questions.

  3. Val,It is okay. I have no idea how you manage to keep up with all these comments. His schedule has since changes now that he is 20 weeks old. I think we have it figured out now. Thanks though! When are you due btw? Hope your feeling good!

  4. lol…I have no idea either. I guess I obviously don’t!I am due in two months, but I am planning to be a bit early because that is me. So I am in the frantic, get things done mode 🙂

  5. Hi, I have a 5.5 month old and we agree that church is really important. I also volunteer at an international ladies program on Thursdays that is the same time as church 9:30-12 and she is in childcare. Of course this is morning nap time. I am on a 3.5 hour schedule and feed normally at 8:30 and noon. So we show up and its time for the nap around 10. Well my daughter won’t go to sleep with them ‘comforting’ her. She normally fusses for a bit in her crib at home in a darkened room. If she does sleep its often a very short nap and so when she is fussy they assume she is hungry. What is your opinion about sending a small bottle for them to give her (so they feel better about her being hungry) and it might make her to to sleep/stay asleep longer?

  6. Elizabeth,I think that sounds fine. This is a situation where you have to just do what works. You consider the context. See this post if you need help feeling better about it: Adjusting for Context: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2009/01/adjusting-for-context.htmlIf this starts to disrupt her every other day of the week, however, I would try to think of a different solution.

  7. I'm a first-time mom, and we have tried a lot of different things with church. My daughter is now 6 mos., but for months 0-5.5 we have mostly used a Moby Wrap during church. It's been GREAT–especially during the early months. She would fall asleep in the wrap, and stay asleep through church, if church fell during her nap time. During the early months, this allowed us to keep her on schedule, even during church. Now, that she's a bit older and gets more distracted and is harder to get to sleep, we've been utilizing the nursery more. She usually gets about an hour nap while there, and then we just put her down early for her after-church nap. It seems to be working out great! But, I definitely recommend wraps and slings for those early months!

  8. Paladinos9801, thanks! Great tip. We have done that with McKenna and it has definitely been helpful. I agree 100%.

  9. At our church, we have a nursery available pretty much from birth, but my husband & I really want to keep our 3.5 mo. old son in the service with us (for various reasons- one, being the presence of a very disruptive/obnoxious child in the nursery, but also to avoid re-training at age 1.5-2 yrs when nursery ends). His morning nap usually gets us through part of church, then a feeding…but then he is awake for the last 4o or so min. I was just wondering if you had any tips for a child that young who is starting to babble & "talk" all the time? Is there anything I can do to help him begin to understand that church is a time for being quiet (not only at this age, because I know he is still VERY young for that type of training, but even in the months to come), or am I just going to have to take him out into the hall when he does this? What did you do with yours at this age when they were awake during parts of church & making the typical (but still loud!) baby noises? Thank you so much for all your help!! Love your blog! 🙂

  10. Amanda, One strategy is to try to do things that will make your baby quiet. One idea is a pacifier. You can also try putting your finger to his lips to shh him, but it will take some time for him to get the message. I would practice at home to see what things help him be quiet and what things cause him to be noisy. Books often produce a quiet effect. As he gets older, when you do take him out, just make sure it is less fun for him to be in the hall than in class. Otherwise he will look to find ways to get out into the hall 🙂

  11. My little guy is 7 months old and we have found church to be a problem with his schedule since he was born. It is now escalating as he gets older and more curious and attentive. He is refusing to sleep at church. The big issue is how long we are there. Hubby and I are church leaders and have to be there at 9:30am and service usually goes till 3:30 on a Sunday. Fridays and Wednesdays are 6:30-10pm (or often 11 on Fridays).We don't have a nursery and he is getting more and more difficult to handle with the over-tiredness. We just started transitioning to a 4 hour schedule and he's doing great with it at home, but the 3 weekly church disruptions are so difficult! I take him to the back of the sanctuary and put a blanket over him in my arms to get him to sleep for a while, but he screams and will only sleep for about 20 minutes. Any suggestions would help! Not going to a service or going later are not options for me either…

  12. Hi Val,Quick question about church from 11-2. My ds is 21 months and usually naps from 1-3 (I wish he would sleep til 4, but that's another issue) I'm trying to decide how to work eating lunch and getting him down for his nap. You said that in Feb 2009 Kaitlyn just went down for her nap later and then was a bit tired on Monday. Did you try to feed her when you got home or did you just put her down? We just switched to this time for the new year (we were 9-12 last year)and I'm looking for ideas. Any suggestions would be great. Right now we just feed him lots of snacks during the first hour, he gets a snack in nursery and then we give him a small "lunch" when we get home. I'm wondering, though, if we should just skip the "lunch" at home and put him straigt to bed. What do you think?

  13. miraclebaby, I am so sorry I didn't see your question until now! I hope you have it figured out.There are a couple of things I would do in your situation if possible. I would try to get a babysitter as possible on weeknights. I might even see if someone could watch him on Sunday for part of the time. That is a long day for a baby.Another option is to find somewhere for him to sleep and bring a pack and play. i know that isn't possible at all churches, but it is some.

  14. Janelle, We just put them down when we got home unless they really asked for food (which they only did a few times a year). We took simple snacks like raisins, dried bananas, etc. and let them eat during SM. That took place over lunch. I would base "lunch" on how well he sleeps and eats. I obviously opted for the no lunch. We tend to try to eat dinner around 5ish at the latest anyway, so to eat lunch at 2:30 and dinner at 5 was too soon.

  15. My son is just over 13 months old. We have an interesting situation right now. We attend a church service in the mornings, from 10:35 to 12:15, then I nurse him at the church building before we leave to go directly to another meeting in someone's home. This second meeting starts with lunch at 1:30 and can last until 5 or 6. I'm forgoing Sunday School at 9:30 since my son needs to get a nap in before such a long day out. He usually gets 1 1/2 to 2 hours before we leave. But he misses his afternoon nap. He might sleep in the car on the way to the house and then back to our home in the evening (it's usually about a 30 min drive). But his day is pretty unstructured. He usually does ok, but I'm thinking about trying to get him to nap while we're at someone else's home. Any suggestions? The only way I can think of getting him to nap at someone else's house is to take his own bed (a pack-n-play). I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, or if you have any suggestions. Thanks!

  16. Lauren, I would definitely try to get him to sleep at the house! That is a great perk you have. I would bring a bed, a lovey, and a white noise machine if he needs it.

  17. I'm a bit ahead of myself, but we'll be moving from 11-2 church to 1-4 church next January. My 15 month old daughter just dropped to one nap a day and now sleeps from 12 or 12:30 until 3:30. She is desperate for a nap by the time noon rolls around. Obviously, this conflicts greatly with 1-4 church, especially considering its a 30 min drive both ways. So, church is more like 12:30-4:30. I can in no way image her going until 4:30 without sleep. It's also unlikely she could get any significant sleep before church. She never sleeps in my arms. On rare occasions I've gotten her to sleep in the Baby Bjorn (but I have to constantly be moving and not sitting) and in her carseat carrier(which she has nearly outgrown). In either location she'll only take a 45 min. nap. I am becoming very nervous about how to handle this new church schedule in conjunction with Amelia's naps. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions? According to your notes in this post (which I love, btw) your LO's were always a bit older when they had to miss their one and only nap of the day. How do you do that with such a little toddler who desperately needs that one nap?

  18. Lonica, Actually, we had 1-4 when Brayden went to one nap and 1-4 now with McKenna.With Brayden, it was just an issue of him having to get used to it. your daughter will be older by then, and it really does make a difference. Also, she will soon be in nursery, which helps a whole lot. They stay busy, which keeps them from having a meltdown.With McKenna, we just put her down for a "morning nap". She actually does fall asleep, but even if she didn't, I would do it just so she had that relaxing time.

  19. My son is 8.5 months old and a very good napper. He has two 1.5 hour naps a day; at 9:30 and 2. He's an angel baby in that he is delightful during wake time, and goes to sleep very well for naps in his bed (or if we're driving during his nap), but if he misses a nap completely, he's is VERY upset. Our block time is 2-5; right on top of his second nap. He is very tall for his age (94th percentile) so he outgrew his infant car seat months ago, which kind of worked for getting him to sleep during church, but now we are at a complete loss as how to handle the situation at church. Do you have any tips for helping an 8-month old sleep at church? I've half a mind to set up a packnplay in an empty classroom and let him sleep there!Until now, we've been putting him to bed at 2, and switching off between me and my husband who gets to go to church on time, and who waits for him and then brings him to church late, but missing the first half of church every week is not a permanent solution for us.Help!

  20. Caitlin,I WISH I had tips for that! I never had an 8 month old sleep at church. I think if you have an empty room you could use, you should do it! A peapod would be easier to work with, though. With younger babies, slings and swaddling worked for us. So did walking 500 laps around the church :)Something I did was bring finger foods to eat on during church to help maintain some happienss.Do you get to switch times in January?

  21. We do get to switch times, but it switches to 10, right on top of our son's first nap! Sigh. Last week I bounced/held him in the hall for about fifteen minutes and he finally fell asleep for about forty- just enough to get him through the rest of church. Then early to bed! I guess that kind of worked, but I'd rather a full nap!!! 🙂 I'll look into the peapod- thanks for the recommendation- only thing is, I wonder if he'd cry more than usual because it's unfamiliar- people might wonder where the crying is coming from!! THanks for the help!

  22. Good luck with it. Let me know if you find any magic tricks 🙂 Brayden would only nap 30-40 minutes and it took work to get him to fall asleep. But he did that until he was 1. My girls both stopped sleeping in church at all by 3-4 months, so at this point in life, I think 40 minutes sounds fabulous 🙂

  23. wow – your church meeting time changes a lot! That makes your post even more helpful. Thank you for this site. I have a 9 month old and I reference it at least 4 times/week. You are a God-send!


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