Do you need help figuring out how to keep baby on a schedule when you are away from home? This post will walk you through it.
Having a baby on a schedule or routine is amazing! It gives you predictability. It helps your little one sleep well for naps and nights. It helps you know what to expect and plan your day around your baby.
But moms who have their baby on a schedule or a routine often have a hard time knowing what to do when that inevitable moment comes that baby needs to eat or nap away from home–off the normal routine or schedule.
There will definitely come a day when you want or need to go somewhere and it will interfere with baby’s normal routine.
Just because baby is away from home doesn’t mean baby won’t need to eat or sleep. You will need a game plan for while you are out.
How to Stay on Baby’s Schedule When You are Away from Home
Let’s go over some various scenarios and what I try to do in each.
Scenario 1: Away from home, but still in a home
There will be times you are away from your home, but still in somebody’s home.
No matter the age of the baby, in this situation, I have baby sleep and eat at regular times.
If you are breastfeeding, you can breastfeed where and how you and those around you are comfortable with.
I would at times nurse in the room with others with a nursing cover (I have also seen people use a blanket or something). I have also gone to another room to nurse. You might nurse in the room with everyone with no cover.
All four of my children got to a point where it was just easier and faster to leave the room.
My kids wanted to see what was going on if they heard people talking, so it was just less frustrating for me to leave for 10-15 minutes rather than try to get the baby to focus and eat with all the noise.
If you are formula feeding, bring along everything you will want or need to feed your baby.
You might be one who likes a certain type of water for your baby’s bottle–if so, bring it along with you.
Make sure you have a burp rag or something you can use to make sure any formula escaping baby’s mouth doesn’t get on your host’s couch, chair, or floor.
So far as solid foods go, bring along what you need for your baby. Some people you visit might have a highchair your baby can use. If not, I find carseats to work well.
With Brinley, my youngest, we got a portable high chair to use while we were out and about.
If my husband was around, one of us would play the part of the highchair and the other would feed the baby.
You could also sit baby on the floor on a towel.
Be sure to bring the bibs, spoons, bowls, etc you need unless you know the person you are visiting has the items that you can borrow.
Now for sleeping. Here comes the point when it requires you to act in faith.
Now, if the baby is still young and not consistent about falling asleep on her own, I usually would put her in a sling or hold and rock her or something to help her fall asleep and stay asleep.
But once baby slept well on her own at home, I would put her in a bed just like we are at home. I would use a crib if the host had one. If not, we would bring our own bed.
When Brayden was young, I always hauled the pack and play around with me. During Kaitlyn’s first six month or so, we hauled her bassinet because that was easier than the pack and play.
With my youngest two, I liked the pea pod.
Bring a lovey, doll, blanket, or whatever your child will need to sleep away from home.
If things will be noisy, consider bringing along a sound machine or humidifier to help block out the noise.
Find an empty room or large closet to put baby in for the nap.
Remember when I said it was an act of faith to put baby down for a nap?
I remember one time when we were visiting friends when Brayden was a baby. They had a son two weeks older than Brayden. It came time for Brayden to take a nap.
We hadn’t planned on staying during nap time, but were enjoying our visit and ended up staying.
Because we hadn’t planned to be there for naptime, we were not prepared.
Our friend’s offered their son’s crib. The room was right next to the room we were visiting in, and we didn’t know if he would sleep or not, but we put him in bed and he went to sleep perfectly and slept as usual.
So give it a try and see if your baby will sleep while away from home.
Now, there may be times and there may be babies who will only take a 45 minute nap when away from home. At the sleep transition, they will wake up and some will be concerned over the new place.
That is fine. A 45 minute nap is better than no nap at all.
For the younger babies, you might need to have the next nap time come early if there was a short nap.
For babies 6 months and older, you might be best off to just wait for the next normally scheduled nap and stick to your typical schedule.
In a simple summary, when I am visiting at a friend’s house, I keep feedings and sleeping times the same and just adjust as necessary for the house we are at.
Scenario 2: Away from home with no place to put baby
Sometimes you will be away from home and unable to put baby somewhere to sleep.
Situations we have faced like this have included family reunions and shopping trips. And church was like this weekly!
Exactly what you do in this situation will depend a lot on baby’s age.
Newborns are typically a lot easier to handle in this situation than an older baby. Pre-toddlers can be difficult because few will sleep in arms at that age and they get cranky.
Kids get more flexible over time once they hit about two or so and often can skip a nap every once in a while.
If you breastfeed, my advice is the same as above.
Feed where you feel comfortable, baby is comfortable, and those around you are comfortable.
I believe you can be respectful to mom, baby, and everyone else. I again try to feed as closely to the normal feeding time as possible. If baby is hungry earlier (which often happens if baby doesn’t sleep well), I feed early.
If baby is sleeping and it is time to eat, I might wait another 30 minutes because you never know if the next nap while you are out and about will be as good.
Formula feeding is the same as above as well; bring what you need and feed baby when it is time.
If your baby is eating solids, you might be able to bring all of that with you. If not, finger foods can make a great little snack to hold your little one over for now.
Sleep is where the difficulty really arises.
I again try to keep nap times as close to when they should normally happen as possible.
Here are some different things we have done.
- We often used a sling when McKenna was a newborn. At church, at family reunions, at the store…it was a great place for her to sleep while we were out and about.
- When Brayden was a baby, we used the carseat often. You have to be careful with a sleeping baby in a car seat. Keep baby right by you, and I don’t suggest you strap baby in. There is a strangling risk (yes, it has happened to people before).
- Another thing we did often with Brayden was put him in our stroller. It would lay flat like a mini bed. Brayden was the type who hated to be held while he slept, so we had to find solutions for him so he could sleep on his own. McKenna would sleep well in a stroller, also.
- One time when we were at the beach, we put 14 month old Kaitlyn in the pack and play. We put it under our pop-up shade, put blankets and towels around the edge, and told her to go to sleep. She took a short nap, but it was better than no nap at all.
- Some babies will sleep in your arms. McKenna would do this if I brought along her swaddle blanket and swaddled her up first.
- There will come a day when your child is able to skip a nap without life coming to a stop.
When your child has reached this point, you can let him skip the nap. There are some things to keep in mind. If your child has a tendency toward aggression, being tired will magnify that.
As the parent, it will be your responsibility to keep an extra eye on your child so she doesn’t start terrorizing other children.
Your child will also be more whiny and less obedient because of being tired. Be patient with your child.
My kids are also hungry when they should be sleeping. I will offer them snacks to help keep them happy. Ideal? No, but better than meltdowns and appropriate in the context of the situation.
If you are skipping naps, don’t skip more than one nap in a row if you can help it. And, you might need to get the child in bed early that night if sleep was missed that day.
In summary, these are great places to put baby for napping away from home:
- Travel bed
- Your arms
Scenario 3: Breastfeeding, but can’t feed in the situation
You might sometimes find that you are unable to breastfeed in the situation you are in.
If you find yourself in this situation, offer a bottle. You can either pump or give formula.
For those eating solids, you can also offer extra solids instead for one meal. I wouldn’t do it for more than one meal, but for one meal, your baby will be fine.
You might try offering a sippy of water after the solids are eaten to keep baby hydrated.
I think that kind of covers in a generic way all the situations you would encounter. As a summary, here are the basic tips I do:
- Try to feed baby as close to normal feeding time as usual. There will be times you need to feed sooner or will feed later, and that is fine. Just make sure you get the minimum amount of feedings in for the day if at all possible.
- Try to get baby to sleep when she should. Bring along a bed, use a sling, use your arms, etc. Getting some sleep is most important here; don’t worry about “starting bad habits” or “ruining your work.” Yes, it is possible you might find yourself retraining when you get back home, but that is worth it to get the sleep baby needs.
- Be sure to check out the posts on “disruptions,” “flexibility,” “context,” and “traveling” as linked below for further information on this topic.
RELATED POSTS/BLOG LABELS
- How To Expertly Manage Disruptions To Your Baby Routine
- Handling Church: a Weekly Disruption
- How To Maintain a Sleep Schedule with School Disruptions
- Going To Church Without Ruining Your Baby’s Sleep
- Traveling Sleep Hierarchy for Babies
- Let Your Schedule Serve You, You Don’t Serve Your Schedule
- Adjusting for Context Using Babywise
This post originally appeared on this blog in July of 2010