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I love church. I really do. But when you have a little one, you often spend so much time in the hall with that baby that you wonder “What is the point? Why am I here? I should just be home with my baby! There is no point to come here and walk the halls and make my baby tired.” I totally get you. I would wager that 95% of mothers who have been there in those halls have thought the same thing. You aren’t alone! I have heard mother after mother utter that frustration over the years. It is hard! I have been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt.
Despite the murmurings that have played around in my head and on my tongue, I do feel strongly that church is worth it, even if you are in the halls the whole time. Strongly enough that we went through all four of our children and their baby years still going to church. Church was usually exhausting. Exhausting! Day of rest? Nope! The baby got off schedule. I usually had to have Monday as a recovery day and get back on track day. But going, even amidst the difficulty, set the tone for our family. We go to church each week. That’s what we do. Sidenote here, but lest I lead any of you astray and into false hope, Sunday still would not be considered “restful” to me at this point in life.
Our church is 3 hours long. We change times from year to year, starting at 9, 11, or 1. No matter the time, you run into a nap with a baby when you have 3 hour long church. We made it through, everyone remained a great sleeper, and we came out the other side better for having done it. Here are some things you can do to preserve sleep and still attend church.
1-Try to have naps at church.
In an ideal world, sleep still happens even on Sunday. If church is during a nap, do what you can to work a nap in there. Brayden slept in his car seat. It was a short nap–usually around 30 minutes–but it was better than nothing at all. You might be able to set up a pack and play somewhere. You might be able to use a sling to have a nap in. You might just be carrying your baby during a nap (side note, that makes your arm go super dead. Rest the arm holding baby up on an arm rest or on your spouse if you have no arm rest).
2-Adjust the schedule at home.
There were times I would start a nap 30 minutes early on Sunday so we could sneak at least part of a nap in before church. On those days, I usually also woke baby up in the morning 30 minutes early that day, just so waketime length would be long enough before nap started. There were other times we went straight to nap after church on Sunday in order to catch up on sleep even it wasn’t a normal “nap time.” Your Sunday might be very different from your normal schedule, but that’s okay. Do what you can to avoid total overly tiredness.
3-Skip the nap at church.
All three of my girls stopped sleeping at church from a young age–like 4ish weeks old. No more sleeping at church. For a newborn, 3 hours without sleep is a long time! But they wouldn’t sleep, and you just can’t force sleep. So I skipped the nap. Then we would come home, I would put them right down, and they would take a longer-than-usual nap to make up for it.
4-Use sleep props if needed.
Maybe you don’t usually use a pacifier, but it helps your baby sleep at church. Maybe you don’t typically allow nursing to sleep to happen, but it might be the ticket to get your little one to fall asleep at church or to fall asleep after church without having to cry. When Kaitlyn was a baby, we put her in the swing when we got home from church. I knew she was overly tired and the swing helped her just fall asleep peacefully.
5-Add a nap.
Your baby might typically take 2 naps a day, but on church day, you might add in a third nap. If one of the naps was skipped or shortened because of church, you can add a third nap just to keep baby from getting overly tired.
6-Be consistent other days.
Babies can handle disruptions every once in a while. Just be mindful of what your Saturday looks like and your Monday (and possibly Tuesday). A huge reason Monday is my laundry day is because from the beginning, my babies needed Monday to be a day at home. No disruptions to the routine. If I was going to be home, might as well get all of the laundry done while I was at it. Don’t make long-standing commitments on Mondays if you need a recovery day. I promise it is a short time in your lifespan. Mondays won’t be home days for ever and ever.
7-Get someone to watch baby.
If you have a family member or someone you trust who doesn’t have church the same time as you, you could have that person come sit with baby during nap time. Brinley was a super consistent sleeper. We would take her to church during her waketime, then bring her home for nap and my mom would be here while she napped. My mom just read a book. Brinley slept until we got home. This was a solution we used for a while during Brinley’s more sensitive baby months.
8-Have someone else hold baby to sleep.
Sometimes babies just won’t sleep in moms arms. They feel uncomfortable and want mom to fix it. Then they get with someone they don’t know as well and they sleep. Sometimes, mom has anxiety about sleep coming. Babies totally feel that. Stranger doesn’t feel worried about it, baby relaxes, and sleeps. Sometimes there are people who are just talented at putting baby to sleep in your arms. If you have someone at church who is dying to hold a cute, sleeping baby, let it happen!
I know church gets hard some days and the sleep disruption seems unbearable, but you can survive it! Put in the effort and give it a go. It will be worth it.