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Why a Flexible Routine over Summer can be really Beneficial

August 8, 2023

As you look ahead to the summer holidays, you may be thinking about day trips out and about, trips away to see family and friends, things that involve long journeys, or even just off-routine days without school or nursery runs.

For some parents, this will come so naturally and you’ll see them whisking off their little ones without much of a thought about their routines or sleep on the go. For some parents though, these off routine days can cause anxiety. For some (and I speak from experience), things like day trips just plain old won’t happen for fear of disrupting sleep.

A routine is simply a sequence of daily steps we follow to give our days predictability. For our little ones, this usually shapes when they nap and feed/eat. There is lots of research that shows routines can be really beneficial to many things, especially sleep. Many parents who use a routine find it beneficial to providing their day with some structure, but for some, what happens gradually is that they get trapped by the belief that they have to stick to this routine religiously and fear deviating away from it in any way, usually in case it ‘messes things up’.

Please hear me when I say it is ABSOLUTELY OK to have flexibility with your routine when it comes to sleep. A flexible routine means that some days you are at home and your little one naps as usual, but there are days where you can do naps out and about – it’s about having balance. Yes maybe these naps will be shorter, or at slightly different times, or it might even mean a missed nap.  I would argue that having flexibility in your routine is essential for your mental health and good for your little one.

Here is my thinking:

  • Sleep shouldn’t be the reason you miss out. Sleep should not be the reason you rush home and cut a visit somewhere short. Sleep shouldn’t cause so much anxiety that you don’t say yes to things, and instead spend the summer mostly in a darkened room listening to white noise while you try and get your little one to nap, or stuck at home every day for hours over the lunch time nap.
  • Getting out and about is good for your mental health & brings balance into your life. See that friend for a coffee, go for that walk, go on that day trip! The benefits for you will outweigh the impact on naps for one day!
  • A routine is there to support your family and to support your little one’s sleep but it doesn’t need to dictate everything, everyday. Don’t be afraid to have a go adding flexibility – our children are more resilient than we think! Do not feel bound by your routine.

If you want to bring flexibility into your routine but aren’t sure how, here are some tips:

  1. Start small, with a morning nap for example and just see how it goes! You can build up to a lunch nap or a later bedtime at a later stage when you feel more confident.
  2. Talk it through with a partner or the friend you are meeting, explain what you need from them to help build your confidence in taking naps out of the cot and into the pram/carrier etc.
  3. I always encourage clients to think about the 70/30% rule – so roughly 4/5 days sticking to usual routines, with 2 or 3 days ‘off routine’ a little.
  4. If you are worried your little one might not sleep out and about, you can try helping them with a portable white noise machine and/or a blackout cover like the Snoozeshade (please check safety of any other blackout pram covers, the Snoozeshade is the only tested and verified sleep cover for a pram). Although you will probably find the movement of a pram or sling helps them drift off anyway.
  5. If you find yourself having several days off routine, just give your little one a couple of quieter days back at home before the next set of adventures. Their sleep won’t be impacted longer term by some day trips, I promise, and it is arguably more important for you to be getting a balance too!

Don’t let worries about sleep be the reason you miss out on things this summer!

Hannah – Dusk to Dawn x