You lie on my chest, one arm thrown over my shoulder, head nuzzled into my neck, finally asleep. I can finally relax. I feel the tightness that’s been building all day in my chest begin to dissipate. It’s been a perfectly ordinary day—a quick 30-minute nap at the park while your sister swung and laughed. Then you spent the rest of a lazy Sunday at home walking around with mommy, playing with your sister, eating lots of food, and swinging in the yard as the sun began to filter through the trees after days of rain. So, then, why this anxiety that plagues me? It’s because early on in my mama journey I learned the term “disaster nap,” which, as any well-read (mainstream) mama would know, is a nap that lasts less than an hour. This is absolutely the worst thing that could ever happen and is to be feared, dreaded, and avoided at all costs.
Why do you ask? Because it sets the baby up for a day of terrible sleep, no schedule, and basically a disaster of a day. So today, you slept for 30 minutes at the park, and aside from my own self-imposed anxiety, the day was anything but a disaster. Towards the end of the day, I relaxed into the idea that you simply weren’t going to nap again. I dropped in a bit and was able to get in a quick workout while your sister pushed you happily in the swing.
Now, I completely still believe in knowing your baby, watching their wake windows, having a flexible but predictable schedule, and the importance of your baby getting the right amount of sleep to keep them happy, healthy, learning, and developing. But babies also teeth, they get sick, and they go through leaps (wonder weeks*) where their schedules and behaviors can deviate from normal, sometimes for weeks at a time. I’m reminded that I need to take a step back for a wider view of my baby’s sleep before I panic over one “disaster” nap day. If there is a pattern of disrupted sleep, irritable or fussy behavior, and/or the baby is not meeting developmental milestones cognitively or physically, this is when we can (not panic!) seek advice from trusted providers or other sources of quality baby wisdom.
In the meantime, we can step back and relax. Continue to provide your baby with opportunities to find sleep, but don’t panic if they don’t get there. This is a great time for a walk in the stroller, walking or otherwise just hanging out with a babywearing parent, swinging, or calm playtime. And take breaks. If he won’t sleep, so be it. Lay low and try another activity. You don’t want to overstimulate or put yourself in a position where you can’t get the baby to a quiet place if he does have a meltdown (i.e., maybe not the best time to go out to dinner). Also, watch a little more closely for increased clumsiness when they are low on sleep to avoid any injuries. Watch closely if baby is eating solids (particularly with baby-led weaning), as they may be more prone to choosing bites that are too big; maybe stick to mashed or otherwise ‘safe’ foods for the day (this is individual to each baby’s situation and feeding norms).
But most of all, drop the expectations. If you simply provide opportunities for sleep, then you’ve done your job. You cannot make a baby sleep, nor anyone else for that matter. You don’t need to beat yourself up if your baby doesn’t take the nap bait. You are NOT a terrible mother. Even though your inner critical voice will scream at you all the things you should have done differently and have you questioning every decision, Just stop, breathe, and let that sh*t go. Seriously, just enjoy your lazy Sunday, dance to some Taylor Swift, and drop the panic; there’s no disaster. Baby will sleep, eventually, I promise 😴
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