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How to Navigate Your Baby's Naps Around Baby Classes

By Nadia Austin - Sunrise Sleep Coach

Have you been late to a baby class because your baby has been napping? Or have you avoided classes altogether because they clash with naps? One of the most frequent worries parents ask me about is how to manage their baby’s naps successfully to allow them both the opportunity to enjoy a baby class.

When my twin daughters were newborn I would have loved to take them to baby classes. I remember feeling really isolated and missing adult connection. My daughters were born during lockdown so the only classes on offer were on Zoom but even then they spent most of the class asleep! I would do everything I could to get a nap in before the class started or to keep them awake so that they didn’t miss out. My plans were rarely successful and I would enjoy the class by myself, with one twin awake and one asleep or with both twins awake but upset! It was more chaos than the calm I had hoped for.

On the occasion I did manage to enjoy a full class with both girls awake and happy, it was a joy. Seeing their faces light up as I sang them songs or helped them explore musical instruments was so worth it. I have such fond memories of those experiences together. Now my daughters are 3 years old it is so much easier to go to play groups and classes without the stress of sleep clouding our day but I understand how, for some parents, it can be really tough.

Since becoming a Sleep Coach in 2021 I have been on a mission to empower parents to feel in control of their baby’s sleep - rather than sleep controlling them. Joining baby classes, going to coffee and cake groups, meeting other parents and allowing your baby to socialise with others is such an important part of parenthood but stress around sleep and in particular, naps is preventing parents from signing up.

So, would you like to feel confident booking a baby class knowing you have the tools to manage your baby’s naps?

Here are my top tips for navigating your baby’s naps around classes:

Firstly, and most importantly… try not to avoid going to a group or class because it clashes with your baby’s nap time. I’ve got a few ideas to pass on that will help you ensure you don’t miss out. In my view, you and your baby are going to get so much out of that group or class that it’s more important to go and work out the sleep later! (I know this is weird advice coming from a Sleep Coach…but I want you to control sleep, not the other way around!) 

If the class time falls exactly on when your baby would be napping there are two things you could try:

1. Leave 1 hour or so before you were planning to and try for a car nap or pram nap on the way. If your baby falls asleep, you have a few more minutes to allow them to get as much sleep as possible before the class starts. I have spent many hours sitting in the car park while my twins napped - they get their sleep and can enjoy a class afterwards so it’s a win win.

If you walk to a class venue, using a UV pram shade is a fantastic way to block out the light as well as anything that may be stimulating your baby and preventing them from falling asleep. There are some fantastic shades out there, just make sure they are UV protecting and heat safe.

2. If point 1 doesn’t go to plan or if it’s just not feasible, continue with the class. If your baby falls asleep during the class, that’s OK! You are still out the house, socialising with other parents - that’s a win in itself. If your baby doesn’t fall asleep and they’re desperate for a sleep afterwards, let them have as long as they need to top up any missed day sleep. If this later nap pushes their final naps close to bedtime cap it to 20/30 minutes to tie your baby over until bed. If there’s not time for a short nap, bring bedtime forward.

You can bring bedtime forward by up to an hour and this shouldn’t impact the morning wake up time. It is a super tool to use if your baby has battled naps or missed them due to classes. And remember, your baby doesn’t know the time so won’t know if bedtime is 30 minutes earlier than usual! They are following your lead and the predictability of their bedtime routine.

Secondly, try to take the pressure off yourself. If your baby isn’t napping and you have a class to get to, don’t worry. Set yourself a timer and once you hit that time, if the nap still isn’t happening, carry on with your day. Your baby regulates their emotions from you, and if you’re feeling pressured to fit that nap in, your baby will be feeling that from you too. Anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes is a good amount of time to try for a nap. As a general rule of thumb, falling asleep between 10 and 30 minutes is perfectly normal and indicates that the timings are good, baby has followed the routine and feels comfortable falling asleep.

Thirdly, try to find the right time of day for you and your baby. Some families I speak to love getting out in the morning, going to a group or class then using the afternoon to chill. Others much prefer afternoon classes! I am an afternoon Mum…it takes us a long time to get sorted in the morning and I always feel like I’m rushing! So I find late morning or afternoon groups to enjoy. Find what works for you.

And finally, don’t forget that as your baby grows and develops week on week their sleep needs, nap times and wake windows will change too. If you sign up for a block of classes, for example, your baby’s sleep will change from week one of classes to week ten of classes which is why it’s important to say yes and manage day sleep as you go. You may and probably will find that it gets so much easier as the weeks go by.

Do take each day as it comes and go with the flow. Infant sleep is sporadic, frustrating and random at times but know that is 100% normal. Baby classes are an amazing opportunity to get out the house, chat to other parents in a safe and friendly environment and allow your baby to socialise and explore. Use the tools here to manage naps to ensure you get to experience the classes you want to and enjoy those precious moments with your baby.