For most people, the spring and summer months bring a lot of positive emotions. The air is filled with excitement for the growth, sense of newness and, of course, the sunshine of the warmer seasons. These are the months that we crave being outdoors and being social.
When my kids were younger and still napping (I do miss those naps!) our days were always structured around their sleep. We knew that our children’s personalities needed sleep or our day would crumble. However, we also knew that we needed to experience the summer to feel human and feel that sense of summer freedom too.
Nap and sleep patterns change so quickly in the first 3 to 4 years of a child’s life. Napping and bedtimes give us a different sense of structure to our days, and this can interfere with what we long for from the warmer months. Finding creative ways to navigate these changes helps to ensure that children get the rest they need but parents get the experiences to thrive themselves.
Here are 7 tips to help navigate summer sleep:
1. Embrace the weather and go with the flow.
When the weather got nicer and my kids were still taking multiple naps a day, I used outdoor naps for at least one of their naps. This was often a combination of carriers, strollers, and tents or pack and plays.
Note: contrary to what some might say about motion and sleep, motion is not a bad habit and actually helps babies (and adults!) sleep better.
2. Use balconies in your backyards with baby monitors. There is no need to be trapped inside your home (unless you don’t have a backyard with a balcony. In this case, trading off with your partner or a loved one who can stay home while your baby sleeps is always an option). This is so basic but so vital to getting some evening sun and savouring the summer days and nights.
3. Evening walks. Try to get out for a walk with your baby or children before bed. The summer months make this much more doable. The fresh air and calming (aim to keep it quiet and soothing) stroll, can help everyone wind down and help avoid any wildness before bedtime.
This is also particularly useful sleep is not coming easily that night. Don’t be afraid to get a baby in a carrier or in a stroller and start off their nighttime sleep that way. This won’t mean they’ll be there the entire night.
4. Get out early. When my kiddos were on one nap a day our favourite thing to do would be to get out the door as early as possible (think 7am) for a morning trip and come home for midday. While you’re a bit limited by indoor attractions, due to their opening times, outdoor trips like the beach or parks are amazing. A bonus is that you will very likely have the entire beach or park to yourselves! And also be home for the peak sunshine hours, when you don’t want to be scorched in the sun.
5. To watch the clock, or not watch the clock? You know your baby and children the best. For my kids, we have always needed to have naps and bedtimes happen within a small window of time, or we hit overtiredness and getting them to sleep takes much longer than it should.
Some families are comfortable having late nights on special summer evenings, other are not. Some families are comfortable having late naps and late bedtimes, and others like the earlier naps and earlier bedtimes. Know what keeps you sane as a parent and don’t worry about what others are doing.
6. Take a nap yourself. Those summery breezy naps are the best!
7. Keep safe. Of course staying safe in the summer is a consideration for every person and their families. Here are some areas directly related to sleep:
- For outdoor napping use bug repellant, sun protection, including proper clothing and sunscreen, and keep everyone hydrated.
- For babywearing keep fabric off baby’s face, reposition baby after feeding, check their temperature and don’t overdress babies.
- Check your stroller cover. Make sure that if you’re covering your stroller during a nap that it is breathable.
The summer days and nights are finally here. And while our babies sleep is so important, for their health (and our own!), there is no reason why it needs to interrupt our own enjoyment of the summer too.
Kate is a Birth and Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator, Infant Sleep Educator and Yoga Instructor, currently living in Toronto, ON. When she’s not supporting new families on their parenting journey, she is running after her wonderfully active 2-year-old twins. She loves exploring the ravines of the city, drinking green tea and green smoothies (in large mugs), and the colour purple.