Sleep training your child is a tough undertaking. I’ve not had a client who said it wasn’t worth it but it’s a lot of work, and it requires a lot of discipline. Once you get your baby on a steady, predictable nap schedule and sleeping consistently through the night, parents often find themselves with a new problem: they’re hesitant and scared to deviate in any way from their routine. It’s totally understandable. After all, they’ve usually gone from a horribly sleep-deprived situation where neither they or their little one is getting any sleep, to a completely opposite scenario where Mum and baby are both well-rested and happy.

There is a big improvement in the whole family’s quality of life and parents are really, really frightened to go back to no sleep. If you have a young baby the schedule usually looks like three naps a day and an early bedtime for a full night of sleep. So, when are you supposed to get out and live? I don’t mean “When are you supposed to get out for a fun night with your girlfriends?” I mean more like, “When are you supposed to do the groceries or even just have a play date?”

If you’re sticking to a nap schedule with a newborn, you’ll get about an hour at a time when you could conceivably get to the grocery store, get your hair done, get an eyebrow wax or do any number of essential things that take longer than an hour. So, when life insists on impinging on your schedule, or your brows are just a bushy mess, I’ve got some advice for minimizing the impact that changing the schedule can have.

First off, wait until you’ve formed a solid foundation for daytime naps. If the baby’s been sleeping well during the day for about two weeks, you can feel confident about switching things up a little bit every now and then. How often is now and then? I like to work off an 80/20 rule. Meaning 80% of the time you should be home for naps and bedtime and 20% of the time you can be out and about and either skip a nap or have a nap on the go.

Now, if you must skip a nap, or need to have one on the go, it should not be the first nap of the day that is lost. That’s usually the one where the baby will get the deepest sleep, so keep the car nap or missed nap for later in the day. If you do end up needing to let your baby nap in the car, do what you can to make sure they get a somewhat lengthy nap. If they fall asleep five minutes into a ten-minute drive, you might consider just driving around for another 15-20 minutes to allow for a 30-40 minute nap. You could try and transfer your child from the car to the pram or inside to bed, but real talk, we all know how that usually ends up. If your baby does wake up before they’ve had a decent nap, don’t try to put them back to sleep right away. Keep them awake for about 15 minutes less than their usual wake time and then try for their next nap.

Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for some help from friends and family if you are lucky to have the support around you. Ideally, your baby should be in their cot for their naps, so if you can get a grandparent or a friend to watch your baby for a few hours, you should absolutely take advantage of it. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to pay the favour forward down the road. Plus, grandparents love spending quality time with the grandchildren and no Mum feels good when they have bushy brows.