Late Nights with Children
If I'm being perfectly honest, I always think twice before committing to late evening events that include meandering through big crowds and parking nightmares all the while knowing the next day I'll be faced with a grouchy kid full of toddler meltdowns.
Planning for Late Night Excursions with Kids
But alas, there a comes a time when my 4.5 year old is eager to stay up a few hours later for fireworks, bonfires, or a special ride on the late night Santa train that surely won't get us home before 10pm! I've been planning my family's schedule around sleep schedules because we all just thrive so much better on on more sleep. Running past bedtime by even an hour means lots of big emotions that spoil a night of fun with the appearance of free flowing streams of tears.
Luckily my expertise in children's sleep means I've also learnt out to work in a bit of flexibility here and again. Let me share with you some tricks that will allow your families partake in some festivities and late night celebrations without spoiling your perfectly sleep-trained child's sleep.
Navigating Late Nights with a Newborn Baby (0-3 months)
Newborns are naturally the easiest to go out and about with because they can sleep practically anywhere and through most noise. All you need to do is ensure your baby is comfortable and fed while on the go. Typically newborns have an hour of awake time before needing another nap, so be mindful of the time. If bedtime is fast approaching and you're not going to be home, stick with your bedtime routine to help cue your baby it's sleep time.
Late Night Outings with Infants (3-24 months of age)
Infants can handle more awake time than a newborn, but preserving those naps should be the ultimate goal. This will ensure your baby doesn't run overtired by early evening. If you're out past your baby's usual bedtime, try adding in an extra nap at the end of the day. This short nap can help your child make it through to a later than usual bedtime.
What awake time is best for my baby? Checkout my detailed guide or use the wake windows below:
0 - 3 months: 45 minutes – 1 hour (3-4 naps per day)
3 - 6 months: 1.5 - 2 hours (3 naps per day)
6 - 9 months: 2 – 3 hours (2 naps per day)
9 - 12 months: 3 - 4 hours (1-2 naps per day)
12 - 24 months: 4 - 6 hours (1 nap per day)
Heading home, this is the time to welcome sleep on the car ride home. If your child wakes when you try to transfer them to the crib, it's ok! Keep it night mode, keep it dark and breeze through some simple steps of the bedtime routine. Make sure your baby has clean diaper and gets their usual goodnight once in the crib. Going through the steps of your bedtime routine will cue your baby it's sleepy time.
Staying Out Late with Toddlers (2.5 years old+)
Nap-time is going to save your butt. Even if your toddler fights naps or your child has given up the nap for a while now, do what you can to encourage a nap. The nap doesn't need to be long, 30 minutes on the car ride to your outing will even do. This will top up their fuel tank and hopefully evade a full scale, toddler meltdown. We don't want an overtired child who is past exhaustion and won't settle to sleep or ends up with nights wakings or an early morning waking.
Keep in mind, despite the later better, most children will still wake at their normal time. Contrary to most parent's wishes, children do not sleep later into the morning even with a later bedtime. In fact, we want to keep their sleep on track and limit them to sleeping in 30-minutes so that you can get their sleep back on track the next day. Should you encounter an earlier than usual morning waking, you may need to bring bedtime earlier to compensate for the lost sleep from the night prior.
On late nights, despite all efforts to keep naps on track and attempts to transition your child to bed smoothly, late nights will always have a lingering effect. The extra fun and stimulation will likely show up the next day with added irritability or moodiness. Be patient and know that once your child is better rested, you can look back and know it was all well worth it!