How to Manage School Drop Off When Your Baby Needs to Nap

A sleeping baby in a bassinet next to a bed.

File this under things no one ever told you about having more than one kid: one day you will have to choose between good naps and making it to drop-off/pickup on time. 

Your toddler finally got into that amazing school or daycare and now a sibling has been added to the mix so you are now faced with the dreaded baby-needs-a-nap-during-drop-off issue. Since cloning ourselves isn’t available at the moment (how many times have you wished for that this week?!), here are some tips  to make this conundrum more manageable:

  1. Ask for help. It really does take a village, so ask your fellow mamas if you can do a drop-off/pick-up share. It might not work every day but at least some days each of your kiddos at home will get a nap at the time they need. You’re not the only one in this predicament. This is a great way to add to your #momsquad and they’ll appreciate the gesture too.

  2. See if there is before- or after-school care offered. Even 15 minutes earlier or later can make getting baby down for a nap at the right time doable. And extra play never hurt anyone!

  3. As tempting as it is to let baby take a quick catnap in the car, do your best to keep them awake. A short power nap can prevent a longer snooze once you get home so it’s better to keep them up on shorter drives. Open the windows, channel your inner Gaga and belt it out (and ignore the guy staring at you at the red light). If your babe is old enough to respond, ask questions- “Did you see that amazing red truck?! Holy cow, that is the best truck I’ve seen all week!” If you have significant drive time, then a car nap isn’t necessarily a bad thing. An hour or more in the car will at least allow for a longer stretch of sleep.

  4. Try and get at least one nap a day in the crib. If you can manage to get either the morning nap or the afternoon nap at home, we call it a win. Use the 80/20 rule--80% of sleep happens at home in the crib or bassinet and 20% is out and about.

  5. Early bedtime is a beautiful thing. Especially if afternoon pickup and after-school activities affect afternoon naps, make early bedtime a habit. Your kids will sleep better throughout the night and get the restorative sleep they need. You can then have some time to enjoy your Netflix series/wine/Instagram before you nod off too.

When it comes to managing an infant’s sleep schedule with an older sibling’s school schedule, give yourself a little break. Nothing is going to be perfect, do the best you can. There will be days that you can hit those optimal nap times and there will be days when it’s impossible. And that’s ok. Sleep isn’t a perfect thing and babies can be flexible. Do the best you can, mama. 

Leigh McMahon is a certified sleep consultant with Bonne Nuit Baby. Based in Denver, Colorado, she helps babies and children learn how to be champion sleepers so their parents can function/stay sane/cut down on the double espressos. See her #boymom adventures @lwaldmcmahon and get sleep tips @_bonnenuitbaby.