Get Some Sleep This Holiday Season
With the holidays approaching, many parents whose little ones are on a good schedule may worry that sleep will regress over the holidays. This is a totally valid concern. Between the travel, the constant attention, the excitement, and the plethora of activities, the holidays can be disastrous to everyone’s sleep schedule, especially infants and young children who have greater sleep needs than adults.
Guess what? It doesn’t have to be this way! With some strategic planning and determination, you can maintain a healthy sleep schedule no matter what your holiday plans entail.
Traveling with Baby
Traveling with children – especially infants – can be daunting, but things will run more smoothly if everyone can get quality sleep. If you are driving somewhere, plan to be in the car around baby’s nap time. Car naps are not ideal as the best quality sleep is back home in our own spaces, but it’s better than the alternative of no naps. If at all possible, plan to hop in the car right around the time your little one is scheduled for their nap and let the car soothe them into slumber.
If you’re flying, you might have a more difficult time managing your child’s schedule. It’s no secret that flying with little ones is challenging to say the least. To ease the burden on yourself (and your seat-mates), do whatever you need to get through the flight with a minimal amount of fuss. Hop right back on track with healthy sleep habits once you arrive to your final destination.
More People, More Problems
If you’re traveling to visit family and friends, or if company is coming to you, then you’ll have to figure out how to navigate all the excitement that comes with more people and more activities. Everyone is going to want to keep your little one awake to play and take a million pictures. Even though it’s going to be very difficult, it’s important that you preserve your child’s sleep. Be firm about your child’s nap and bedtime schedule and stick to it as best as you can. Overstimulation plus over-tiredness can cause cortisol levels to spike which can make falling and staying asleep extremely difficult. No one wants to play with or take a million pictures of a screaming baby – remind them of this!
During the holidays, we often try to pack in as many activities as possible during the day. Unfortunately, all that carefully planned fun can turn sour really quickly with a cranky, over-tired baby. Children who are overtired will undoubtedly revert to some of those bad sleep habits you’ve all worked so hard to prevent. If your little one is tired and cranky, you’re all going to have a lousy time. Sticking to a schedule and keeping your child well-rested will ensure that the time you do get to spend with friends and family is fun, happy and relaxed.
If your little one is used to taking more than one nap a day, attempt a solid morning nap at the hotel or house where you are staying. Starting the day well-rested allows for more flexibility for later naps to happen on the go. Being on the go can get tiring so also keep a close eye on your child’s sleep cues. Remember that if naps are short or happen on the go, bedtime might have to be 30-60 minutes earlier than normal.
Stick to Routines
Even with lots going on, it’s important to allow for a normal wind-down period before bed. If you’ve already established a predictable bedtime routine, it can be very helpful to stay consistent with this amidst the festivities. Not only will it help cue your baby’s brain and body that it’s time for sleep and help them to relax, but it can also help sleep to come more easily. If you told me the minute I got out of the gym that I had to lay down and go to bed, I’d struggle too!
When traveling, try to keep your baby’s sleep space as close to his or her home space as possible. If your little one is used to sleeping in his or her own room, room-sharing on vacation can be overwhelming and lead to tough nights. Even sleeping, your baby will be aware of your presence. If you’re staying in a hotel, try to book a room with an attached area or a separate room. If you’re staying with friends or family, talk with them in advance about having separate spaces for sleeping. Home-offices work well as a makeshift nursery!
Maintaining your little one’s own sleeping space is the best-case scenario to make sure everyone gets a good night’s sleep. If separate spaces just aren’t an option, at least put some distance or some type of barrier between your bed and their crib. You can even try to create some kind of partition in the room so that baby can’t see you from their crib. Don’t bring them into bed with you if you can avoid it.
Making your surroundings as similar as possible to your home-nursery will help the bedtime routine run more smoothly. Bring your sound-machine, your baby’s favorite lovey, even your own crib sheets. Anything that smells familiar and reminds them of their home sleeping environment will help them get to sleep in their new surroundings.
The holidays are a time for merriment and fun and having a well-rested child is going to make this a whole lot easier. But don’t stress; if you have a wonderful sleeper on your hands and stick to a great routine at home, allow yourself to relax and enjoy the holidays. You have all the tools to hop right back on track after the new year, and your little one will be back sleeping like a champ in no time.
If you’re exhausted, totally overwhelmed by your child’s sleep habits, or looking for answers to the sleep questions that keep you up at night (literally), then you’ve come to the right place. I’m Jamie, founder of Oh Baby Consulting, and my goal is to help your family get the sleep you need to not just survive, but thrive!