The “Hallmark” version of holidays is that everyone laughs and has fun and there’s little to no stress. The reality? Often much different, especially if you’re a parent trying to manage your baby or toddler’s sleep during the hustle and bustle of holidays.
So, how do you keep your baby from sleeping badly during the holidays? Let’s dive in so you’re set up for success.
Don’t let your baby’s sleep ruin your holiday
First and foremost: Holidays come with enough stress- keeping your baby’s sleep schedule shouldn’t be one of the major contributors. Remember to do your best for consistency, but more importantly- Have.Fun.Live.Life. There may be a few times of sacrificing a gathering or a lunch with family, but for the most part, try to enjoy the time with loved ones.
Secondly, have some realistic expectations.
- Expect that your baby or toddler may be overtired and cranky at times- especially after travel and a full day of being around friends and family. After all, we can feel the same way too, so we need to remember they are having similar experiences that we are. It’s unfair for us to expect them to handle the stress and overstimulation any better than adults do.
- Expect missed naps- it may be necessary in order to enjoy outings.
- Expect to need to “reset” when you get home, you’ll need to adjust when getting home too.
Keep your baby’s sleep consistent when possible, but be flexible
Remember our pillars of sleep training: Consistency, Communication, Commitment, and Confidence. These all play into staying sane and keeping your baby’s sleep on track during the holidays. Here are a few tips:
Consistency & Commitment: Stay consistent where and when possible, commit to 2 aspects of your baby’s sleep you can realistically keep consistent and let the rest go.
- Environment: Try to replicate your baby’s sleep environment from home: white noise, very dark. Don’t worry about using a travel crib or pack-n-play while traveling, they are close enough to cribs that most babies do fine in them.
- Routines: Where possible, stay consistent in your bedtime routines (both schedule and actual routine)
- You may need to adjust night time schedules a bit to accommodate holiday plans.
- Early bedtimes may be necessary to make up for lost daytime sleep and overstimulation.
- Even if your toddler doesn’t fall asleep, quiet time can help them reset and regulate themselves.
- Naps: Again, try to stay consistent in schedules, but don’t let naps prevent you from enjoying time with friends and family.
- Protect the first nap if possible. Starting the day with your baby having a strong first nap will help you get through the rest of the day. Also, this nap is typically early enough that you can work around it.
- Use your tools- you may need to use the car, carrier or stroller to help your baby get a nap. That’s ok! It’s better to get your baby some sleep than it is to have them miss sleep.
Prepare everyone for your baby’s or toddler’s sleep habits
Communication: Preparing everyone else for your baby or toddler’s sleep habits will help you prepare and can really prevent some unneeded stress. Often, we assume other people will be more stressed about sleep than they really will be. Take the time to have conversations with family and friends about what sleep may look like, walk through options, and everyone make plans accordingly.
- Visitors: Prepare your visitors for what’s happening with sleep in your home.
- Let them know what times are good for visiting- between naps, during first nap, etc
- Night wakings for your baby may be occurring, so explain this to those staying at your home. Most likely your visitors will understand. But, communicating with them also allows them to choose a hotel or a different sleeping arrangement. Having this open communication may prevent unnecessary stress for you and your visitors.
- Staying at someone else’s home:
- Same as above: communicate your needs and expectations for the household. You may need to ensure sleeping arrangements are lined up to help your baby/toddler have the best chance of sleeping.
- Ask for a key and drive separately if you’re concerned about needing to leave early- especially if your toddler is likely to have a meltdown.
- Your Child: Remember sleep habits are fundamentally all about communication!
- Walk them through the plan for the day including “after dinner, we will play a game then go upstairs for bedtime.”
- Give your baby and your toddler transition time between fun things and sleep routines. The constant hum of a house full of people or lots of lights and sounds can be overstimulating; they may need more time to calm down. This applies to babies too.
Everyone has sleep advice for your baby- let it slide!
Confidence: You’ll need confidence when around friends and family. You may find yourself in a position where you want to defend your parenting choices, or a position when you want (and need) to say no to a gathering. Be confident in your choices. Let it all slide and you do you.
- Unwanted Advice: Look, we all have “that one family member” who wants to passively (or not) comment on how we parent. You. Do. You. and hold true to how you’re parenting. It may take some smiling and nodding and “oh yes, things are so different these days” sort of responses. But hold true to parenting how you want to.
- Saying NO: Sometimes your baby or toddler will need a break. Sometimes you need a break and your baby’s sleep is a perfect excuse to get out of a family dinner or outing. It’s perfectly acceptable to say no and excuse yourself if you want or need to.
Incorporate Self Care
For everyone: Get out and get fresh air. Go for a walk if you can. Look at the stars, grab your coffee and head out for the sunrise. This can help you reset and muster enough energy to get through a tough day.
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