When my kids were little and on sleep schedules, I’d cringe at the thought of changing their sleep schedules for holiday gatherings. Some of my family members thought I was too strict with my baby’s sleep schedule. On the other hand, celebrating and spending time with loved ones over the holidays is fun and an important part of them growing up! This is a time when many little ones get to experience important family traditions. I understand how tricky the balance can be, so I am sharing a few baby sleep schedule tips and some other practical tips to help you get through the holiday season a bit easier.
Even if you’re not leaving your home, there can be a lot of excitement and changes in your baby’s sleep schedule. Family and friends are visiting, and mealtimes are not always at the usual times. If you are hosting a meal or get-together in your home, then you have a lot of responsibilities and a long “to-do” list. The preparations for having a gathering in your home begin a week or more before the event. Babies and young children can detect our stress levels and begin acting out of sorts. This makes it even more challenging because we’re trying to navigate their behavior changes in addition to getting things checked off the list.
Try to anticipate what the schedule for the day will be ahead of time, and then adjust and plan your baby’s sleep schedule around it. You may want to consider shifting your baby’s nap schedule based on guest arrival time and meal time. For example, if you are serving brunch and your guests will be arriving at 11:00, wake your baby for the day earlier than you usually do so, they will take an earlier nap and be well rested. This way, you’ll also be able to get some things done while your baby naps.
Ask your guests to bring a side dish or dessert. It’s okay to delegate, and this will give you more time to try to keep the baby on their sleep schedule.
Ask your guests to arrive once your little one has gone down for a nap. If that time doesn’t work, they could plan to arrive as your baby is getting up from a nap. If they arrive just as you’re trying to get your baby down for a nap, your baby will get excited and not want to nap.
Keep things simple! If you’re used to doing a big spread, it’s okay to streamline things this year. You may even find it to be more enjoyable. Having more time to spend with your baby and keeping them on schedule is more important than having a large variety of side dishes.
If your baby is very sensitive to overstimulation, then talk to your family and friends ahead of time. Many well-intentioned relatives will want to come in and be instant friends with your baby. Depending on the age and sensitivity level of your baby, this could upset or overstimulate your little one. Don’t worry if your family thinks you’re being overprotective. You know your baby best, and your relative will get over it.
Traveling with your baby and keeping them on their schedule can be a bit trickier since they will be in a new or different environment. Read on to get some tips for travel by car or plane.
If traveling by car and the drive is more than an hour, try leaving a little before your baby’s nap time. This will give your little one some time to look at the view and then blissfully fall asleep. If your baby is still taking multiple naps, then you may want to consider giving them their first nap at home to make sure they get good quality sleep and then leave before the next nap so they can slumber in the car.
If you have a long drive to your relative’s house, another option is to leave shortly before your little one’s bedtime. Try doing their bedtime routine with them and then get in the car. By having their pajamas on and reading a book, they will be ready for sleep. Communicate with your family members ahead of time so they can have the baby’s sleep space all setup. They will also know not to disturb your sleepy little one as you’re trying to transfer them into their sleep space. If they do wake up, they may need a little extra help getting back to sleep. And that’s okay!
Traveling by plane can be a challenge for sure! Try booking as early a flight as possible. The earlier in the day, the less likely there will be a delay. However, if your flight is 6 hours or longer, a red eye may be the way to go. That way, you can get your little one to fall asleep by holding them at the airport, and then, hopefully, they’ll stay asleep on the flight.
Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll need to re-evaluate when your little one needs to sleep again. If. possible, have the next day be easygoing so your baby can get better quality sleep when they need it.
If you will be staying overnight at your relative’s home, there are a few things to keep in mind when getting your baby to sleep. If you share a room at home with your little one and you’ll be sharing a room at Grandmom’s house, there won’t be a lot of changes. Your baby will be used to this concept already. If you’re not used to sharing a room, this could be very distracting for them. I’d suggest hanging a dark sheet or lightweight blanket between your spaces. It’s a good idea to keep the sleep space as similar as possible as they have at home.
Pack any items that your baby needs to set up a similar sleep space. If you’re still swaddling baby, make sure to bring a swaddle. If they’re used to wearing a sleep sack, then pack one. The same goes for pacifiers, white noise, and lovey’s. You may want to consider bringing travel blackout shades or hanging a sheet over the window area. If they will be sleeping in a pack-n-play for the first time, I’d suggest practicing a few times at home. The more your new environment resembles your home environment; the easier it will be to get your little one to sleep. If they do need a little more assistance getting to sleep, it’s okay to give it to them. Be careful about overdoing it, or a new habit may evolve. Once you’re back at home, you can work on removing the extra assistance from the routine.
Please check out The American Academy of Pediatrics Safe Sleep guidelines so that you’re following safe sleep guidelines wherever you are.
I hope these holiday season and baby sleep schedule tips can help you have a smoother time while you are spending time with loved ones. The better sleeper your little one is at home, the easier the transition will be when you’re out and about. Once you are back in your own home, your schedule will go back to normal, and your baby should adjust back to it. If your baby isn’t adjusting back to their normal sleep schedule, feel free to contact me.
Visit my other baby’s sleep schedules post.
November 17, 2023
Trust me: you don’t want your baby to hit this point. If you notice any of these seven signs, it’s time to put your baby to sleep — NOW!
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