Who doesn’t love the holiday season? Parties, family gatherings, travel … so much fun, but it can be a bit overwhelming for little ones.
“I come from a family of nine. Yes, nine,” said Amy Lage, graduate of the Family Sleep Institute and founder of Well Rested Baby. “And my husband’s family lives a four-hour flight away. While the holidays are a blast for us and our kids, they certainly pose a challenge to our sleep routines.”
Lage shared the following tips to protect your young child’s great sleep habits, or at least salvage them for post-holidays.
1. Schedules are key: A rested child is a happy child. Whether you are flying across the country or just spending the day with cousins, try to keep your baby’s schedule intact. Keeping nap times and bedtimes consistent will help children better assimilate.
2. Travel: If your plans include several hours of travel, plan your travel times around nap times. If driving, allow your baby to take her nap on the go but at the usual time. A few minutes before nap time, do a modified version of your regular soothing routine so your little one understands it’s time to go to sleep. If flying during nap time, most little ones sleep great on the plane (it must be that constant humming sound). Wearing your baby in an Ergo-like carrier is a great option as they are secure, yet comfortable. If taking a long flight or a red eye, call your airline in advance and request a sky cot – a small travel bed installed in front of your seat. Most airlines provide these for free.
3. Stick to the nap plan: Once at your holiday destination, try to have as many naps as possible in your guest or hotel room in a stationary bed or crib. This will help your baby become more familiar with his new sleeping environment as well as provide him with more restorative sleep. One day of naps on the go will not disrupt your baby’s excellent sleep habits, but many in a row could cause more havoc than the turkey’s tryptophan can counteract. If hanging around the house or hotel is not in the plans, make sure you have your baby in his car seat, stroller or carrier in plenty of time to catch a nap on the go. While sleeping in a stationary crib or bed is best, a nap on the go is better than going without.
4. If your child misses a nap: Say you’re up to your eyeballs in wrapping paper and a nap just isn’t possible. Don’t sweat it. Instead, opt for a super early bedtime to make up for that missed sleep. It will help to make sure your little one stays on track and doesn’t become overtired.
5. Manage expectations: While your nieces and nephews may be allowed to party along with their parents late into the night, that doesn’t mean your kids have to. A few eyes may roll when you mention that bedtime is 6:30, but at least everyone will know in advance and your little one will not be fussing through dinner and keeping everyone from enjoying their roast beef.
6. Home away from home: Bring along all your baby’s usual sleep time props – sleep sack, lovey, pacifier, white noise, etc. This will help her feel as comfortable as possible while away from her crib.
7. Make your phone do double duty: If your white noise isn’t portable, download a white noise app on your smartphone and select a “sounds” option that is similar to yours at home. This will not only help keep your baby’s environment similar to home, but it will also help drown out any post-eggnog caroling.
8. When you get home: No matter how well you plan ahead, the holidays bring the unexpected. The key to getting back on track as quickly as possible is easier than you think – just resume your old routine! A few days consistently back to the norm, and you will have your great sleeper once again.
9. An early bedtime saves all: A great tool to help expedite this process is an early bedtime. An overtired child has a much harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. If you opt for an early bedtime the first few nights home, it will be beneficial in helping your child catch up on any missed sleep and get back to his typical sleep habits.
See Amy Lage’s website, wellrestedbaby.com, for more information about infant and toddler sleep.