Maintaining Sleep Schedules During the Holidays
With the holidays approaching, most parents who have just recently gotten their baby, toddler, or older child sleeping well, are worried that they might regress a little over the holidays.
And I can assure you, those fears could not be more well-founded.
Between the travel, the excitement, the constant attention from friends and family and then travel all over again, the holidays are the single easiest way to throw off all your hard work.
But, with some strategic planning, you can keep that carefully orchestrated routine running just the way you did at home.
There are two major impediments to your little one’s sleep over the holidays. One is travel and the other is family and friends. Lets take a peek at those topics individually.
If you’re thinking about starting sleep training your little one, but you’ve got to take a trip in a few weeks, my suggestion is to put off the training until you get back.
If you’ve already started, not to worry. Taking a trip typically won’t help your little one sleep better, but if you can maintain some semblance of normalcy until the end of your trip, you and baby will likely be ready to get back on track as soon as you get home.
If you’re driving to your destination, try to schedule your driving time over a nap. Rather than arriving at your destination with an overtired child, and trying to get them to sleep in an unfamiliar environment. Car naps aren’t ideal, but compared to no naps at all, they’re the lesser of two evils by a mile. So if at all possible, get on the road right around the time that baby would normally be taking their first nap.
If you’re really committed, you might even look for some parks, tourist attractions, or other outdoor activities that are on your route where you can stop when baby gets up. Getting out into the sunshine and fresh air, will make that next nap that much easier.
If you’re flying, well, my heart goes out to you.
It’s no secret that planes and kids don’t go well, so I suggest (and this is the only time you’ll hear me say this) that you do whatever gets you through the flight with a minimum amount of fuss. Hand out snacks, let them play with your phone, and otherwise let them do anything they want to do.
The truth is, if they don’t want to sleep on the plane, they’re just not going to, so don’t try to force it. It will just result in a lot of frustration for both of you. (And, most likely, the passengers around you.) For more travel sleep tips http://www.sweetlullaby.ca/travel
Alright! So you’ve made it, and hopefully you’ve managed to maintain some degree of sanity. Now, I’m sorry to say, comes the hard part.
Because in the car or on the plane, everybody is on your side, right? Keeping baby quiet and relaxed, and hopefully asleep, is just what everyone is rooting for.
Well meaning family and friends.
Now that you’re at Grandma and Grandpa’s place, it’s just the opposite. Everyone wants your kiddos awake so they can see them, play with them, take a thousand pictures, and get them all riled up on holiday fun. And it’s exceptionally difficult to tell all of these friends and family members that you’re putting an end to the fun because baby needs to get to sleep.
So if you need permission to be the bad guy, I’m giving it to you right here and now. Don’t negotiate, don’t make exceptions, and don’t feel bad about it. Firmly explain to anyone who’s giving you the gears that you’ve spent a great deal of time helping your child sleep well and you’d like it to remain that way. Let them know when your child will be getting up and tell them to hang around or come back. Or better yet, plan visits for when your little one is awake based on their beautifully predictable schedule.
It may sounds strict, but you don’t want to backslide right back into day one. As you well know when children miss a nap, they get all fired up, then overtiredness kicks in. Then cortisol production goes up, and the next nap or bedtime is ruined. Overtiredness will most certainly derail nighttime sleep, and before you know it, you’re headed home and you’re all more exhausted then when you arrived.
So OK, you’ve steeled your nerves and let everyone know that you’re not budging on your child’s schedule. She took her naps at the right times, and now it’s time for bed. But, with all of the company staying at the house, there’s only one room for you to share.
No problem, right? Bed sharing for a few nights isn’t the end of the world, after all.
I wish I could make it that easy for you. But again, you want to make this as little of a deviation from the normal routine as possible. Children can develop a real affinity for co-sleeping in as little as one night.
So this may sound a little unorthodox, but if you’re sharing a room, what I suggest is simple.
Make it into two rooms.
I’m not saying you need to bust out the lumber and drywall, but I do suggest hanging a blanket, setting up a dressing screen, or, yes, I’m going to go ahead and say it, let your baby sleep in the closet.
That sounds crazy, I know, but really, a decent sized closet is a great place for baby to sleep. It’s dark, it’s quiet, she won’t be distracted by being able to see you.
And while we’re on the subject of “no exceptions,” that rule extends to all other sleep props. You might be tempted to slip baby a pacifier or rock her to sleep if she’s disturbing the rest of the house. I caution you, because baby is going to latch on to that really, really quickly. Then chances are you’ll be waking up every hour or two, rocking baby back to sleep or putting her pacifier back in, which is going to end up disturbing everyone a lot worse than a half hour of protesting at 7:00 at night.
Stick to your guns mama.
Now, on a serious note, I find the biggest reason that parents give in on these points is, quite simply, because they’re embarrassed.
The feeling that everyone is making judgments about how you’re parenting is nearly overwhelming in these family gatherings. In those moments, remember what’s really important here.
Your child, your family, and their health and well-being.
There may be people who feel a bit jaded because you put your child to bed just when they got in the door. Your mother might tell you that putting your baby in the closet for the night is ridiculous. Just remember you’re the one who’s put in all the work to get your child sleeping well and the one who knows how good 12 straight hours of sleep feels after waking every hour or two for months on end. You’re the one who has seen your child transform from cranky and unsettled to happy, healthy, and full of fun. You’re doing this for a very noble cause. Perhaps the most noble cause there is.
So stand tall and remember that you’re a superhero, defending sleep for those who are too small to defend it for themselves. If you want to wear a cape and give yourself a cool superhero name, you go right ahead. WonderMom, UberMama, The Somnum Inducere, if you’re feeling really fancy. Just remember that, like any superhero, you may be misunderstood by the masses.
Ignore them. You’re on a mission.