Helping your child maintain their sleep over the holidays

Christmas is around the corner which for many of us means it’s time to visit with family and friends, while schedules are filled with good food, conversations and last minute to-do’s. It’s a wonderful time of the year!

I have recently helped many parents get their babies sleeping well and there could be a concern that all their hard work will be derailed over the holidays. 

And it is true, those fears are legit! No one wants to end this festive season with no sign of all the progress they’ve made with their little one’s sleep. Traveling, constant attention, a different environment, new faces and so much more are all ingredients to a failed recipe if not checked and prepared for. But right there is the solution, preparation. Preparation to have a strategic plan and the consistency to implement that carefully orchestrated routine just as you have been doing at home.

Sleep Training and Traveling

Traveling with your kiddos is most likely a must over the holiday. If you haven’t started sleep training your little one yet, it might be wise to hold off until you get back home. But if you have, the biggest help will be maintaining, to the best of your ability, what you have been doing at home. Once you are back home, getting right back to the routine and consistency you have laid the foundation with will be key. And then, there are some tips that could possibly help while you are on your trip:

  • If you are traveling by car, you might be able to schedule your driving time over baby’s naps. Even though car naps are not considered the best quality sleep for baby, it would be better than not taking a nap at all. So, start the journey right around the time of baby’s first nap.

  • You could also locate parks, attractions, or outdoor activities to enjoy some fresh air and sunlight, which in turn will help your baby take a better nap again compared to being stuck in a car seat for hours on end.

  • If you are traveling by plane, there will be less opportunity for you to plan according to your desired times and rest breaks, which leads me to saying something I will not say often… do whatever it takes to get through the flight with minimal fuss and protest. Being creative with snacks, activities, devices and anything else you can think of, might just end up being the golden ticket for a relatively stress-free flight. There is no quicker way to feel tension than when hundreds of eyes are on you, fueled by thoughts of what and how you could be doing this better.  

By the time you reach your destination, remember the first leg of travel is behind you! Now all you need to do is navigate the few days before you head home for round two of travel. 

There is a very high likelihood of family and friends wanting to hold, snuggle, engage, feed, etc baby every single minute they can, but this can very quickly produce overstimulation which will then affect sleep. You can help meet everyone’s loving intentions and expectations by letting them know in advance of some much-wanted baby time based on baby’s schedule. 

Your little one can possibly be less fussy during awake times if they are well-rested, so everyone will have a more positive experience if baby’s routine and sleep can be maintained. Things will quickly become a downward spiral if naps are being missed. Unfortunately there is no way of avoiding a fussy baby when naps are missed, overstimulation occurs, over tiredness kicks in, cortisol production goes up, the next nap is ruined, producing more over tiredness, derailing nighttime sleep, and within a few short days, you’re heading home with a baby who seems to have been crying the entire time. It can unravel really quickly.

You might also have to share a room with baby while on your trip. So, now what?

Remember that a few nights of bed sharing can undo all the work you’ve done with sleep training and getting your baby to sleep well. Make every attempt to avoid this since it is really easy for little ones to develop an affinity for co-sleeping. Plan ahead to have a room divider or something that can help separate the room in two, ie. a blanket, dressing screen, etc. Whatever will help your baby feel like they are in their own space, removed from distraction and being able to see you. Then try to replicate as best you can, the usual sleeping environment at home with bringing:

  • their lovey

  • the crib sheet they’ve been sleeping on

  • familiar pajamas

  • sound machine

  • and everything you use during the bedtime routine ie. books, lotion, sleep sack etc.

Since we are working to remain consistent with what we do and how we do it, it is very important to also remain consistent with what you have stopped doing in terms of props. If you’ve been successful in removing a pacifier, rocking to sleep, and any other prop that has previously proven necessary to fall asleep, remain consistent with what you are no longer doing. 

It is very possibly that you might feel the urge to do something out of the routine, but if that is because you’re feeling pressure from family or friends, remember that the health and well-being of your baby and family are more important. The effort you make to keep your baby on a good sleeping schedule is admirable and will reap benefits.