How did it become mid November? Wasn’t I just chasing my children around the beach and cleaning up melted ice cream? Thanksgiving is just days away and Christmas and Hanukkah are a few weeks later. It’s almost time to break out the Christmas Tree and the Menorah. Whoo hoo! 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 9, yes 9 (it is a combined his, hers, and theirs family, but none the less 9)! And my husband’s family lives a 4-hour flight away. While the holidays are a blast for us, and our kids, they certainly pose a challenge to our sleep routines. So how do I handle it without seeming like our green friend the Grinch? Here are my top tips to protect your child’s great sleep habits, or at least salvage them post holidays.
Be it Over the River and Through the Woods or Right Next-Door, Schedules are Key:
Rule #1 is always 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. Bring along a travel crib and set it up in a location as dark and quiet as possible. Keeping their nap times and bedtimes consistent will help them to better assimilate and will make sure they stay a happy baby rather than an overtired cranky one.
If Your Plans Include Several Hours of Travel: In order to make sure naps aren’t missed, plan your travel times around nap times. If driving, allow your baby to take their nap on the go but at the usual time. A few minutes before naptime do a modified version of your regular soothing routine so your little one understands it time to go to sleep. If flying during naptime, 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 which is installed in front of your seat – most airlines provide these for free).
Schedule Naps into Your Daily Plan: Once at your Holiday destination, attempt 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 their new sleeping environment as well as provide them with more restorative sleep. One day of naps on the go (car, plane) will not disrupt your baby’s excellent sleep habits, but many in a row could wreak more havoc than the turkey’s tryptophan can counter act ;). If hanging around the house or hotel is not in the plans, make sure you have your baby in their car seat, stroller, or carrier in plenty of time to catch their nap on the go. While sleeping in a stationary crib or bed is best, a nap on the go is better than going without.
Need to Miss a Nap: If despite your best efforts you are 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.
Manage Expectations: While your nieces and nephews may be left 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 ‘rare who roast beast’.
Slumber Party? Be Sure To Recreate Your Child’s Environment:
Home Away From Home: Bring along all your baby’s usual sleep time props – sleep sack, lovey, pacifier, white noise etc. This will help them feel as comfortable as possible while away from their crib.
Make Your Phone Do Double Duty: If your white noise isn’t portable, download a white noise app on your smart phone and select a sounds option that is similar to your one from home. This will not only help your baby’s environment similar to home, but it will also help drowned out any post Eggnog caroling.
Darker is Better: Many hotel rooms (or even Aunt Gertrude’s guest room) lack adequate black out blinds. As your child will get their best sleep in a very dark room, you will want to come prepared for an unexpected bright streetlight or a window facing the rising sun. For a quick, easy and inexpensive fix, try these temporary black out blinds from Redi Shade. They block out light like it’s no body’s business and are compact enough to fit in your suitcase or are easily shipped ahead of time to your destination. Best of all – at $6.49 each, they are a no brainer.
A Comfy Crib is Easier Than You Think: Call ahead and request a crib for your room. Most hotels do have quality full size cribs on hand – you just have to ask! Bring along your baby’s own mattress pad and sheet for piece of mind. If you prefer to bring your own travel crib and have not yet made the big purchase, I love the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib. Or if you already own a pack and play – invest in a mattress topper so your baby can sleep more comfortably on the go.
When You Get Home It’s Back to Business as Usual:
The Best Laid Plans: 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.
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 their typical sleep habits.
Amy Lage is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Family Sleep Institute certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant. She is founder of Well Rested Baby (www.wellrestedbaby.com). She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Please email her at email@example.com with any questions. Be sure to follow WRB on Facebook too more great sleep tips!