It’s that time of the year when families begin making travel plans and a plethora of Christmas activities fill our calendars! With all of the traveling, fun things to do, and family dinners to attend, you might be wondering how you are going to manage your child’s sleep schedule while away for the holidays. While it’s important to maintain healthy sleep habits, you should be able to enjoy getting off schedule to spend quality time making memories as a family this season without worry that you are going to fall into a trap of poor sleep habits. Here are my top tips for navigating your child’s sleep during the holidays:
Maintain your boundaries
It is to be expected that everyone is going to want to hold and love on the baby, but don’t be afraid to give your loving family a gentle reminder that they won’t want to hold and love on the baby for too long if they are overtired and fussy. Be clear that you like to approach sleep as a priority and you prefer to stick to your baby’s schedule and that they will only be asleep for a couple short hours or less, fully rested and ready to interact with everyone!
Create an optimal sleep environment
With the extra stimulation and socialization, your child’s sleep environment while away from home is going to be an essential part of helping them settle for nap time in a new space knowing there is so much going on outside the room. Two essentials parts of your child’s sleep environment at your destination are white noise and darkness! Bring along a good quality white noise machine that can help drown out the noises and sounds coming from outside the room they are sleeping in. If the room they are sleeping in isn’t completely dark, I highly recommend Slumberpod, a portable pod that fits over standard pack and plays and travel cribs to create a dark environment for sleep.
Remember the 80/20 Rule
This is a helpful little rule in the sleep world that essentially says to follow your child’s normal schedule and routine 80% of the time, while the other 20% of the time you can get off schedule to enjoy a later than normal night out as a family or an activity that would normally be missed because it interfered with their schedule. So while you’re away this holiday, remind yourself that getting off track for a few days is okay and it won’t mess up your child’s sleep schedule. There will be time to quickly resolve any minor challenges that arise once you return to your normal routine!
Do bedtime earlier
My favorite tool…an early bedtime! Use an earlier bedtime if your child had a really off day with naps and needs to tack some of their missed sleep onto nighttime. This will help prevent them falling into a sleep debt and waking up still tired the next morning or potentially waking up earlier than normal because they went to bed overtired! Adjust their bedtime by 30-60 minutes depending on how much sleep they missed out on during the day. If your child is under 5 months, you can offer a 20-30 minute catnap to bridge the gap to bedtime if an earlier bedtime still isn’t reasonable enough.
Adjusting naps to fit in holiday activities
If your child is still taking 3+ naps per day, it can be difficult to easily skip a nap or stretch your baby too much past their ideal wake windows without causing major napping struggles so you will likely be utilizing a baby carrier or stroller to fit in naps during the day while out and about, but if you child takes 1-2 naps each day you have a little more room to adjust sleep times as they are able to tolerate the longer wake windows making it easier to plan their naps around set times! Here are the different approaches you can take to adjust your child’s naps in preparation for a busy day or later night:
- Wake your child up 30-60 minutes earlier than you usually would to get an earlier nap in before you head out and then offer their second nap at their usual time or just slightly later. This can work for a child on 1 nap too.
- Put them down for their first nap, but cap it at 30-45 minutes so they are at least somewhat rested. This gives them an opportunity to finish sleeping in the car on the way to your destination OR they will likely have a longer nap later in the day to make up for it which is helpful if you have evening/night plans. It can work the same for a child taking 1 nap per day, but we will cap their nap at 1 hour or 1 hour and 15 minutes as they will require a bit more rest to hold them over until bedtime.
- Put them down for their first nap slightly later (15-20 minutes), let them sleep until they wake up on their own so they are fully rested in preparation to skip their second nap and then move bedtime 1 hour earlier that night.
Getting Back on Track
If you traveled and spent a period of time away from home and off your normal routines and you find that your child’s sleep isn’t returning to normal and maybe it is in fact becoming worse than it was before, reach out to book a consultation with The Sleepyhead Coach and learn more about how we can help get your child’s sleep back on track!