Maintaining Sleep Over The Holidays
Updated: May 18
There sure is nothing like this time of year, right?
Snow gently falling, a cozy fire in the fireplace, and all the togetherness with your loved ones – about as much time together as you can stand, am I right?
Whether you’re driving to Grandma’s for the weekend, or enjoying your 4th holiday meal of the day, this magical time of year can prove difficult for your little one’s sleep.
But don’t worry! As always, I’ve brought my best tips and tricks to get you through all the Christmas wonderfulness, and come out the other side with a well-rested child and your sanity still hanging on. Not convinced? I’ll show you.
It goes without saying, but just in case, know that if your child does well even when they’re off schedule, or your priority is to stay out a bit later and catch up with loved ones, that’s okay.
Buuut, if you’re not so fortunate and you know you’ll be paying for a late night out with a cranky kiddo the next day, then take notes.
I always love to empower my clients. And when it comes to the holidays, there are definitely opportunities where well-meaning relatives can’t help but share their opinions. That’s where you get to respectfully stand your ground because we believe that Mama knows best. This means that even if someone is happily snuggling your little bundle, if it’s time to go to bed, it’s time to go to bed. You are your child’s advocate, and you get to call the shots. Maybe that means you need to leave dinner by 6:30 or 7:00, or maybe it means you’re the one to host. Things don’t have to be all or nothing. Whatever you choose, you’re doing what’s best for your family.
If you’re at someone’s home for the day, make sure you set up your little one’s sleep space upon arrival. This way, things are ready and you’re not scrambling to get everything set up when your babe just wants to sleep! This might require a conversation in advance with your host, to see where you can set your little one up in their home. Ideally they would have their own room, but if that can’t happen you could use a walk-in closet or en suite in a pinch. No matter where you set up their sleep environment, always do a scan of the room and make sure that there’s nothing your baby could pull into their space, fall on them, or any other safety hazards. While sleep is important, safety is always the priority.
Since the environment will be different, it’s especially important to bring as many familiar things for them as necessary. Things like their play pen, white noise, black out curtains, and sleep sack will help them feel more at home (use code WHOLENIGHTSLEEP10 for 10% off).
Act, Don’t React
You’ll want to do your best to not let your baby (or kiddo!) get overtired, because that’s when your Christmas Spirit really turns to spoiled eggnog. Overtired children struggle to get to sleep, can get worked up, and have a rise in stress hormones – none of these things are good for drifting off to sleep. Instead, you want to be really intentional about their daytime sleep and getting to bed on time. Do your best to replicate their bedtime routine and put them to bed as close to their usual time as you can if you suspect they’re getting overtired. So maybe they didn’t have the greatest naps – that’s okay! But it’ll be especially important to get them to bed on time so they can still get some quality sleep. I would aim for a bedtime that’s about 30 minutes earlier to help them make that up. If you’re pressed for time, continue with their routine, but try a condensed version.
Before you Leave..
If you’re leaving someone’s home in the evening, put your kiddos in their pajamas before you go! This helps signal to your child that sleep will be coming soon, and also gives you one less thing to do before they can get to sleep. If they’re old enough, brush their teeth and go to the bathroom before leaving, so you can pop them right into their bed once you get home. If they’re younger, still put them in their pjs. If they wake when you get home, give them a feed and then settle them in their crib. It’s especially important to stick to the usual schedule for younger ones than it is if your child is a bit older. Little ones are more prone to becoming overtired (and overstimulated), so I recommend sticking to their usual bedtime, or staying within 30 minutes of it.
SIDE NOTE: IF your little one has recently dropped a nap, or is just struggling with their sleep and all the goings on, it’s totally acceptable to offer them an extra nap to tide them over.
Sometimes you can just tell that you won’t be home in time for what they need, so being proactive will save you the meltdowns from everyone.
If you’re staying overnight at someone’s home or not able to leave early enough for your kids that are a bit older, your best bet is staying within 30-60 minutes of their typical bedtime. While older kiddos might be a little more flexible, they’re still capable of a serious cranky meltdown because they haven’t got the rest they need.
Navigating the holidays and your little one’s sleep is a bit of a juggle, but it doesn’t have to be complicated! Remember that kids can adapt to new situations, but also remember that days of extra noise, activities, and being off their schedule can become a lot for a little person.
If a Silent Night is on your list this year, I can make that happen! I can help you support your little one in learning independent sleep in a way that doesn’t leave anyone in a lurch. Don’t go into the holidays exhausted before they even begin. You can get in touch here if you’re ready to jump in, or if you have questions first. Get ready to enjoy your holidays and get the sleep you’ve been missing!