Another holiday season is upon us! Soon your house will be filled with guests and family or you will be off socializing and partaking in the festive events. As a savvy sleep expert, I wanted to share the following sleep and schedule tips with parents to help make the holidays pleasant and stress free:
- Try not to overschedule your social calendar with family events or pressure to visit everyone who asks. If you attempt to please everyone it could lead to missed naps, irregular bedtimes and a potential meltdown from your overtired child.
- Keep your nap and bedtime schedules regular. This doesn’t mean that the occasional nap in the car seat is absolutely out of the question, but it should be a rarity. Make sure your child is in bed within 30 minutes of their usual bedtime.
- You may feel like the “bad guy” for putting your little one down at 7:00 just as the guests are arriving, or saying no to insistent relatives who want to wake baby from a nap for playtime, but remember: you are the boss. You know how important your child’s sleep is, and it’s your job to protect it.
- When people see how pleasant and social your child is when he or she is awake, they will soon come to realize that a well-rested child is a happy child. Remind your loved ones that the quality of time spent with the child is more important than quantity.
Keep a routine, enjoy and Happy Holidays!
First of all, please keep sleep on track the best you can. trust me when I say you will thank me! I always advise making sure your AM nap is always at home in the crib. It is the strongest nap and it really does set the tone for the rest of the day. A solid morning nap is the best thing you can do for your babe and you!
If you are going out for she visiting, try and time your naps to be when you are in the car so you arrive at your destination with a child who has had some sleep (or who is still sleeping) and is in good spirits!
If nap time falls when you are at another person home, I suggest sneaking off a little before nap time and setting up the playpen in a dark, quiet space. Make sure have your little ones favourite snuggly buddy or blanket, sleep sac and whatever else you use for sleep. We want to make the situation just like nap time at home so your baby isn’t freaked out. Because the place will be new for your child, take an extra 5-10 min for your routine so he/she can get comfy and out of any stimulating stuff- you know, the pick ups by strangers and family, the pass around, the cheek squeezes, the bounces, the toys flashing in their faces…. This will help your little one get into sleep mode.
If bedtime falls and you are at a friends or family for dinner….stay! Don’t rush home. Just honour your child’s sleep and do your bedtime routine where you are and put your child down in a dark, quiet space. When it is time to leave, get the car all set to go and grab your child and the playpen and go home. Your baby will likely wake….that ok, just go home and into the crib.
When you have a child that knows how to sleep and is a solid sleeper and not dependant on anything to fall asleep, napping and nighttimes are much easier when on the go.
The best take away here, is always stay on track and don’t deprive your child of any daytime sleep if you can avoid it. Strong day sleep leads to string nights.
Does the thought of a vacation make you jump for joy but at the same time cringe because you have a new baby or a toddler or both?! Common things that typically raise mom and dads heart rate are the unknown…..
Will my child sleep on the plane? (this one is a biggie!)
Will they scream? (Yikes! Please no!)
Will I have a row with an extra space so my baby isn’t fussing away while the kind old man the next seat over is trying to relax and enjoy the start of his vacation? (praying for empty seats)
How do I handle my babies schedule with a time change?
How will me baby sleep in a hotel room?
We have lots of visiting and touring to do…..how do I honour my babies sleep and naps and still enjoy my vacation?
Will my baby sleep in a playpen or a strange place?
Traveling is exciting and doesn’t have to be stressful. The truth is, there are many things you can do to easy your baby or toddler (or both!) into a smooth travel transition and steps you can take to help with their sleep while in a new place or on the go!
Always try to honor your child’s regular nap schedule the best you can. An overtired child is no fun and will be sure to cause some anxiety. When child are overtired they have a hard time going to sleep and are hard to handle and console.
If you are going into a new time zone, my suggestion is to hop right into it and treat it like a normal day at home. Do the best you can to just get in sync in the new zone. It may take a few days for your little one (s) to adjust, but it will be fine after they adjust.
If you are staying at friends, a cottage or rental home, bring a portable blackout blind. The GRO Blind is perfect for travel. A dark room always helps with better naps and nighttime sleeps.
If you are going to a place which may be noisy and disruptive, then grab a white noise machine to block out sounds that may cause disturbances in your little ones sleep. They are light and easy to pop into your luggage (my fav is the Conair one found at Zellers in the Pharmacy section)
If travelling with a young baby who is still bottle or breastfeeding, I suggest feeding at take off and for landing. If their ears are bothering them with the pressure change, this will help. It will also help calm them if they are scared of the new experience.
If your little one is used to his or her own room, and you are in a hotel room without a suite or separate space, then it is a good idea to pin up a sheet and make a little barrier so your little one doesn’t see you and get stimulated or distracted and eant to play or not sleep .
Do you have a toddler who likes to come visit you in the middle of the night and either climb into bed with you and wake you and your hubby up, or ask for something to eat, drink or simply ask you something as silly as “why does Santa wear black boots”?
Toddlers are funny and smart! It can be so irresistible to go along with their requests or questions and engage them but the truth of the matter is, they should be catching their zzzz’s not asking the meaning of life and/or disrupting the rest of the family. There is also something very special about scooping them up and having them cuddle in next to you- after all, there isn’t a stronger love or greater feeling than snuggles with your little angel!
A full night and uninterrupted sleep is vital for optimal sleep health and a feeling of being 100% well rested. Toddlers need this!
So, what do you do when your toddler shows up in your room? Well, there are a couple options. My first recommendation is to simply walk them back to their room with minimal interaction and tell them “it is still sleepy time”. Keep it short, sweet and do not entertain any of their requests (asking for cereal, for milk, or to get all their toys to join tem in the bed….). I would only give them a sip of water if you genuinely feel they are thirsty. Toddlers love to push the boundaries and to see what kind of attention they can get. If it is positive or negative attention they still eat it up!
Another option is to work a little bribery magic. (I know, I know…but it sure does work!). Here is what I suggest:
Purchase them a GRO clock and make a big deal of it during the day. Show them that at night the stars and moon are out and when it is time to get up they will see a nice big sun! Let them know that they are not to get out of bed until they see the sun!
Also introduce a rewards chart (over the age of 3 is when they typically really understand the concept and I also advise keeping your little one in a crib until 3 anyway).
Pin it up on their wall and buy them col stickers and tell them they will get a sticker or a Smartie (I know, I know…sweets but it won’t last forever!) when they stay in their bed and wait for the sun each night. After 4 stickers they will get a “X” (- maybe a new car or toy they have wanted, a trip out for an ince-cream cone or a special breakfast of waffles or something they ADORE.
How long the process of change will take depends on how strong your child’s need is to be with you during the night – she may feel that you are a much better prize than any toy you could offer – and isn’t it glorious to be loved so much? Stick to your guns and be CONSISTENT and you will have a happily sleeping toddler in their bed for the whole night.
Good luck and sleep well!