With Christmas approaching, many new parents who have recently begun to get their babies sleeping on a schedule are worried that they might regress a little over the break. And I can assure you, those fears could not be more well-founded.
Between the travel, the excitement, the constant attention and then travel all over again, Christmas is the single easiest trigger to throw all of your hard work out with the wrapping paper and turkey bones!
But with a little forward planning, it doesn’t have to be that way…
There are two major things that are going to affect your little one’s sleep over Christmas; travel and family and friends!
First off, travel…
If you’re thinking about starting sleep training your little one, but you’ve got to make a trip in a few weeks, my suggestion is to put off the training until you get back. If you’ve already started, not to worry. Making a trip typically won’t help your little one sleep better, but if you can maintain some kind of normality until the end of your trip, you and your baby should be ready to get back to business as soon as you get home.
If you’re driving to your destination, the best piece of advice I can offer is to schedule your journey when it’s time for the baby’s naps. Car naps aren’t ideal, but compared to no naps at all, they’re the lesser of two evils by a mile. So, if at all possible, get on the road around the time that your baby would normally be taking their first nap. If you’re really committed, you might even look for some parks, tourist attractions, or other outdoor activities that are on your route where you can stop when your baby wakes up. It’s a great chance to get out into the fresh air, which will make that next nap that much easier.
If you’re flying, the best thing you can do is just reside yourself to the fact you are travelling with a little one, and do whatever you need to do to get through it, with a minimum amount of fuss! Dish out the snacks, let them play with your phone, in fact let them do anything they want to do – within reason of course!
The truth is, if they don’t want to sleep on the plane, they’re just not going to, so don’t try to force it. It will just result in a lot of frustration for both of you. (And, most likely, the passengers around you.)
Right! So, you’ve arrived, and hopefully you’ve managed to maintain some degree of sanity. Now, comes the hard part. In the car or on the plane, everybody is on your side, right? Keeping the baby quiet and relaxed, and hopefully asleep, is just what everyone is rooting for. But now that you’re at Grandma and Grandpa’s, it’s just the opposite!
Everyone wants the baby awake so they can see them, play with them, take a thousand pictures, and get them ridiculously overstimulated. And it’s exceptionally difficult to tell all of these friends and family members that you’re putting an end to the fun because your little one needs to get to sleep.
So, if you need permission to be the bad guy, I’m giving it to you right now. Don’t negotiate, don’t make exceptions, and don’t feel bad about it. Let your friends and family know when the baby will be getting up and tell them to hang around, come back, or catch you the next time. Or better yet, tell people in advance when to expect some ‘baby time’ based on your baby’s schedule.
I know it sounds harsh, but ultimately this is what’s going to help keep all of your hard work on track. If your little one misses a nap, gets really stimulated with all the new faces and activities, the overtiredness will kick in. More than likely the next nap is ruined, which results in more overtiredness and in turn will derail night time sleep, and before you know it, you’re heading home feeling like your little one did nothing but cry the entire trip. I’m not even slightly exaggerating. It happens that quickly.
So, the day has gone well and you have managed to keep your schedule on track but with all the family staying it means you have to share a bedroom with your little one. Another big mistake parents make is to bed share with their baby or toddler whilst travelling. Bed sharing is a big no-no! Even if it is only for a few nights, if your baby decides this is their new preferred location, you could find yourself starting all over again when you get home. To get round this problem, take your travel cot with you.
If your child is eight months or older, my advice is to try to make some sort of a private space for them to sleep. This could even be the bathroom if it’s big enough! Anywhere that you can build some sort of a partition between you and your child, so that if they wake in the middle of the night they are not so excited to see their two favourite people and end up wide awake thinking it’s play time! (Moving furniture around / opening a wardrobe door etc.)
It’s also really important not to resort to other sleep props to help you out. You might be tempted to slip your little one a dummy or rock them to sleep if they’re disturbing the rest of the house. However, they will latch on to that really, really, quickly and chances are you’ll be waking up every hour or two, rocking your little one back to sleep or putting their dummy back in, which is going to end up disturbing everyone a lot more than half an hour of crying at 7pm.
I find the biggest reason that parents give in on these points is, quite simply, because they’re embarrassed or too mindful of others. There’s a house full of eyes and they’re all focused on the baby, and by association, the parent.
The feeling that everyone is making judgments about how you’re parenting can be completely overwhelming in these family gatherings, but in those moments, remember what’s really important here. Your baby, your family, and their health and well-being.
There may well be a few people who feel a bit disappointed because you put the baby to bed just when they have arrived and your mother might tell you that putting the baby to bed a little later won’t hurt, but remember you’re doing this for a very important reason!
Wishing you a very merry and sleep filled Christmas!