By Nicole Johnson, The Baby Sleep Site®
The holidays are fast approaching, and if you’re like most people out there, your calendar is already filling up with holiday parties and visits with friends and relatives. But while these celebrations can be tons of fun, they can spell major sleep drama for babies and toddlers. Most little ones thrive on consistency, after all, and holiday celebrating can throw a serious wrench into your normally-predictable schedule.
So how can you enjoy the holiday season while also preserving precious sleep?
1. Use temperament as a guide. If your child is super-adaptable, then you may have nothing to worry about. Even if bedtime and naps are all over the place for a week or two, your kiddo may sleep just fine when you put her down. If you have a less-than-adaptable child on your hands, however, respect that, and don’t try to force her to adapt to a hundred different schedule disruptions. This means you'll have to adapt to her needs.
2. Pick and choose your activities. Remember, not every holiday invitation requires that you RSVP yes! While you may have to take part in your in-law’s holiday dinner, do you really need to attend your co-worker’s girlfriend’s cousin’s cookie swap? It’s fine to agree to attend a few activities that will mess with bedtime or naps, but do so carefully, recognizing that saying yes to the event may mean sleep drama later.
3. Make the most of your “down” days. Use your quiet days at home to reinforce your child’s sleep schedule, and to make up for lost sleep. If you just spent all day yesterday towing your kid along on a holiday shopping spree, be sure that today, naps all happen at their usual times, and that you allow for more sleep than usual.
4. Keep late bedtimes to a minimum. A few late nights are fine for most children, but avoid an overabundance. They tend to result in overtiredness, which in turn means early-waking and nap issues for most babies and toddlers.
5. Prioritize the first morning nap. The downside of many of your holiday activities may be missed or shortened naps, and that’s okay—as long as you plan well. If you know your baby or toddler will have to skip his afternoon nap, be sure to prioritize the morning nap, as that nap tends to be more restorative, anyway. For that matter, avoid activities that will force your child to miss the morning nap; you'll both be happier in the long- and short run.
6. Watch for the dreaded O! Most holiday gatherings tend to be on the noisy and crowded side. Be aware that while you may be able to cope well with the noisy crowds, your child may become quickly overstimulated. This happens particularly with sensitive and perceptive babies and toddlers , turning them cranky. This can make sleep even more challenging, as a cranky child is less likely to relax and fall asleep. If you sense your child is becoming overstimulated, take her into a quiet space and involve in a soothing activity you know she enjoys.
7. Plan for an adjustment period once the holidays are over. We all need this, actually, not just babies and toddlers! After a few weeks of rich food, busy activities, late nights, and out-of-the-ordinary schedules, everyone needs a few days to get back to normal. Plan a few at-home days during which you can get your child back to her usual eating and sleeping schedule. These days will no doubt feel “off” as you work toward resuming normalcy. But in the end, it’ll make getting back on track much easier.
Photograph by Giu Vicente, via Unsplash