8 simple strategies to keep the sleep this holiday season
The holidays are my most favorite time of the year, but they also come with so much anxiety about changing sleep schedules due to of all the festivities we want to do. I have found a lot of different ways to help my girls with the changes and still have a great time creating memories to last a lifetime. Traveling for the holidays can be even more stressful, especially if their sleep space is unknown. Here are some strategies you can use to encourage a magical holiday season for the whole family.
Relax and get back on track the next day
I truly believe this is the most important concept to take in. It is so hard to see it when you’re in the thick of sleep deprivation. But whether you are currently sleep training, recently sleep trained, or none of the above, the holidays are all about creating memories and being around those we love. So if it means a missed nap and a fussy baby for a bit, then that’s okay. If it means leaving a party early so your kid can get to bed on time, then that’s okay. Everything will get back on track soon. You don’t have to go overboard, but sometimes if we take a step back and relax, we see that our children might be more adaptable to a changing situation than we originally thought.
Tip! Take advantage of all the extra family that’s around and have them take over parts of the bedtime routine. Grandparents love getting involved with reading a bedtime story.
Maintain your routine / rhythm
If you don’t already have a bedtime routine in place, now is a great time to start. If you do have one, make sure it is something that you can do no matter what environment you are in. Even if bedtime or nap time are going to fluctuate a bit, the routine you do beforehand should remain the same. This will help your child feel comforted and safe as they will know what to expect.
Bring comfort items from home
Whenever I travel, I like to bring along a few comforts from home, so that I will have an easier time falling asleep. The same should go for our children. Whenever possible, bring the sheets off your child’s bed or crib to use in their new sleep space. I always make sure I have packed my girls’ lovies, sound machine, and okay to wake clock because these are integral parts of our bedtime routine.
Tip! If you’re just going to be out later than usual one night, pack their pajamas and overnight diapers as well as bringing their lovey. It will help them feel comforted and cozy and they will have an easier time relaxing.
Maintain your awake windows, even if you’re on the go
I am all too familiar with becoming a slave to nap time and rushing home to preserve a nap. This is not always possible when traveling or running around during the holidays. So instead of rushing home, bring whatever you need for their nap time routine, and allow that nap to be on the go. Your 1 nap child may need to take 2 on-the-go naps that day if they’re waking up early and going to bed late, but all of this is okay. Just pay attention to their sleepy cues and give them an extra nap when needed. All of the holiday activities can mean extra stimulation which makes your little ones more tired, so they may need an extra catnap here or there.
Toddlers will need to be prepared
If you’re traveling (or just hopping around) with a toddler or preschooler, they have to be prepared for any changes. If they will be going to bed at grandma’s, in a hotel, have a random babysitter, or anything different, they need to know about it. Yes they might protest, but it presents an opportunity to build resilience and let your child see that even though things are different, they are still safe and the same principles apply.
Tip! Create a social story that outlines your holiday travel. Talk about riding the airplane, what grandma’s house looks like, what activities they will do, and anything else relevant. Repeatedly reading about the upcoming itinerary will help prepare them for the trip.
You don’t have to say “yes” to every party
As new moms, we seem to think that if someone invites us to an event, then we HAVE to go. I’m here to tell you that you don’t. If going to every holiday event that is offered is going to make you stressed out and anxious, then go ahead and opt out. Keep in mind that children will not remember everything you did for them (or every cookie decorating party and santa visit), but they will always remember how you made them feel. I think most parents want to create memories that are happy, safe, warm, and nostalgic. A stressed out mommy running around trying to make everything perfect probably won’t get them there.
Expect there to be challenges
You may do everything under the sun to prepare them for the changes of the holiday season and they still wake up extra times in the middle of the night or have a hard time falling asleep. This really is to be expected. We are changing a lot for them after all. If we can change our mindset and simply expect them to wake up frequently, then our brains have a much easier time dealing with those extra wake ups.
Plan for a “recovery” day
Just as you may need a “recovery” day from the holidays or a vacation, so too may your child. There is a lot of extra stimulation happening for the whole family, and your child will need to recover from that. This means, start to get them back on their typical schedule, have them take their naps in their crib (or whatever their normal sleep space is), and allow a bit more assistance with falling asleep.
Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday season!