It’s the most wonderful time of the year… unless your child isn’t sleeping, that is! Many parents find that the extra holiday travel, parties and excitement may add up to some big bedtime trouble or can rock the nights of even the most trusted sleepers!
So, what should you do, when traveling or faced with a midday party or late night event that is sure to disrupt naptime, bedtime or both?
Here are some tips for getting through the holiday season:
- Evaluate your expectations. If your baby is having some trouble before your travel, chances are things won’t improve while you are away. It may be helpful to spend a few weeks solving sleep problems BEFORE you go away, setting you up for better success on your journey.
- Maintain normalcy. Plan to bring the same books and lovies your child is used to at home. Implement the same bedtime routine you do at home while you are away, and try to maintain a schedule consistent to yours at home. If naps were pretty good on your travel day it may be helpful to put your baby to bed 15 mins later than your normally would on your first night in a new place. This will increase her sleep pressure (sleepiness) without making her overtired and can make it easier to fall asleep in unfamiliar surroundings. If you are changing time zones – be sure to think about your baby’s schedule in terms of her biological time. For example, what time does her body think it is – which may be different from social or clock time in your new location.
- Keep it dark. Remember that darkness and light cue your child when to sleep and when to be awake, so keep her sleeping environment as dark as you can. Room darkening material and a box of thumbtacks or an inexpensive “Reddi Shade” packed in your suitcase can work wonders.
- Be prepared to deal with over-stimulation. Your baby may be up later than usual and spend lots of time in different people’s arms. Try to anticipate that your child might be a bit overtired and cranky by the end of an evening of partying and spend a bit of extra time soothing her before sleep and winding her down. Be aware that your child might wake up at night due to some over-tiredness and be prepared to handle it consistently in the way you do at home.
- Anticipate the checking response. Babies naturally wake and do a quick check of their environment between sleep cycles. Because your baby’s environment will be significantly changed from what he’s used to, be prepared to offer some extra comfort and reassurance in those first few nights while he’s adjusting to the new place.
- Pack your white noise machine. Room sharing with parents and siblings, or perhaps house sharing with noisy cousins or friends are common during holiday travel. Don’t forget to pack a white noise machine! It can also help drown out adult conversation and revelry during baby’s nap time and at bedtime.
- If baby misses a nap, don’t panic. If it’s the morning nap that has been lost, go for the second nap a bit earlier than you would have otherwise. If it’s the afternoon nap, TRY to avoid a late afternoon ‘bedtime sabotage catnap’ and opt for a bedtime that is a bit earlier (at least 30 mins or more) instead.
- Relax and have fun. Virtually any non-medical sleep problem can be fixed – really! Your primary goal should be to enjoy your special family time, have fun, do the best you can at preserving your child’s schedule and know that when you return home to the status quo you can quickly get things back on track.
Is your baby is a great sleeper at home? Temperament and adaptability play a role, but for many babies it’s perfectly reasonable to expect she’ll continue to do well while traveling or having some holiday fun here and there. If you are noticing a lot of problems popping up during this holiday season, you may be trying to do too many activities and your child’s sleep is suffering.
If you can’t scale back your holiday schedule, just enjoy your time away but be prepared to get right back on track when you return home. For babies who have some problems to begin with – or for tips on getting back to normal when the holidays are over – you may consider one of our personalized sleep consultations, conducted by phone. We consult with families from all over the world! Learn more >>
You may also find it helpful to watch our free Sleep Webinar recordings on this topic: Holidays, Travel & Infant Toddler Sleep and Travel and Time Zone Changes OR for more in depth coverage purchase our new sleep e-class at a great introductory price and listen to the chapters devoted to travel and solving problems for when you return from vacation.
We hope you have a wonderful holiday season!
Nancy Holtzman, RN BSN IBCLC CPN and
Meg Casano RN BSN MA and Erin Evans PhD RPSGT
Isis Parenting Sleep Team Leaders