With so many people to visit, travel during the holidays can be tough. Between the travel and trying it fit in as much family time as possible, it may seem like your little one’s schedule, along with the consistency you work so hard to maintain, is simply being tossed out to the wind. As a parent, that part of the holidays can be SO frustrating and very stressful to navigate. But fear not! There IS a way to navigate the holidays and still adhere to the familiar and consistent schedule your family has established.
Have a great routine
One of the best parts of establishing a consistent and predictable bedtime and naptime routine is that it travels nicely. Whether you plan to stay at home, visit Aunt Sally’s, or take a trip to the moon for Thanksgiving – the repetition and cues you have built into your routine will never serve you more than they will while traveling for the holidays. Observing the same bedtime routine while away from home will trigger those cues to kick in, making it so much easier for you young one to go to sleep.
Remember, nap routines should be about 15 minutes, while bedtime routines should be about 30 minutes. For children over the age of 16-weeks, we do not want these routines to end in a feed!
Be firm but polite
Frequently, extended family has a hard time understanding why little ones are on a strict schedule and have to go to sleep early. Having those conversations can be incredibly stressful and a bit tricky. The best option is to address them up front. Identify the family members you feel might question or give you a hard time about your child’s schedule, pull them aside, and talk to them ahead of time. Explain that you have worked hard to have a great sleeper. Remind them that baby won’t remember the holiday season at this age and tell them how important sleep is for healthy development. Having the conversation ahead of time should ease some of the tension during the travel.
Remember, they don’t have to agree with your decision about baby sleep, but they do have to respect it.
My son had to go to sleep at 5:00 pm on his first Christmas Eve, so he missed visiting with all the family who came over. It broke my heart at the time, even though I knew it was the right thing to do. As a result of his early Christmas Eve bedtime, he was so pleasant on Christmas Day! And now that he is older, he has no clue that he missed anything at all.
Sharing a Room?
If you aren’t used to sharing a room with your little one, having to do so at the holidays can be anxiety producing. However, you need to keep in mind that your little one will most likely be going to bed well before parents. Remember to take something to darken the room. A cheap black sheet from your local home store works really well. And don’t forget to take clothes pins or push pins to secure the sheet to a curtain or wall. Ideally, you want the room to be dark (think 8 - 10 on the scale from light to dark). A sound machine is a good idea as well. This will help drown out any noise from the rest of the house while the family is visiting, or when a parent needs to enter the room.
The first thing you should do when arriving at your destination is set up the room where your child will be sleeping – pack and play, white noise and black out curtains. This will help you feel less rushed when bedtime comes! It isn’t unusual for a little one to wake more frequently when visiting a new place. Try to be as consistent as possible in how you handle wake-ups when away and at home. If bad habits are formed while you are away, be sure to leave them behind when you leave. Bringing those habits home with you can cause a regression!
Establishing a plan, along with open communication with family about your child’s sleep, is the best way to make sure the holidays are stress free and fun for everyone!