“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” I absolutely love this time of year and the excitement that builds as the holidays draw near, however there is also a lot of hustle and bustle that can come with it that can prove stressful.
And with this year looking especially different as we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, I don’t want your little one’s sleep to be one more stressor for you!
So here are a few tips and tricks to keep your child’s sleep on track this holiday season:
Keep Your Little One’s Schedule and Routines in Tact as Much as Possible
As most of us know all too well, changes in routine can really throw kids for a loop! For babies, especially, skipping naps is the quickest way to end up with an overtired kiddo, and overtiredness often rears it’s ugly head by disrupting night time sleep.
So although it can be especially challenging to keep up with your normal routine over the holidays, and some days it might just not be possible, try to keep your schedule and routines as “same” as possible!
That might look like requesting your holiday dinner be at 5:30 pm rather than 6:30 pm, so you can still get your little one to bed by 7:00. Or that may be going to your family’s house around noon instead of 10:30 am, so your baby can get a solid morning nap at home.
Naps on the Go
If you plan to travel for the holidays, try to plan your drives around your kids’ sleep! For example, if you’ll be in the car around your child’s usual nap time, help cue them that it’s nap time by doing part of your routine in the car; you might even consider using some white noise to minimize distractions.
Our favorite sleep sack is actually wearable in the car seat, so we often put our daughter in her sleep sack when it’s time for that car nap and sing her nap time song. She would certainly fall asleep on her own if we were way passed nap time, but if we’re in the car and want to get her to sleep more quickly, we (try to) cue her body by using as much of our routine is possible, and hope for the best!
[Don’t forget about following safe sleep guidelines when it comes to car seats and sleep!]
You can also bring your baby carrier or a stroller to help squeeze in a nap when out of the house. Your child’s nap likely won’t be as long or as deep as normal if it’s on the go, but anything will help release some of that sleep pressure and better set you up for the night.
If your toddler misses their nap during the day, make sure you do an earlier bedtime to help make up for the lost sleep.
If Plans Coincide with Bedtime…
If you expect to be out right up until bedtime or later, consider putting jammies on before you leave and maybe even have one parent sitting in the back seat reading a story, so that when you get home, you can sing and put your little one right to bed.
It’s of course ideal to keep your child awake on the drive back, but we all know that’s not always possible. If your child falls asleep on the drive home, don’t lose heart. Melatonin (our natural sleep hormone!) is working on your side at bedtime, so independent sleepers should be able to drift back into sleep once you put them down.
If your child seems to wake up more fully when you get home, walk through the bedtime routine again to remind her it’s bedtime, and then put them down.
Mimic Your Child’s Sleep Environment as Closely as Possible
It’s not uncommon for kids to struggle with sleep while away, as many adults don’t sleep as well when they’re not at home. However, we can set our kids up for the most success possible, and not only does sticking to your normal schedule and routines help that, but establishing a sleep environment that’s as similar to home is key!
That means getting the room as dark as possible and bringing the sound machine, and if your child uses a toddler clock, a lovey, and/or a sleep sack, bring those along, too! We also bring a few of our girls’ favorite nap and bedtime books, even when we know the new space has plenty of books, because those little pieces of consistency can really make a difference!
It can also be helpful to spend some non-sleep time in your child’s new sleeping space to get them comfortable with the new environment and have a positive association with it.
My favorite travel hack when it comes to providing a dark space for my girls is using the SlumberPod. Using foil and painter’s tape to cover the windows is also a sure way to darken the room, and you better believe I’ve done that more than once!
Having white noise is especially important for full houses filled with noisy adults and kids. If you’re worried about sound, sometimes having a second sound machine (or using an app on your phone) and putting it right inside your child’s door as an extra sound barrier, or by the wall where the sound could come through, can be helpful, too.
If you have to Room Share and That’s Not the Norm…
If you have to share a room with your little one and that is not the norm at home, try to create some kind of barrier or partition in the room so that your child can’t see you from their bed.
Once again, my favorite solution is the SlumberPod, as it is quick to set up, it gives your child total darkness (even with light on in the room!), and it provides a physical barrier between you and your child. Another easy fix is finding a walk-in closet or even a spare bathroom that doesn’t need to be in use (yes, I’ve done this!), otherwise something so simple as opening a closet door and moving furniture around will go a long way.
You can also hang a blanket between chairs to make a visual barrier.
If your child takes longer to fall asleep than usual or has night wakings, remain consistent with how you’d handle them at home so your child knows you have the same expectations when away.
[p.s. If you find that the SlumberPod would be a great fit for your family, use the code “GRACES$20” at checkout and get $20 off!]
Try to Use a Similar Bed to What Your Child Sleeps in at Home
If your child sleeps in a crib at home, you’ll want to be sure you have a pack ‘n play with you while traveling. If you try to put a crib sleeper in a normal bed while traveling, you are likely in for some trouble! Save yourself the fears and sleeplessness and bring your travel crib.
If your child sleeps in a toddler bed or normal bed at home, there are some great travel cots you can use (or of course another bed wherever you’re staying). It’s also important to remind your child that the same rules of staying in bed at home apply when staying in a new bed while away, and stick to your boundaries!
Worried about your little one being too big for a pack ‘n play yet they still sleeps in a crib at home? The 4Moms Pack ‘n Play is a bit more spacious than a standard pack ‘n play and should work well.
My baby/child sleep packing list essentials
Packing for multiple people can be stressful, especially when it comes to babies and kids and overnight stays!
So I’ve put together my packing list essentials when it comes to traveling with babies, toddlers, and older kids, specifically when it comes to sleep. Enjoy!
At the end of the day, holiday schedules (even if you don’t travel!) tend to be slightly off routine, and sleep likely won’t be perfect. That’s okay! Do what you can to keep your child’s sleep routines and environment as consistent as possible, and then get back on track once you’re home or the holidays have ended.
And don’t forget to give yourself some extra grace; let yourself enjoy the days off and extra time with family and/or friends!
Note that this blog contains some affiliate links.