December 20, 2023

Baby and Toddler Sleep Tips Over the Holidays

Babies, Newborns, Older Children, Toddlers

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 kids in the mix, potential travels or holiday gatherings, new sleeping environments, and schedules to work around…it can be overwhelming!

So in this post, I’m going to share my top sleep tips when it comes to the holidays with family and friends, including:

  • Try to keep your little one’s schedule and environment as “same” as possible
  • Tips for room sharing, if that’s not your norm
  • Tips for naps on the go, when need be
  • How to balance holiday gatherings and events, and your little one’s sleep
  • My top packing tips when traveling!

And so much more…

Try to Keep Your Child’s Sleep Schedule and Environment as “Same” as Possible

Sleep Schedule

For newborns who nap all the time anyway, many of which are still cuddle naps, you don’t need to worry as much about their day. But I would still make sure you’re watching the clock for awake windows, ask Grandma to stop cooing with them and rock them on her shoulder instead, or put them in the carrier and go for a walk.

If at all possible, we want to avoid an overtired newborn who will then become a fussy newborn, especially in the evening, so staying on top of awake windows will be key!

For older babies and toddlers who nap more consistently and in their own space, try to keep that same schedule, when possible! If friends or family are coming to your place, then you don’t need to make any adjustments.

If you’ll be at your family’s house all day, see if you can snag a room and use it as their “nursery” for the day. If that’s just not possible, try to plan a walk in the carrier or stroller, or go for a drive around their usual nap times, to still get some sort of sleep in. Just make sure you’re following safe car seat sleep!

If you have an older toddler, they might be okay skipping their nap that day, but then make sure you plan for an early bedtime (I’m talking around 6 p.m.!), as that overtiredness will catch up with them.

holiday sleep

And for the babies and toddlers who are able to get some naps in, bedtime might be a bit later than usual given all the excitement happening, but try to keep bedtime within about an hour of the norm, whenever possible.

I don’t say all of this to be crazy about sleep and make you nervous, I say this as a mom of three who has been there, who has tried pushing things too far and paid for it, and who has also taken the extra effort to make sure sleep can happen, because we all know what an overtired baby or toddler looks like.

And we, as parents, are the ones who have to deal with the extra night wakings, early mornings, or meltdowns in the evening because of it.

So whenever possible, try to keep your little one’s schedule as “same” as possible.

Environment

Similar to keeping their schedule the same, if you’re going to be traveling and staying somewhere else overnight, or plan to lay your little one down at your family member’s house where you’ll be just for the day, try to make your little one’s environment as similar to home as possible!

First, if you don’t have a SlumberPod, I can’t recommend it enough! (And you can use the code “GRACES$20” for a discount!)

It’s not a tent, as it does not have a bottom, but it looks like a tent – it’s a portable blackout pod you can place right over a pack ‘n play or toddler cot, and it instantly blacks out their space. That way you don’t have to worry about what curtains might be there, how bright the room is, etc.

slumberpod

If you don’t have a SlumberPod, we also like these portable blackout shades. Or just good old foil and painter’s tape – tape it from window frame to window frame and it’s instantly blacked out! This isn’t a great solution for just one nap, as it takes some time to put up, but if you’re staying somewhere for a few days, it’s great.

So not only do we want your child’s room to be nice and dark, but bring your white noise machine, bring their sleep sack  and their favorite sleep books, and if they are older and have a lovey or toddler clock, don’t forget those.

Yes, this is a new environment, but having enough of the “same” feel, and going through the same routines, makes a huge difference.

One last piece with their environment…

Room Sharing While Away

If room sharing with your baby or toddler is not the norm at home but it’s your setup while traveling, 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 for this is the SlumberPod. 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.

How to Handle Naps on the Go

If you plan to drive a few hours for the holidays, I always recommend planning the drive over your little one’s nap time. That way you know they’ll still get a nap in (though it may not be nearly as long as it would be at home), plus that’s time you don’t have to worry about entertaining them on the drive!

If you plan to fly, know that you can make the best of plans, and they just might not work out. Do what you can to try to help them, but recognize sleep just might not happen, or the timing might be way off, and knowing that in advance helps calm any extra anxieties you might already have.

Know that you can always get back on track the next day!

How to Handle Naps, Bedtime, and Holiday Gatherings

One of the toughest parts about the holidays isn’t simply the new environment, but all of the festivities going on – the big meals, present opening, visiting Santa, family pictures, etc.

In all of this, remember that you are your little one’s parent and you get to decide what is best for them and your family. That might mean requesting that dinner be at 5:30 instead of 6:30, so your baby can still get to bed at 7. Or if dinner is set for 6:30, you may give your toddler a separate meal earlier for the sake of bedtime.

Or your family might be gathering around 10:30 am, but you might choose to come around noon so your baby can get a solid morning nap at home first.

That’s okay! Sleep impacts so many things, and it’s okay to ask for plans to change or shift your plans, for the sake of your little one’s sleep.

Similarly, it’s okay if you choose not to worry about sleep for the day and just kind of wing it! Some kids can handle that better than others, and as long as that’s your choice, you do you! You know your kids best and what they can handle.

So again, don’t be afraid to change plans or come late or leave early for the sake of your little ones’ sleep. And also don’t be afraid to let go for the day and just see what happens.

The good news is, no matter what, tomorrow is a new day!

If you expect to be out past 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 (a bedtime reset!) to remind them it’s bedtime, and then put them down.

Packing Tips

Let me preface this by saying I am not your go-to person for packing lightly with kids. I’m not a crazy over-packer, but I also don’t skimp!

My number one packing tip is to bring an extension chord! If you’re sleeping somewhere new, you never know where there outlets will be, and you’ll want to hook up the sound machine and monitor near your little one’s sleeping space.

If your baby is a big spitter, you might even want to bring an extra pack ‘n play sheet, or an extra swaddle or sleep sack. And of course, anything they normally sleep with at home, like a sound machine, monitor, lovey, blankie, toddler clock, favorite books, etc. 

travel packing list

One more packing tip: if you’ll be visiting family, note that they may have neighbors or friends close by who have baby gear you can use! We’ve borrowed high chairs, car seats, bassinets, and even toddler potties.

There are ways to get what you need but pack more lightly!

Conclusion

The goal in all of this is to help you feel more prepared and confident for the holidays and your little one’s sleep. We want you to feel like you have a PLAN going into the holidays, whatever they may look like for you this year.

Whether you have a newborn, baby, toddler, or older kids, holidays are magical and can also be stressful! So I also want to remind you to give yourself and your little ones lots of GRACE!

You might have the perfect plans, and they just don’t pan out. Guess what – it’s going to be okay. Tomorrow is a new day!

Or maybe the plan is there is no plan, let’s wing it! And it goes haywire. There’s grace there, too.

Tomorrow is a new day, sleep can always get back on track, and the memories you will make this holiday season will be beautiful.

If you’re reading this and can’t imagine anything but chaos over the holidays because sleep is already hard on a normal day, I want you to know that one, you’re not alone! And two, it doesn’t have to stay that way. Take a look at how we can support you so everyone can get the best sleep possible.

With Grace,

Lauren

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