Trying to Coordinate your child’s sleep around your Holiday plans can feel completely overwhelming. We all want to be able to enjoy ourselves this Holiday season – but how do we do that if we are at risk of having an overtired grumpster on our hands?
Having anxiety about your child’s sleep around the Holiday’s is one of the last things I want you to worry about. We already tend to put too much stress and pressure on ourselves during this season that we are supposed to be enjoying!
There are several tactics we will cover in this post about how to coordinate your child’s sleep with you Holiday plans, but primarily what I want to you do is take some of the pressure off yourself. It’s okay if sleep doesn’t go to plan for one day. Here’s the thing about your child’s sleep, we can set the stage for sleep success, but it was never truly in our control in the first place. We cannot force your child to sleep, and because they are humans, they will have off days sometimes, whether it’s a Holiday or not! If you implement any of these tactics during your Holiday season, then I encourage you to relinquish your anxiety for a day – focus on what you can control and try your hardest to let go of what you cannot. Enjoy the day with your family instead.
Decide your Boundaries Ahead of Time
While I want you to enjoy your Holidays, for some of you that might mean being at home in time for bedtime! Even if that means that you head home sooner than your loving grandparents or aunts/uncles would want you to. If prioritizing sleep over a late night out is what keeps your sanity in your household, then you have my full permission to do it! Communicate to your hosts ahead of time about how excited you are to see them, and that you will need to head out by a certain time to get ready for bed. No guilt is needed here, doing what is best for you and your family needs to take a front seat. When my husband and I were in the newborn days we were surviving off broken sleep every single night, and I mean it when I say we were only SURIVING. I cannot imagine a late night out with two newborns, and you don’t have to either if it’s not something you want to do.
Your Children do not Need to be Present for Meal Time
Before you think I’m heartless, hear me out! When is the last time you got to enjoy a hot meal without little hands grabbing at your plate? I have a specific memory of my boys second Thanksgiving – they were old enough to enjoy foods, so guess what I didn’t get to enjoy? Thanksgiving Dinner! I loved watching my boys try everything on my plate, but between coordinating little fingers and hands, I think I got to enjoy 5 bites of food the whole meal.
Let’s be clear, I LOVE food. I love eating it, I love enjoying it, I love the great conversation that goes with a good meal. Yes, it’s great to enjoy meals with your children, it’s also okay to prioritize your own self care and enjoy meals without your children.
If this, is you, then plan for nap time during mealtime! Initiate your child’s nap 20 minutes before mealtime starts so that they have time to settle to sleep and you can truly enjoy your meal knowing that your child is sleeping soundly in the other room.
This might feel easy to do if you are hosting mealtime at your house. You can plan for meal time during baby’s nap (who says you can’t eat dinner at 2:00 PM if needed) and your child can enjoy the comfort of sleeping in their own room.
This might feel a little trickier if you are going to another family member’s house for Christmas or Thanksgiving Dinner, but it’s not impossible!
Bring a travel crib
If visiting another family for Thanksgiving or Christmas meals, then consider having a discussion with them before hand about your values in regarding baby sleep. Ask if you can bring a travel crib/pack n’ play and set it up in one of their bedrooms during nap time.
If the invitation to their house is right when nap time begins then ask if you can swing by 20 -30 minutes early to help set up for dinner and get settled in. Arriving right when nap time begins is a easy way to cause a lot of excitement and stimulating for your child – and can make it hard to settle into sleep, especially in a unfamiliar environment.
Consider buying a tool like the Slumber Pod (Use the code teensyweensysleepers20 for $20 off) to create the perfect portable room environment for your child’s nap. It creates a nearly blacked out sleep environment and it has a pocket to include a white noise machine and baby monitor!
A day full of short naps (or no naps) can easily lead to a very tired child. When you get home from your Holiday celebrations don’t be afraid of an earlier bedtime than normal. My general advice about early bedtimes is that you can offer bedtime up to an hour earlier than you normally would. An early bedtime can give babies the opportunity to make up for lost sleep – and will also prevent your child from getting even more overtired than hey already are!
You know that lengthy 45-minute bedtime routine that you do in the same order every single night? If you get home late on Thanksgiving or Christmas, then you have my FULL permission to skip it (yes! You heard me right!) Include a few aspects of your regular routine (pajamas, brush teeth, and rock for a few minutes) but skip the rest! It’s already late, and your child is likely overtired, we don’t need to add an additional 45 minutes to their overtired-ness
If your Child is 0-5 Months Old
Naps during this age are frequent and it may not be possible to coordinate your travel and dinner plans perfectly around naps. That’s okay! Babies this age tend to enjoy and have more success with contact naps or naps in motion! Use this to your advantage!
If leaving the house for your Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner, then plan on leaving about 15 minutes before your child’s wake window ends. This can help them to peacefully drift off to sleep while in the car. Don’t be afraid to drive around the block a few more times before you arrive at your destination to get a full sleep cycle in as well.
While at your destination, bring a small portable sound machine to clip to your shirt and consider baby wearing so that you can have your hands free to enjoy your meal! Better yet, if you are comfortable, ask a family member you trust if they would be willing to play halfsies with you at mealtime to hold your baby part time. Having help is a great asset and many family members would LOVE to hold your baby, but my feel uncomfortable asking themselves. It’s okay to ask for help so that you can enjoy your hot meal, and other loved ones can enjoy some bonding time with your baby!
Some babies will take longer naps when contact napping (especially babies under 3 months old), older babies may only take short naps – so you may need to offer one more additional cat nap than normal to help get to bedtime!
If your child is 6-18 Months
Children in this age bracket generally do not do as well with naps in motion or contact naps. Every child is different so if this is not the case for your child then follow the advice from the previous age group. For these ages I would recommend bringing your portable crib/pack n play and asking your hosts if there is a quiet area to lay baby down for naps during your visit.
If travel time is right in the middle of your nap time, then I would suggest starting your child’s day up to 45 minutes earlier! Yes, this means waking them up earlier in the morning, this way their schedule will shift back for a day, and they can get a good quality nap at home before heading out to join the excitement!
If your child is 18 Months or older
The toddler years can feel tricky, but the good news is that you have more flexibility with toddlers and preschoolers! I am generally a fan of “any nap is better than no nap!” If you have plans that would take place during your toddler’s nap time then try waking them for the day an hour earlier than normal and squeezing in a late morning nap before you head out on your adventures for the day.
Remember, one off-day is not going to ruin sleep forever! If you do need to skip your child’s nap for the day it’s okay! Offer lot’s of snuggles and quiet activities if you notice that your child is becoming overtired.