The holidays are almost here! That means lots of visits to and from friends and family, parties galore, sugary goodies, late nights and…. very tired babies and toddlers!
Often, we get so caught up in the whirlwind of the holiday season that we take our little ones’ sleep for granted. More than almost any other time, it is crucial to honour our children’s sleep during the holidays, which are a time of extra stimulation and excitement.
Here are some of the biggest sleep issues for children during the holidays, and how to fix (or avoid!) them!
- Sleeping in unfamiliar places – Your child sees their room at home as a familiar, safe space. During the holiday season, you may be spending nights (or weeks!) at family member’s homes, and going to parties and events at friends’ houses where you need to put your little one to bed in an unfamiliar environment. Do what you can to make your child’s sleep space familiar and comfortable in every situation: bring along a favourite sleep sack and snuggly buddy; ensure you have a pack & play, travel crib, or portable bed (depending on your child’s age) so that your little one has an appropriate sleep surface; make the room dark and peaceful with a portable blackout blind and – if the party is really raucous! – a white noise machine to drown out loud sounds.
- Getting off track with naps and bedtimes – Of course it will be unavoidable that your child will need to have the occasional car or stroller nap during your busy holiday travels. But, these should be a rarity and not the norm, if you can help it. Ensuring your child has as many proper naps as possible (in an appropriate sleep space), and always getting your child to bed within 30 minutes of their normal bedtime, will help your little one remain well rested and content during your travels.
- Losing consistency – It can be easy to fall out of habit with your usual great, consistent routines during the rush of the holidays. But, babies and toddlers LOVE consistency and predictability – it is always best to help them understand what is coming next. So, resist the urge to skip over your regular bedtime routine and just pull your toddler out of the festivities and plunk them into bed. Your child will respond much better if you are consistent with your usual routines – even if you are in the middle of a party at a friend’s house, or putting your child down at Grandma’s house, do your full bedtime routine (bath, PJs, books, etc.) to help your child wind down for the night.
- Sugary Goodies – Getting your child to bed during the excitement and giddiness of the holidays can be difficult enough, without the added sugar factor! Limit sugary goodies as much as possible, particularly within a couple hours of bedtime, to give your child the best change for winding down quickly and slipping into a nice, peaceful, restful sleep.
- Over-scheduling – With dozens of party invitations, open houses, pot-lucks, and gift openings, our social calendar can fill up very quickly during the holidays. Try to avoid over-scheduling your calendar with family events or pressure to visit everyone who asks. If you attempt to please everyone, it could lead to missed naps and late bedtimes, which generally lead to temper tantrums and meltdowns from your otherwise content and happy child!
- Letting the Pressure Get to You: It’s 7pm, and your guests are just arriving and want to hang out with your toddler. It’s 3pm, and your in-laws are impatiently waiting for your baby to wake from her nap for playtime. You may feel like the “bad guy” for saying “no” to those who want to mess with your child’s nap-time and bedtime schedules, but – remember – you are in charge. You know how important your child’s sleep is, and it’s your job to honour it. Remind your loved ones that the quality of time spent with your child is what’s most important. When people see how pleasant and social your child is when he or she is awake, they will soon realize that a well-rested child is a happier one.