With the holidays coming up, many new parents who have recently gotten their babies sleeping on a schedule are worried that they might regress a little over the holidays. And I can assure you, those fears could not be more well-founded. Between the travel, the excitement, the constant attention and then travel all over again, the holidays are the single easiest way to throw all of your hard work out with the wrapping paper and turkey bones. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way! With some strategic planning and standing your ground, you can keep that carefully orchestrated routine running just the way you did at home. There are two major impediments to your little one’s sleep over the holidays. One is travel and the other is family and friends, so I just want to tackle both of those topics individually. First off, travel. If you’re thinking about starting sleep training your little one, but you’ve got to take a trip in a few weeks, my suggestion is to put off the training until you get back. If you’ve already started, don’t worry. Taking a trip typically won’t help your little one sleep better, but if you can maintain some semblance of their regular schedule until the end of your trip, you and baby should be ready to get back to normal as soon as you get home. If you’re driving to your destination, a clever trick is to schedule your driving time over baby’s naps. Car naps aren’t ideal, but compared to no naps at all, they’re the lesser of two evils by a mile. If at all possible, get on the road right a little bit before baby’s first nap. They’ll have a little time to play and fall asleep. If you’re flying, well, hang in there. If you’re flying, do whatever gets you through the flight with a minimum amount of fuss. Hand out snacks, let them play with your phone, and otherwise let them do anything they want to do or eat. The truth is, if they don’t want to sleep on the plane, they’re just not going to, so don’t try to force it. Alright! So you’ve arrived, and hopefully you’ve managed to maintain some degree of sanity. Now, I’m sorry to say, comes the hard part. Once you’re at Grandma’s house, it’s just the opposite. Everyone wants baby awake so they can see them, play with them, take a thousand pictures, and get them ridiculously overstimulated. And it’s very difficult to tell all of these friends and family members that you’re putting an end to the fun because baby needs to take a nap or go to bed. So if you need permission to be the party pooper, I’m giving it to you right here and now. Don’t negotiate, don’t make exceptions, and don’t feel bad about it. Let them know when baby will be getting up and tell them to hang around, come back, or catch you the next time. Or better yet, tell people in advance when to expect some baby time based on baby’s schedule. I know it sounds harsh, but the alternative is an almost immediate backslide right back into day one. Baby misses a nap, gets all fired up because of all the new faces and activity, then overtiredness kicks in, the next nap is ruined, starting the awful cycle of overtireness. I’m not even slightly exaggerating. It happens that quickly. So OK, you’ve steeled your nerves and let everyone know that you’re not budging on baby’s schedule. Baby took her naps at the right times, and now it’s time for bed. The only catch is that, with all of the company staying at the house, there’s only one room for you and baby. No problem, right? Bed sharing for a few nights isn’t the end of the world, after all. You want to make this as close to your normal routine as possible, and babies can develop a real affinity for co-sleeping in as little as one night. So this may sound a little weird, but if you’re sharing a room, here’s what you need to do… Make it into two rooms. I’m not saying you need to bust out the lumber and drywall, but I do suggest hanging a blanket, setting up a dressing screen, or use a tent like a SlumberPod to separate you and baby. Actually, a decent sized closet is a great place for baby to sleep. It’s dark, it’s quiet, she won’t be distracted by being able to see you, and people accidentally walking in and out of the room are much less likely to distract her. And while we’re on the subject of “no exceptions,” that rule extends to all other sleep props. You might be tempted to slip baby a pacifier or rock her to sleep if she’s disturbing the rest of the house, but baby is going to latch on to that really, really quickly, and chances are you’ll be waking up every hour or two, rocking baby back to sleep or putting her pacifier back in, which is going to end up disturbing everyone a lot worse than a half hour of crying at 7:00 at night. Now, on a serious note, I find the biggest reason that parents give in on these points is, quite simply, because they’re embarrassed. There’s a house full of eyes and they’re all focused on the new baby and the new parent. The feeling that everyone is making judgments about how you’re parenting is nearly overwhelming in these family gatherings, but in those moments, remember what’s really important here. Your baby, your family, and their health and well-being. There may well be a few people who feel a bit jaded because you put baby to bed just when they got in the door, and your mother might tell you that putting your baby in the closet for the night is ridiculous, but remember you’re doing this for a very noble cause. Perhaps the most noble cause there is. So stand tall and remember that you’re a superhero, defending sleep for those who are too small to defend it for themselves. If you want to wear a cape and give yourself a cool superhero name, you go right ahead. Ignore them. You’re on a mission. If you're still struggling with your child's sleep, I'm here to help. Contact me today and start your new year off right!
Now that you’re home… The chaos of traveling is over. (Sigh) Time to reset! If you traveled over the weekend, I hope you made it back safely and without too much stress.
In the third part of my series on Traveling With Kids, this week is all about resetting and recovering from your travels. While you may see a minimal sleep regression when your child returns home, things should get back to normal within a week. If the trip is longer than 1 week, it may take extra time for your child to readjust to being home.
I, for one, love getting home from a trip to sleep in my own bed and aim to be back on our normal routine as quickly as possible.
To make the transition easier, here are a few tips to handle those first few days after you return from travel:
Tip #1: Assume your child, and you, will probably need a little extra sleep for a few days. Travel is hard on all of us and most of the time we’re not getting to bed at our regular bedtime, we’re not always eating the healthiest of foods and we usually have more activity than our normal day. If your child seems extra tired before bedtime, it’s ok to put them to bed a little earlier rather than pushing through to their normal bed time and trying to get an overtired child to sleep.
Tip #2: Don’t wait! It’s best to get back to your regular routine as soon as you return. There’s no need to wait a few days to start, because if your child’s sleep is a bit disrupted, waiting more time won’t make it any easier.
Tip #3: Expect that your child may have some extra wakeups at night for the first few days. This is normal and your child is just getting used to being home again. When your child wakes in the night, follow your normal pattern to get your child back to sleep. Offer comfort as your child to reassure them to their crib or bed is a great place to sleep.
Tip #4: If you bent your child’s sleep rules while you were away, such as co-sleeping or rocking to sleep, don’t worry too much. Here’s the trick: stop as soon as you get home. Yes, it’s that simple. If you co-slept while you were away, your child gets put back into their crib or bed at bedtime the first day you are back home. This works best for toddlers and older children who can tell the difference between sleeping at home and at Grandma’s house. For the first few nights back at home, you may need to provide a little extra support and comfort as your child is falling asleep to re-establish boundaries around sleep.
And if all of this seems like a blur and your child wasn’t sleeping well before your trip and things seem even worse now, then I have the plan for you.
Contact me today and let's get your child sleeping all night!
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