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Your child’s sleep during the HOLIDAYS!

baby sleep and the holidays

Image courtesy of Jomphong |

Can you enjoy the holidays and keep your child’s sleep on track?


December is one of the busiest times of year with all of the holiday activities and family visits…and with so much to do and see, it can be hard to figure out how your child’s sleep schedule is going to hold up with all the excitement!

But a bit of pre-planning and setting realistic expectations will make all the difference.

This week, I’d like to share 4 of my favorite tips for keeping your child’s sleep from becoming a disaster during the holidays!

1. Stick to your normal schedule…as much as possible
The two biggest sleep mistakes I see this time of year are skipping naps and late bedtimes – both of which will make an overtired child. And an overtired child will likely wake up in the middle of the night and/or wake early. (Keeping a baby up late to make them good and tired is a myth – it won’t work!)

For naps, car or stroller naps are fine once in a while – not every day in December! – and if you time your car ride during nap time, your child will arrive at the festivities much happier – even if it’s a shorter nap than usual. If that’s not a possibility, bring a pack n play and set it up in a quiet area of the house and do your routine, bring a book for the nap routine and don’t forget his blanket or lovey! That goes for bedtime too if you won’t be leaving at an early enough hour.

If you choose to keep your baby up longer than normal or it’s out of your control, just know that the next 24 hours will be wacky schedule-wise, but within a day or two things should be back to normal.

2. Choose wisely
Going to a breakfast with Santa, gingerbread making workshop and neighborhood open house all in one day is probably pushing it – your child will be overstimulated, get more tired with these special outings and she’ll likely skip naps or be woken up from one to get to the next event! Try to spread out the excitement and choose one special event instead of several for a particular day and when possible (ie family get togethers where there isn’t an exact start time), schedule activities around naps.

3. Don’t create a sugar monster
One of the centerpieces of holiday gatherings is food and the dessert table is always a big draw. Especially if your child doesn’t normally get desserts or too many sweets, changing the rules will give unwanted sugar highs – usually right before sleep!

A good rule of thumb (for preschoolers and up) is to discuss BEFORE you get to the party what is allowed (ie no more than 2 cookies or 1 piece of pie) so you won’t have someone tugging on your skirt asking for one more, pleeeeease!

Along with sugar, don’t forget about the caffeine. If your child doesn’t usually drink soda or eat a lot of chocolate, you’ll probably want to think twice about offering it because his body isn’t used to it…and will likely be more affected. (I used to drink soda every day and the caffeine didn’t really affect me. I’ve only had one in over 10 years and that one time I did, I was WIRED…)

And if you’re breastfeeding, don’t forget YOUR caffeine intake too! If you’re hitting the chocolate and coffee much more than normal this time of year – staying up extra late to wrap presents? – remember that caffeine can pass through breastmilk and baby will be affected.

4. Don’t skip the bedtime routine
It’s tempting, especially when you’re rushing home from a party to get everyone in bed at a decent hour, but your child needs that decompression time. If your normal routine usually involves a bath, that can be left out if you’re in a hurry, but don’t skip the books and cozy quiet time.

And going back a step, try not to rush in the first place! Rushing gets the body hyper stimulated and increases the heart rate, and it’s much harder to settle from that state. Just as it’s good to set expectations for sugar consumption, discuss beforehand with your spouse what time would be reasonable to make a graceful exit if the festivities are still in full swing. Instead of staying those 10 extra minutes chatting, leave at the time that was decided upon to be able to get home in a calmer state!


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