By Rebecca Michi
Let’s face it, with the best will in the world your baby’s sleep schedule over the holidays is likely to be a little all over the place. There’s not much you can do to stem the chaos or busyness of the holidays, unfortunately, but there is a lot you can do to make sure your baby’s sleep schedule is as polished as possible. This doesn’t have to be a chaotic time when it comes to sleep, and goodness knows you’re going to need as much rest as possible to get through the festive season! Here are my top three tips for ensuring your baby’s sleep schedule flows as smoothly as possible.
Don’t feel you have to turn down social invitations
First of all, having a baby does not mean your social life is over. More likely, it’s on temporary hold while you get to grips with adjusting your family unit. And this is such a personal thing. Some new parents are more than happy to take their baby along to every Christmas party during the holiday season, and their baby is just as happy with the arrangement too. Remember that a baby’s temperament has a huge effect on her sleeping habits, so just as we adults have different personalities and respond to situations differently, some babies are going to embrace party season… and some are not. You know your baby best, so nobody can tell you the best way to respond to invitations over the festive period.
The one thing I will say is that while you don’t need to turn down social invitations, you might need to adjust them slightly to meet your baby’s needs. Don’t be tempted to stay out late and keep baby awake for longer in the hope of a longer sleep in the next day. Babies have no concept of your plans for a lazy morning after, and the disruption to the routine is likely to have you up early (and even during the night too). If a late night is unavoidable, it might be an idea to take everything you need with you to replicate your bedtime routine away from home and let baby have the first part of her sleep away from home if she will settle. Or failing that, aim to leave around sleep time so that she can sleep as you travel, or even call it a night earlier than usual so that you can be home for the bedtime routine. This is your call, but the key here is really that you might need to compromise to meet your baby’s needs. There’s always next year… or the year after…
Don’t sweat it if your baby’s schedule is disrupted
It really can’t be said enough, but if you’re able to breastfeed over the holidays then do stick to your routine as much as possible. If you can, try to spread out visits to friends and family so that you’re not running the risk of too many late nights in a row. If you’re away, take all your baby’s bedtime comforts with you so that you can perform your sleep time routine without issues. And if you are going to be busy at nap times, make sure your little one’s sleep schedule is at the forefront of your mind no matter what. Babies who miss naps are cranky and fussy and ditching the routine is not going to make for a peaceful sleep at all. But having said that…
During the chaos that the holidays can bring, a little disruption should be expected. We’re all a little all over the place right now, so your baby is going to pick up on that. Some babies are extra sensitive to changes in the atmosphere, all the lights and sounds and visitors etc.- so that even if you manage to stick to your routine like glue, they can still be a little disturbed during the holidays. My advice? Don’t sweat it.
If your baby’s schedule does get disrupted, all is not lost! If she is waking during the night, remember to be consistent. Show her that you’re there for her and help her to relax back into sleep. If she needs to be in with you, then take her in with you. Whatever works for you as a family is key here. For babies with high sleep needs, you might predict how she is going to respond to changes in the daily routines, but sometimes babies who you assume are going to be ok can still show signs of being a little unsettled. Follow your baby’s lead and respond accordingly- remember that this is a relatively short period and you will soon get back on track once the festivities are over.
A couple of things to note if your routine goes out of the window:
Be prepared for an early morning if your baby goes to bed later than usual. Unfortunately, late nights don’t always equal a sleep in where babies are concerned! That said, if your baby does sleep in later than usual, don’t panic. Just adjust the rest of the day’s routine accordingly, but try to stick to your usual bedtime if you can so that you can get back on track the following day.
After a late night, bring your baby’s first nap of the following day forward a little so that she doesn’t become overtired. For older babies and toddlers who no longer take a nap, try to encourage rest time with quiet activities instead.
Yes, it can be a fairly disruptive time when it comes to baby’s sleep schedule, but there is no reason why all of your good sleep habits have to go completely out of the window. If sleep is a priority right now, then you WILL be able to make it a restful and peaceful festive season.
Bio: Rebecca Michi is a gentle sleep consultant based in Seattle, she’s a fan of safe bedsharing and attachment parenting. Not one to judge you on your parenting choices, instead, she supports you as you help your child learn to sleep more independently. Learn more at www.childrenssleepconsultant.com.