Maintaining excellent sleep habits over the Christmas period may be difficult for you and your baby. It may mean that you need to make some important decisions about which parties you will attend, how late can you stay and what you can do with your baby if you are travelling over the festive season. For those of you who are enjoying your first Christmas as parents, you will not necessarily have imagined that you would need to make some important decisions for the sake of your baby’s sleep, but of course everything is different now.
To really ensure that that everything is enjoyed to the maximum, it’s a great idea to ensure that in the run up to the holiday season you have a regular schedule that includes nap and bedtimes that suit your baby. The more rested baby will be much more adaptable than one that is always coping on less or frequently disturbed sleep. Depending on your baby’s age, make sure that you are filling the day and night sleep quota as best as possible.
- If you will be driving long distances try to ensure that you preserve sleep as much as possible. It can be a good idea to plan your journey to coincide with the first nap of the day so that your baby will (hopefully) sleep and then you can arrive at your destination before the second nap of the day.
- If you journey is extensive, then plan to make stops on the way to break the journey and keep your baby from becoming bored and irritable.
- Many parents plan their journey at night and arrive at the destination with their children asleep in the car. If you do this then make sure that on arrival you put your child to bed immediately, even if they appear wakeful. Repeat your bedtime routine and avoid disrupting their body clock by having them awake at night when they wouldn’t normally be.
- If you are staying away from home try to make sure that you maintain your typical bed time as much as possible. If your baby has their own room at home, it would be great if this could be replicated away from home. Of course, that is not always possible, so if you are room sharing when you don’t normally, move the cot far away from the family bed as possible in an effort to minimise disruption.
- Bring familiar items from home, such as the bedding and sleepwear-it is helpful to bring bed-wear that has already been used so that your baby will be able to smell their familiar sleep environment in the different house. If you use lullabies music or white noise at home, don’t forget to bring it with you!
- You may find that your baby is unsettled initially in a different environment. Provide plenty of reassurance and encouragement especially at bedtime. However, avoid making decisions that may have long term implications: if you don’t normally stay with your child at bedtime or perhaps bed-share then be very careful about starting a habit you may not be fond of in January.
- Make informed decisions about staying up late: this one will depend on your child’s temperament and how they cope with a dis-regulated schedule and loss of sleep. Parents of babies who manage well can sail through this much easier than those with a child that becomes fussy and cranky due to lack of sleep. Lost sleep often means frequent night time waking and early rising, so beware!
- If you have a late night, resist the urge to allow your baby to sleep in and this may make for an unsettled baby come bedtime the next night. Try to awaken by 7.30am to maintain the day’s timetable. Instead of sleeping in, bring forward the time and allow a longer duration for nap 1. Don’t be afraid of heading for a nap within 1 hour of waking up if your baby is visibly tired.
- Avoid too may late nights in a row, the aftermath may take many weeks to correct and the fun of the festivities may be a distant memory, while sleep issues may linger.
- Try to have grandparents, uncles, aunties and friends understand why you are prioritising your baby’s sleep health and get them involved in the bedtime and nap routines so that they can feel part of the process.
Whilst maintaining your typical schedule and putting sleep first may mean missing out of some of the festivities, the sacrifice will be much worth it. I encourage parents to make the most of every situation; of course many naps can be in the car, in the buggy and in some instances even missed. As soon as you get back home to normality, try to get back on track. Having a super early bedtime for a few days and earlier adjusted nap times will all help a sleep recovery phase. Above all, enjoy this time and have a great Christmas
Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC, is a paediatric sleep consultant and mum of four young children. She runs a private sleep consulting practice where she provides knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families across the country. See www.sleepmatters.ie <http://www.sleepmatters.ie>, t: 087 2683584 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org