It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is approaching so quickly, isn’t it? The holiday season is upon us, and as a parent it’s almost impossible not to get anxious about what’s to come of our children’s sleep. We work so hard to keep them on track, protect their naps, get them to bed on time…what will happen when we’re on Grandma’s schedule, staying in an unfamiliar sleep environment, dealing with a different time zone, or flying on an airplane? What if the family is coming to stay with us?!?! I’m here to help you relax and enjoy the time with your friends and family, without stressing about how it will impact the sleep habits you’ve been so diligent to cultivate.
First: Find out exactly what the sleeping arrangements will be where you’re staying. Having these details will help you prepare for what’s to come. If possible, try to keep things as similar to your child’s sleep environment as you can. If she normally has her own room, look for a large closet, an unused bathroom, laundry room, or block off a section of your room if you’re sharing. It’s time to get creative!! Take black trash bags and painters tape along with you if your child is used to having a dark room, and tape them directly onto the glass. Don’t forget your sound machine, her lovies and her favorite bedtime books!
Second: Prepare yourself to be a little bit more flexible in terms of naptimes, feeding times and bedtimes. She will survive!! Many times trips like this remind us that our babies can handle more than we think they can. If the timing isn’t always perfect, just make sure your demeanor and the way you respond to her during sleep times is consistent and predictable for her.
Third: Make a pact with yourself to portray and exude a sense of security, composure, and peace in the new place. Fake it if you have to for your little one’s sake! She’s watching you closely to see how you feel about the situation, and her comfort level and acceptance of her surroundings is directly related to what she perceives. Go about the bedtime routine exactly the same way you do it at home. Don’t add anything extra or let on that she needs more from you just because you’re in a different place – this will make her feel anxious! Respond to her tantrums at bedtime, night wakings, early rising, etc. the exact same way you always do. The first night or two she’ll test you to see if she can find a loophole, but by the 2nd/3rd day and night she’ll be satisfied with the new arrangement and be back to her normal sleeping self, as long as you hang in there and don’t change things up! I made this mistake a few babies ago when we shared a room on vacation. Even though I didn’t do it at home, I got up and nursed her every time she woke up because we all were in close quarters. I created a beast!!!! She eventually woke every hour to get me in there, and I ended up having to full-out sleep train her to stop the cycle I had started. It was not fun at all, and could have been prevented if I would have taken my own advice. 🙂
Fourth: Don’t worry about sleep AT ALL on days of travel. If she sleeps, great! If not, don’t sweat it. Just make sure you get her into her nap or start the bedtime process as soon as possible when you reach your destination. Whatever sleep period comes next, that’s your target. Just jump in where it makes sense and go from there. When in doubt, go for a super early bedtime so that her body can compensate for the missed sleep, and then try your best to stay on track with her normal schedule the following day to help her catch back up! This will ensure a rested, happy baby for the remainder of the trip – even if you have to stretch her now and then for holiday related activities.
Fifth: When you get back home, expect her to be a little off her game in regards to sleep. It’s up to you to set the tone and get things back to normal quickly. Similar to the 3rd point, your tone of voice, demeanor, follow-through and repetitions will convey to her that nothing has changed. Do the same routine, read the same books, use the same lullaby, etc. and don’t let her extra fusses or calls for you derail what you know is best for her. She’ll realize quickly that there isn’t any ambiguity where sleep is concerned! This will get her back on track quickly. The worst thing you can do is tell yourself that she’s feeling insecure about the travel, the changing sleep environments, she doesn’t remember her room, she shared a room with you and now she’s alone…none of this is true! This is how bad, lasting habits start. Stick with what has worked for your child, regardless of her sleeping environment adjustments or how crazy her schedule has been. She’ll catch up fast!
I hope this is helpful for you, and gives you some things to think about as you prepare for the busy season ahead. If you have thoughts, comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know!