Oh the holidays! The most wonderful time of the year! Or is it the most stressful time of the year?
Either way, I’m pretty sure a cranky baby is not on anyone’s Christmas list!
Especially if you recently got your baby sleeping on a schedule and you are now worried that he might regress a little over the holidays.
I can assure you, those fears are very common.
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.
But I’m happy to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way! With some strategic planning, you can keep that routine running just the way you did at home. …Really, it’s possible mama!
There are two major obstacles 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 of starting sleep training your little one, but you’re taking a trip in a few weeks, my suggestion is to put off the training until you get back. (Although, if you’re looking for an excuse to cancel your trip, your child’s sleep could be a pretty good one. Just sayin’!)
If you already have a good thing going regarding you little one’s sleep, not to worry. Taking a trip typically will not help them sleep better, but if you can maintain some semblance of normalcy until the end of your trip, you and baby should be ready to get back to business 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 are not ideal, but compared to NO naps at all, always choose the car nap! So, if at all possible, get on the road right around the time that baby would normally be taking their first nap. (or their longest nap of the day!)
If you are flying, well, my heart goes out to you.
It’s no secret that planes and babies just don’t seem to like each other, so I suggest (and this is the only time you’ll ever hear me say this) that you 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.
The truth is, if they don’t want to sleep on the plane, they are just not going to, so don’t try to force it. It will just result in a lot of frustration for both of you. (And, most likely, the passengers around you.) I mean even us adults can have a hard time sleeping on planes… We cannot really expect our little ones to be the exception here!
Alright! So you have arrived, and hopefully you’ve managed to maintain some degree of sanity. Now, I’m sorry to say, here comes the hard part.
Because in the car or on the plane, everybody is on your side, right? Keeping baby quiet and relaxed, and hopefully asleep, is just what everyone is rooting for.
But now that you’re at Grandma and Grandpa’s place, 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 exceptionally difficult to tell all of these friends and family members that you’re putting an end to the fun because baby needs to get some sleep.
So if you’re looking for permission to be the bad guy, I’m giving it to you right here, right now. Do NOT negotiate, DO not make crazy exceptions, and certainly do NOT feel bad about it.
Firmly explain to anyone who’s giving you the “I’ll just sneak in a take a quick peek,” that you’re not taking any chances of them waking baby up. Tell them you will let them know when baby will be getting up. Have them 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 if baby misses a nap, gets all fired up because of all the new faces and activity, then overtiredness kicks in. Result: nap is ruined and you get stuck with more overtiredness which derails nighttime sleep, and before you know it, you’re headed home and it seems like baby did nothing but cry THE. ENTIRE. TRIP.
I’m not even slightly exaggerating. It happens that quickly.
So OK, you’ve steeled your nerves and let everyone know that you are not budging on baby’s schedule. Your baby napped well, 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.
I wish I could make it that easy for you, but again, you want to make this as little of a deviation from the 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 radical, but if you’re sharing a room, what I suggest is simple.
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, yes, I’m going to go ahead and say it, put baby in the closet.
That sounds crazy, I know, but really, a decent (BIG) sized closet is a great place for baby to sleep. It’s dark, it’s quiet, and it creates less distractions.
And while we are 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 7:00pm 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 baby, and by association, the parent.
The feeling that everyone is making judgments about how you’re parenting is nearly overwhelming in these gatherings, (Trust me! I have been there!) 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. WonderMom, UberMama, ProZZZMama, if you’re feeling fancy. Just remember that, like any superhero, you may be misunderstood by most.
But listen to me mama. Ignore them. You’re on a mission.
Oh and enjoy that eggnog or little vino while your little one is sound asleep! It’s the holidays after all!