Maintaining Your Child’s Sleep Over Holidays

Many new parents who have recently managed to get their baby sleeping on a schedule are concerned that they could regress a little (or a lot) over the holidays.  And I can promise you that those worries are a bit justified. However one of the most important things to remember, regardless of a back slide, is to focus on progress not perfection.  Parenting is not a moment that you arrive at.  It’s a journey and the holidays may be the single easiest time to forget all of your hard work with the wrapping paper and yummy food, along with  the travel, excitement, continual attention, and then travel again.  You are not going to ruin your child with a couple of off naps, but having a loose plan and communicating with your partner about what is most important to your family is key.

With enough planning and determination, you can maintain your well-planned routine in the same way you do at home.  Over the holidays, your child’s ability to sleep will be significantly hampered by two factors. I’ll just talk about the two separately as one is travel and the other is family and friends.

First off, Travel:

My recommendation is to wait to start sleep training your child if you’re thinking about doing so over the holidays but you are also traveling to visit family within the next week or two. (Although not wanting to disturb your baby’s sleep routine is a very solid one if you’re looking for a reason to postpone your trip.)

Don’t worry if you’ve already started. Traveling usually won’t make your baby sleep better, but if you can keep things somewhat normal until the end of your trip, you and the baby should be prepared to resume normal activities as soon as you get home.

Plan your travel time to align with your child’s naps if you’re driving to your destination. Even though car naps aren’t ideal, they are by far preferable to taking no naps at all. Therefore, if at all possible, leave just a little before the time your child would ordinarily be taking their first nap.

If you’re really dedicated, you may even find parks, landmarks, or other outdoor activities that are nearby that you can stop at when the baby wakes up. It’s a wonderful opportunity to go outside and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, which will make taking your next nap much easier.

Well, my heart goes out to you if you’re flying.

It’s no secret that newborns and airplanes don’t get along, so do whatever it takes to get through the flight with the least amount of fuss (this is the only time you’ll hear me say this). Give them refreshments, allow them to use your phone, nurse or feed off schedule, and basically let them do anything they want.

Don’t try to force them into sleeping on the plane since, in reality, they won’t if they don’t want to. For both of you, it will only lead to frustration. (And most likely the other passengers near you.) 

We have an in depth travel guide with lots of do’s and don’ts around travel if you need more concrete tips and tricks.  Download a copy here. –

Alright! You’ve made it here, and perhaps you’ve kept some of your sanity.

Sorry to say, but here comes the challenging part.

Because everyone is on your side in a car or airplane, right? Everyone wants to keep the child content, at ease, and hopefully asleep. However, the situation is the exact opposite now that you are at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Everyone wants the baby to be awake so they can interact with them, play with them, snap a million pictures of them, and overstimulate them to an absurd degree. And it’s very challenging to explain to all of these friends and family members that the fun is coming to an end because the baby needs to go to bed.

So if you want to play the villain, you have my permission to do it now. Do not bargain, do not grant any exceptions, and do not feel guilty about it. Explain firmly that your baby is in the middle of sleep training and you’re not taking any chances with them waking up to anyone who keeps saying, “I’ll just sneak in and take a quick peek.” Tell them to stay around, come back, or catch you the next time, and let them know when the baby will be getting up. Or, even better, use the baby’s schedule to inform people in advance when to anticipate some baby time.

Even while it may sound harsh, this might save you from a quick descent back to day one. Baby skips a nap, gets excited about all the new people and activity, and becomes overtired as a result cortisol production increases, which ruins the next nap. This causes more overtiredness, which disrupts nighttime sleep, and before you know it, you’re on the road back home with the baby never stopping crying.

I’m not exaggerating in the least. It takes place so quickly. Okay, you’ve gritted your teeth and made it clear to everyone that you won’t budge on the baby’s schedule. She napped when she needed to, and now it’s time for bed. The only drawback is that there is only one room for you and the infant because so many guests are staying at the property. No issue, correct? After all, a few nights of sharing a bed is not the end of the world. I wish I could make it that simple for you, but remember that you want to make this the least disruptive change to your regular routine as possible, and babies can grow to really enjoy co-sleeping in just one night.

So while this may seem a little unconventional, what I recommend if you’re sharing a room,  is divide it into two spaces. Although I don’t think you should get out the drywall and lumber, I do recommend hanging a blanket, putting up a dressing screen, or—yes, I’m going to say it—putting the baby in a walkin closet. Another option if you can get a hold of one is a slumber pod, they are amazing!

A good-sized closet is an excellent location for a baby to sleep, I know that sounds odd.

She won’t be distracted by being able to see you, it’s dark and silent, and it’s much less likely that she’ll be disturbed by people unintentionally going in and out of the room.

Since we’re talking about “no exceptions,” all other sleep aids also fall under this restriction. If your baby is making noise throughout the house, you might be tempted to give her a pacifier or rock her to sleep. However, your baby could latch on to that behavior very quickly, and you’ll likely find yourself getting up every hour or so to rock your baby back to sleep or replace her pacifier, which will disturb everyone much more than a half-hour of crying at 7:00 p.m.On a more serious side, I believe that parents typically give in to these demands because they are embarrassed. There are many eyes in the house, and they are all fixed on the newborn and, logically, the new parents. In these family gatherings, it might feel almost overwhelming to feel like everyone is evaluating your parenting, but try to keep in mind what’s truly important.

Your baby’s health and that of your family, as well as theirs.

Remember that you are doing this for a very noble cause even though some people might feel a little jaded since you put the baby to bed right when they arrive at the door, and your mother might tell you that putting your baby in the closet for the night is absurd. So be strong and never forget your superhero status as you stand up for others who are unable to protect their own right to sleep. Just keep in mind that, like any superhero, you could not be well-liked by those well meaning friends and family. Ignore them. You are on a mission.

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