With the holidays quickly approaching, parents who have recently gotten their babies, of any age, sleeping on a schedule are often worried that their little ones' sleep will regress over the Holidays.
I can assure you that those fears could not be more real.
Many families struggle with severe sleep deprivation for a very long time due to the "blessing" of having a child (or two like I was) that lacks healthy independent sleep strategies.
So, finally getting your whole family into a routine that works. Finally moving from being severely sleep deprived into a family that is becoming well rested. Trust me everyone inside that little family unit wants to protect their new found sleep including the little one who is finally able to sleep.
When little ones finally FEEL what it feels like to have the sleep that is needed for healthy growth and development they don't want their schedule messed with either.
Between the travel, excitement, and constant attention of family and friends, holidays are the easiest way to throw all of your hard work out with the wrapping paper.
But fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way! With some strategic planning and an iron will, you can keep that carefully orchestrated routine running right on schedule.
There are two major impediments to maintaining your kiddos routine over the holidays. One is travel, and the other is family and friends, so I want to tackle both of those topics individually.
First, we will cover the travel portion...
If you have a trip planned sometime in the next few weeks, and were planning on beginning sleep training , I suggest putting it off until you get back (On the flip side, if you are looking for an excuse to cancel your trip, keeping your baby's sleep schedule is a pretty good one. Just sayin’! 🤷🏼♀️)
If you've already started working on a routine, no worries! If you can maintain some semblance of normalcy on your trip, you should be able to fall right back into it once back home.
If you plan on driving to your destination, a great tip is to schedule your driving time over baby's naps. Car naps aren't always ideal but are definitely better than no naps at all, and they're the lesser of two evils by a mile. If at all possible, hit the road right around the time that baby would usually be taking their first nap of the day.
If you're really committed to your kiddo's sleep schedule, you might even look for some parks, tourist attractions, or other outdoor activities on your route for quick stops when baby wakes from their nap. These stops are an excellent opportunity for the whole family to get out into the sunshine and fresh air, making that next nap that much easier.
If you plan to fly, well, my heart goes out to you.
It's no secret that planes and babies aren't always the best match, so I suggest (and this is the only time you'll hear me say this) to do whatever you can to get you through the flight with minimum fuss. Let them play with your phone,
dole out snack, whatever you need to do to keep baby happy.
Don't try to force naps; if they don't want to sleep on the plane, they won't. It will only result in unnecessary frustration for both of you. (And, most likely, the passengers around you.)
Alright! So you've arrived, and hopefully, you've managed to maintain some degree of sanity. Now, I'm sorry to say, comes the hard part.
When you're in the car or on the plane, everyone is rooting for you, keeping baby quiet and relaxed; and hopefully asleep.
But now that you're at the Grandparents and it's just the opposite. Everyone wants to play with and hold the baby and get them ridiculously overstimulated. It's exceptionally difficult to tell all of these friends and family members that you're putting an end to the fun because the baby needs to get to sleep.
So, here and now, I am giving you permission to be the bad guy. Don't negotiate, or make exceptions, and do not feel bad about it. Firmly explain to anyone giving you the "I'll just sneak in a take a quick peek," that baby's in the middle of sleep training, and you're not taking any chances waking them up.
Let them know that they can hang around until baby gets up, or can catch them another time. Or better yet, let people know in advance when to expect some baby time based on baby's routine.
I know it sounds harsh, but the alternative is an almost immediate backslide right back into day one. Your little one misses a nap, gets all fired up because of all the new faces and activity, then gets overtired, cortisol production goes up, and voila the next nap is ruined, which results in more overtiredness derailing nighttime sleep. Before you know it, you're headed on your way home, and it feels like all baby did was cry for the entire trip.
I’m not even slightly exaggerating. It happens that quickly.
So you've steeled your nerves and let everyone know that you're not budging on baby's schedule. She took her naps at the right times, 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.
I wish it were that easy, but you want to make this as little of a deviation from the regular 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 unorthodox, but if you're sharing a room, what I suggest is simple...
make one room into two.
I'm not saying you need to call in a construction crew, 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.
I know that sounds crazy, but a decent-sized closet is an excellent place for baby to sleep. It's dark; it's quiet, she won't be distracted by being able to see you, and won't be disturbed by people walking in and out of the room.
While we're on the subject of "no exceptions," that rule extends to all other sleep props. You may 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 in the end will disturb the house much more than a bit of crying at 7:00 at night.
I find the biggest reason that parents give in is, quite simply, because they're embarrassed. There's a house full of eyes, and they're all focused on the new baby, and by association, the new parent.
The feeling that everyone is making judgments about how you're parenting is very real, and overwhelming in these family gatherings, 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 the 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 noblest cause there is, allowing your child to get the sleep that is required
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, The Somnum Inducere, if you’re feeling really fancy. Just remember that, like any superhero, you may be misunderstood by the masses.
Ignore them. You’re on a mission.
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