The holidays are almost upon us, and I absolutely love this time of year!
Why? More than anything, it’s the opportunity to reconnect with the special people in our lives who we might not have seen in a while. Of course, everything about the holidays is special to me, but the people are what really get me excited.
Friends, family, neighbours, and acquaintances take this occasion to visit one another in person, which I’m sure we can all agree is more valuable to us this time after the pandemic caused so many missed opportunities to reconnect.
For many of you, this may be the first time your friends and family members get to meet your new baby, which is such a magical moment for everyone involved. Babies bring us together in an extraordinary way.
Now, I don’t want to sound like a grinch here, but if you’ve been working hard to teach your baby some independent sleep skills and they’re finally sleeping through the night, I just want to warn you that even though this is a wonderful time to celebrate and spend time with the people you love, it’s also an absolute minefield of potential sleep sabotage.
I’m going to single out grandparents here because they’re the most likely to be staying with you and the most likely to take liberties with your rules around your little one, but the same strategies apply to anyone who might be nudging you to ease up on bedtime and naps so they can visit with your baby.
Common examples of this “nudging” include…
All of these things are said with the best intentions, of course. Grandparents are usually more than willing to get up and tend to their grandkids. You can’t really fault people for wanting to spend time with your adorable babies, can you?
Intentions aside, though, sticking to your guns when people ask you to push back your little one’s bedtime can be tough, but I assure you, it’s necessary.
One late night is often enough to leave your baby overtired, making it tough to get them to sleep, causing less restful sleep when they eventually do go down, and often resulting in nighttime and early wakeups, all of which leaves your baby tired and irritable the next day.
And whose problem is it then? Well, yours, obviously. The first thing most people do when a baby starts to cry is hand them back over to their parents, thinking they know how to get them settled. Then the bad night’s sleep leads to a tough day of naps, leading to another rough night, and here we go again, just in time for the holidays.
I’m not trying to be an alarmist, but things can get out of hand pretty quickly, so today, I wanted to give you some tips for politely but firmly putting your foot down when your houseguests ask you to hold off on putting your baby to bed.
Be confident in your decision.
Remind yourself of what you and your baby were going through when they weren’t sleeping well, and ask yourself if you can go through it again, especially during the holidays. Remember that you’re doing the right thing for everyone involved, and that’s never selfish.
Explain the situation.
If people understand the struggle, you’ve undertaken to get your baby sleeping well. They’ll be much more likely to accept it when you insist on strict bedtime and nap schedules. So let your guests know that you’re right about teaching your baby some sleep skills and that they’ll need to go to bed at specific times, with no exceptions.
Highlight the rewards.
This is really the best method I’ve found for appeasing houseguests who don’t know the value of sleep. When they’re pushing for you to let baby, say, skip a nap, ask them, “Would you rather spend three hours with a crying baby or two hours with a happy one?”
After all, it’s tough to bond with a baby when they’re fussing and irritable, so remind Grandma and Grandpa that it’s a choice between forming those cherished memories of their grandchild laughing and cooing in their arms or significantly more forgettable ones of them fussing, screaming, and reaching for their parents because they’re tired and miserable.
Take deep breaths.
I know that sounds facile, but deep breathing really is an effective method of calming your brain and body down in moments when, let’s say, just as an example, your mother-in-law goes to “check” on your baby after they’ve been napping for 15 minutes and then emerges from their room holding a tired, bleary-eyed baby in their arms, claiming that baby was already awake when they walked in. Y’know. Just hypothetically. Not like your mother-in-law would dream of doing such a thing.
Take a few deep breaths, seriously. Before you say anything, just smile, breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth, and remember that they’re just head-over-heels in love with their grandchild and didn’t do it to overrule or defy you. Give it a minute, and once you’ve cooled off a bit, calmly tell her that you’d like to see if baby can get a slightly longer nap and take her back to her crib.
Be the Boss.
Above all, remember, this is your child, and you know what’s best for them, so don’t let other people’s suggestions or experiences influence your judgment. You may hear things like, “We always let our little guy stay up late on Christmas Eve so he’d sleep late on Christmas morning,” or “You’ve got to make exceptions during the holidays.”
None of those people know your baby like you do, so all of their opinions combined don’t hold a candle to your knowledge and proficiency in this arena. You don’t need to be a tyrant, but you should never forget that you’re in charge because you’re the expert! So rock that title and do what you know is right.
The great news is, this is usually a one-time ordeal because once your family and friends see how well your little one sleeps, they quickly learn to appreciate why you take it so seriously.
After experiencing first-hand how delightful it is to be around a well-rested baby, they won’t be asking questions when they come back next year. Instead, they’ll just enjoy the experience and quietly marvel at how awesome you are at raising kids.
So happy holidays, everybody! Have fun, enjoy the season, and sleep well!
Erin Neri - Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Owner of To The Moon and Back Sleep Consulting since 2016.
To The Moon and Back Sleep Consulting
Providing families the tools & support they need to get their little ones sleeping through the night and napping like champs! Everyone has more fun when they are well rested!
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