The Christmas period is an exciting break in routine for everyone, full of visiting, partying and later nights – but when you have a young child, this can lead to irregular sleep patterns, tantrums and pain for everyone. No sleep = whiny child and irritated parents. Our resident sleep expert Lucy Wolfe gives us her tops tips for successful sleeping over Christmas – without missing out on all the fun!
Maintaining excellent sleep habits in the run up to and over the Christmas period may be difficult for you and your child. It may mean that you need to make some important decisions about which parties you will attend, how late can you stay and what you can do with your baby if you are travelling over the festive season.
To really ensure that that everything is enjoyed to the maximum, it’s a great idea to ensure that in the run up to the holiday season you have a regular schedule that includes nap and bedtimes that suit your baby. The more rested child will be much more adaptable than one that is always coping on less or frequently disturbed sleep. Depending on your child’s age, make sure that you are filling the day and night sleep quota as best as possible.
If you will be driving long distances try to ensure that you preserve sleep as much as possible. It can be a good idea to plan your journey to coincide with the first nap of the day so that your chid will (hopefully) sleep and then you can arrive at your destination before the second nap of the day.
If your journey is extensive, then plan to make stops on the way to break the journey and keep your child from becoming bored and irritable.
Many parents plan their journey at night and arrive at the destination with their children asleep in the car. If you do this then make sure that on arrival you put your child to bed immediately, even if they appear wakeful.
If you are staying away from home try to make sure that you maintain your typical bed time as much as possible. If your child has their own room at home, it would be great if this could be replicated away from home – or at least if you’re sharing, move the cot far away from the family bed as possible in an effort to minimise disruption.
Bring familiar items from home, such as the bedding and sleepwear; it is helpful to bring bedwear that has already been used so that your child will be able to smell their familiar sleep environment in the different house. If you use lullabies music or white noise at home, don’t forget to bring it with you!
You may find that your baby is unsettled initially in a different environment. Provide plenty of reassurance and encouragement especially at bedtime.
However, avoid making decisions that may have long-term implications, such as bed-sharing.
Make informed decisions about staying up late: this one will depend on your child’s temperament and how they cope with a dis-regulated schedule and loss of sleep. Parents of children who manage well can sail through this much easier than those with a child that becomes fussy and cranky due to lack of sleep. Lost sleep often means frequent night-time waking and early rising, so beware!
If you have a late night, resist the urge to allow your child to sleep in as this may make for an unsettled child come bedtime the next night. Try to wake up by 7.30am to maintain the day’s timetable. Instead of sleeping in, bring forward the time and allow a longer duration for nap 1. Don’t be afraid of heading for a nap within one hour of waking up if your child is visibly tired.
Avoid too many late nights in a row, the aftermath may take many weeks to correct and the fun of the festivities may be a distant memory, while sleep issues may linger.
Try to have grandparents, uncles, aunties and friends understand why you are prioritising your child’s sleep health and get them involved in the bedtime and nap routines so that they can feel part of the process.
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