Around mid January each year I get an influx of calls both past and new clients telling me “it’s all gone wrong, ever since we went away/had visitors/the older kids were off school the wheels have fallen off and we are not sleeping…help”…. And so I do. But there are some simple tips to make the holiday period easier on you and your baby to avoid this from happening.
In the early months- first year it is great if you can do Christmas at your house so that your children can take their naps when they usually would without disruption! As they get older it may be a good idea to visit one side of the family on one day and the other the following day. Both in the morning to avoid the late afternoon grumpiness that comes with a big day! I know the feeling of being at a family gathering with other babies/children who are all happily and quietly playing or eating their meal their parents all smug, whilst yours is screaming it’s lungs out, doing laps around the dining room table or just won’t settle. This type of scenario is too much for sensitive or spirited children…I know, I have two of them, one bad day can take a week to recover from!
The best thing to do in this situation at a family gathering is build in some quiet time away from the crowd for your little person to rebuild their energy, in an older child this may be playing with some favourite toys, watching a favourite show or just cuddle time with mum. Do this before they enter the “red zone”. For a younger child, this is building in time, preferably their usual nap time to have a sleep in a quiet place. If you have no quiet place or dark place, use white noise and a black out for your pram or buy some grow blinds. PLEASE try to avoid at all costs keeping a sensitive child up way past their bedtime for the convenience/pleasure of others, from personal experience, it is not worth it. (but then again, I’m not the type who deals with sleep deprivation well) Leave in time to do your bedtime routine at home (and earlier than usual if no nap has been achieved).
If your young bubba has absolutely lost it, you missed the cues and they are hysterical: swaddle, find a dark wardrobe, boob/bottle and blare the white noise. Taking bub back to the womb environment is the best fix for overtiredness/overstimulation. If you are going away for a week or so make sure you build one nap into your day at a hotel/house so bub can get a block of sleep. Take your usual sheets, comforter, white noise etc.
If you are staying with family and bub wakes in the night because it is an unusual environment or they have been awake all day…try not to revert back to “old ways” (you may for example sit and comfort bub rather than pull them into bed, if you have recently taught independent sleep) in the interest of quickly quietening bub to avoid waking everyone. This almost always leads to this same pattern going on for weeks following the stay and then you having to fix it again once you get home. Not fair on bubba. If you are travelling across time zones, wake them at their usual time in the new time zone and expose them to sunlight to help reset the body clock. Naps may be off for the first day or two, you may get a night waking at 3am..expect it but don’t get up and play, try to keep things very low key if bub wants to have a party in the night.’ Remember a well-rested child at home is more likely to sleep in unfamiliar environments at their usual sleep time, if a car nap is all you can manage and you are travelling anyway it may be worth timing this with your little one’s usual nap time and doing an early bedtime if the nap is short. If all else fails, all naps are on the go and you are out partying til late. Don’t panic, it happens, just get right back on track as soon as you get home to avoid everyone being more sleep deprived than they have to be.