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How to Navigate Your Child’s Sleep with Holiday Celebrations

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Halloween has passed, and we’re now preparing for the next big celebration – Thanksgiving! And shortly thereafter all the celebrations that December brings – Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve to name a few.

Toss that in with all the family festivities, parties, and celebrations, and you might be in for a world of hurt when it comes to any consistency with your child’s schedule and routines these next few weeks.

Our first Christmas with Noah (at the time he was 8-9 months old), we went to my mom’s house. We stayed a few nights, and participated in all the normal family traditions – wrapping gifts, playing bingo, and had a big Christmas Eve gathering. We were able to do all of this and keep his sleep relatively normal by following normal schedules and routines.

Noah slept in his pack n play, and when it was time to go home, we’d just transfer him to the car for our trip so he could continue sleeping. When we got to where we were staying, we’d just transfer him back to the pack n play wherever we were staying that night. He did fairly well since he had been familiar with sleeping in other places and in his pack n play.

As seasoned moms and sleep consultants, we’ve definitely learned how to navigate this time of year with some semblance of day-to-day normalcy for our children. This post goes over our best advice to help you plan and advocate for your child’s sleep needs during this busy time of year.

Have realistic sleep expectations…and share them with your child and family members.

There’s a lot of excitement for everyone, and especially young children, this time of year.

Knowing that travel, weather, festivities, and family get-togethers are all causes of great excitement and the opportunity to greatly affect your child’s day-to-day schedule is enough to be wary of.

If you can have the mindset that sleep and schedules will likely be affected in advance, it’s not so hard to deal with at the moment when it actually happens. Right? Like, you’ve prepared your mind, so when it does happen, it’s not so big of a deal.

It’s also important to be vocal about what’s going to happen on a day-to-day basis, especially with an older child. If they know what to expect in advance, transitions might be a little easier for them.

For example, if you’re going to a holiday lights parade and are going to be getting home a bit later than bedtime, you might talk to your child about what you’re going to do when you get home – a quick wipe down, use the bathroom, brush teeth, get pajamas on, and get into bed…instead of the normal, full bedtime routine.

Another common example this time of year brings…later bedtimes. You can’t expect a solid night’s sleep from your child if they’re not going to bed at a relatively decent bedtime. If it’s a night where your child is going to bed late, don’t expect that they’ll sleep in the next morning. If sleep is “off” for a day or two due to parties and whatnot, it’s going to take a few days to get back on track.

But, trust us, DO try to get back on track when you can.

Holding boundaries with family members is important.

You are your child’s parent and know them best. If you aren’t comfortable with them going to bed at 10:00 p.m., then don’t allow it to happen.

The fear of being judged by various family members is real – and difficult to navigate – especially as a new mom.

Be confident in what you know about your child and the decisions you’re making for them, and feel free to share this with anyone who inquires, offers unsolicited advice, or makes comments about your choices.

Your baby is just a few months old, and it’s his first Christmas. The awake time he can handle is around 75-90 minutes. You’re nearing 70 minutes and are starting to feel the need to offer a feeding and bedtime. Aunt Susie is holding the baby and says, “Oh, can’t he stay up for a bit longer?? It’s Christmas Eve!”

Here’s what you can say: “No, I’m sorry. He’s getting hungry and tired, and I’ll be feeding him and putting him down for bed shortly thereafter. It’s hard for him to fall asleep if he gets overtired. He’ll likely need another feed around 2:00 a.m. and if you want to help me then, you are welcome to heat the bottle/change the diaper/etc. Otherwise, you can snuggle with him some more tomorrow!”

Or how about a toddler situation…

You have a 20-month-old who naps daily and is a bear if it doesn’t happen. You also have New Year’s Day brunch at your in-laws’ house, right in the middle of nap time. You’ve been trying to stick to a loose schedule this holiday season since you know it’s what’s best for your daughter.

Bring the pack n play and plan to do the nap at grandma and grandpa’s house! Just because you aren’t at home doesn’t mean the nap has to be missed. Set the stage for sleep, go through the nap routine, and offer the nap. The worst that can happen is she skips the nap, or has a super short nap, and in that case, you simply offer an earlier bedtime that night to make up for any missed sleep. Best case scenario – she wakes up after an hour or two well-rested and ready to continue celebrating with her family!

Prepare for sleep the best you can.

If you’re traveling, make sure you bring what you need for sleep – everything for your child’s nap- or bedtime routine – bottles, milk, formula, diapers, wipes, books – plus their swaddle, pacifier, sleep sack, crib sheets, lovey, etc.

Don’t forget the portable white noise machine and a blackout solution!

And, don’t forget the power of a solid nap- or bedtime routine. This can be key in helping your child sleep well on-the-go or in a new environment.

If you’re returning home for the evening, have everything for bed laid out and ready to go to save some time and sanity.

To help make sure you’re fully prepared for any holiday travel, look into our Travel Bundle, which is a mini-course including a video training, guide, and packing list.

We’ve got you covered, and want to make sure you enjoy your holidays too! A well-rested child = a well-rested family, or, at the very least, a happy one.


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