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How to Keep Your Child Well-Rested During the Holiday Season

11/30/2014 11:48 EST | Updated 01/30/2015 05:59 EST
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Each year as the holiday season approaches, parents often ask me the same questions regarding the busy nature of the season and how it can affect their child's sleep. Below I share some of my favorite tips for keeping your little ones happy and well rested during this time of year.

Adjusting to a New Sleep Environment

How do I help my baby adjust to a new crib and room? My 10 month-old won't settle in a new place very well.

This is a common struggle with traveling and sleep and to be honest, a child may never sleep as well as he or she does when at home. Adults tend to be the same--I know I never sleep as well when I'm away from home. But there are a few things you can do to help make an unfamiliar environment more familiar, which will help your little one settle in more easily. First, bring your bedtime routine on the road. Practice the same ritual before naps and bedtime; your child will be comforted by the familiarity and know that sleep is coming next. If you use positive sleep props like a white noise machine or lovey at home make sure you pack it. Having that familiar sound or comfort item will help provide a secure and safe feeling. And lastly, watch for overtiredness. An overtired baby has greater difficulty falling and staying asleep. Make sure your agenda isn't too packed with fun as it could lead to a cranky baby and restless nights. Keep things simple with baby in tow.

Any tips for getting a 2.5 year-old to nap in someone else's bed/crib while visiting for the holidays?

First and foremost, it's important to make sure the new environment is safe. If the child is in a bed and can get out easily, put a little nightlight on in the hallway and be sure to keep the room clear of any dangers. Also, bring her pillowcase and sheets from home for a feel and smell that she knows. And remember, stick to what works at home. I often hear from past clients who have returned from a trip with a whole new set of bedtime habits as a souvenir! It's important that while away you stick to what your child is used to as much as possible. So, if you don't lie with her in bed to help her fall asleep at home don't do it when you're away. The fewer new habits you pick up the better.

Protecting Sleep Schedules While Away

Is okay to keep a toddler on his same sleep schedule even if other people are letting their kids stay up?

We always need to respect one another's parenting decisions no matter what time our children go to bed. There is nothing wrong with protecting your little one's sleep. I always say that naptime and bedtime should be the same time wherever you are and that during the holidays you can practice the "80/20 Rule." Eighty percent of the time try to protect your little one's sleep as best you can. But remember, you are also on vacation and life happens. Sometimes it's impossible to stick to your exact routine or there are days where you simply don't want to, and that's okay 20 per cent of the time. Once you get home you can get right back on track to your usual schedule.

When visiting family is it best to keep your baby up late past her bedtime until it's time to go, or is it best to put her to bed at her usual time and then wake her when it's time to leave?

This is where having a well rested, independent sleeper comes in handy. If your child is generally well rested, missing naps or pushing out bedtimes every now and then isn't a big deal. It's when we are already dealing with a sleep-deprived child that situations like these can be a struggle. I always opt for getting the child down at bedtime. Change her into her pajamas, do your consistent routine, and put her to bed. This way you won't deal with a cranky baby who is up way past her bedtime and you can actually enjoy your night a little! Then do the car seat transfer once you get home. No big deal.

Travelling While Staying Well Rested

How do I keep my baby on her sleep schedule knowing that she will sleep in the car? Do I shorten naps or hold off on them during the travel?

It depends how long the drive is. If it's a short drive and she won't get a full nap in the car then try and do the drive between naptimes and be prepared to put her down for her next nap once you arrive at your destination. If it's a longer drive then try and leave 30 minutes or so before the scheduled naptime so that she has time to fall asleep and then hopefully have a decent nap in the car. If you miss a nap completely then this is where you can be flexible with bedtime and make it earlier. Getting the baby down earlier that evening will prevent her overtiredness from creeping in.

I provide free child and family sleep support on my Facebook page. I invite you to join our sleep community as I work towards Good Night Sleep Site's mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site.

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