Should You Keep Your Baby or Toddler Up Late For Special Events?

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Should You Keep Your Baby or Toddler Up Late?Merry Christmas Eve, dear readers! We hope your holiday is shaping up to be a happy one, and that you have lots of Christmas and New Year’s fun in store. :)

Speaking of holiday fun — have you ever found yourself simultaneously blessing and cursing the holiday plans you’ve made? There’s lots to enjoy this time of year, between the parties and the dinners and the special events. But all that enjoyment also tends to mean wacky schedules for your little ones – especially when the fun leads to late bedtimes.

So, if there’s a holiday event that you really, really want to attend, but you’re reluctant to disrupt your baby or toddler’s schedule – what do you do? Do you enjoy a flurry of holiday activities, and end up with a grumpy and over-tired little one? Or do you prioritize bedtime and miss out on the action?

Should You Keep Your Baby or Toddler Up Late, or Simply Stay Home?

This is a tough question, because the answer depends so much on unique factors, like your baby or toddler’s personality and sleep needs. So ultimately, this is one of those decisions that’s best left to you. We’ll just supply some information and point out some considerations to help you make that choice. :)

So, with that said – here are the factors you’ll want to consider in deciding whether or not you should bring the kids along to that family Christmas party:

  • Is your baby or toddler adaptable enough to handle the schedule change? Adaptable babies are more likely to accept schedule changes without too much fuss, while slow-to-adapt babies tend to be much, much less forgiving when it comes to disruptions to the routine.
  • Does your baby or toddler have high sleep needs? Some babies and toddlers are able to get by on less sleep — they tend to make up the lower end of those ‘sleep average’ numbers we sometimes highlight in our blog posts and e-books. However, other babies and toddlers have higher sleep needs – they tend to need more nighttime and naptime sleep than other kids their age.

If your baby or toddler is pretty adaptable, and will do okay with a little less sleep than normal, then having a night or two of holiday fun probably won’t make much of a difference in your little one’s demeanor. However, if your baby is slow-to-adapt, and has higher sleep needs, then even one ‘off’ night of less sleep may produce Mr. or Ms. Cranky Pants the next day!

What To Do After Your Baby or Toddler Stays Up Late

If you do decide to enjoy some late nights over the next week, bear in mind that there may very well be some aftermath to deal with the next day (some exhausted, fussy aftermath!) Here are a few tips to help your baby or toddler make up for lost sleep, and get back on track quickly:

  • Let your baby or toddler sleep in the next morning, but be prepared for early rising. Obviously, if your little one sleeps past his normal wake-up time — let that happen! But it might not; remember, babies and toddlers who are overtired actually tend to wake early, so it may be that your late night causes an earlier-than-normal morning wake-up.
  • Make the first nap earlier. The first morning nap tends to be the most restorative, so consider moving it up in the schedule (especially if your baby or toddler seems cranky or tired before the normal nap time).
  • If your toddler no longer naps during the day, insist on a rest time. Even non-napping toddlers may be extra sleepy after a late night, so firmly insist that your little one spend an hour or so in bed, with toys and books. This way, if she is feeling sleepy, you will have set the stage for sleep.
  • Limit nap time, if it goes really long. Remember, babies and toddlers will shift sleep from nights to naps (and vice versa). So if your baby or toddler is napping way longer than usual, that might mean less sleep at night — and that’s not a cycle that any parent wants to start in motion!

Do you have holiday plans that will mean late nights for your little ones? How are you planning to cope?

Are sleepless nights and interrupted naps the unwelcome guests in your home this holiday season? Let us help you make it a merrier Christmas and a happier New Year!

  • Need more sleep training resources? We have a ton! Browse our list of e-books and e-book packages, designed to help your baby, toddler, or newborn develop better sleeping habits. We even have a book that’s designed just for parents who want to work on naps! These are perfect solutions for parents who want to sleep train on their own, but need more information.
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  • Need Personalized Help? For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.
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5 Responses to Should You Keep Your Baby or Toddler Up Late For Special Events?

  1. Michelle says:

    I’m not too concerned about a late bedtime for my 14 month old son, Jonah, it’s his naps tomorrow that are the issue. My parents want to come over early tomorrow, not later after his morning nap like I suggested. They are pressuring me to not take his morning nap, that he’ll be too would up to sleep anyway. They’ve actually been hinting for a while that he’s too big for 2 naps for a while now. I try to explain my reasoning but they won’t let down. What do you think? I really want him to stick to his schedule because it works very well for us. Should I make an exception for Christmas??

  2. Jennifer says:

    Mum knows best! You do what works for you and your child, NOT what works best for your parents! They can adapt easily as adults to a later meeting time, your child cannot. Or they come over early on the understanding that you’ll be putting your son down to nap at whatever time you usually do. They’ll get to spend time with him before and after. Grandparents should not be so inflexible in my opinion.

  3. Lisa says:

    I would say, “sorry can’t do it. He’s such a good baby because I keep to his routine and I make sure he gets enough sleep. We will all have a much better day if he gets enough sleep. You did a great job as parents (assuming it’s true) now let me do my job with what I think is right for the baby now. We will see you at x-o’clock.”
    You’re the only voice he has. I think you’ll regret making an exception if the day goes poorly because he’s cranky. It’s your holiday too and making it stressful because of others’ pressure doesn’t sound right. I only say this to give you the support you might need to follow your instincts to do whatever you really want to do that will make you feel most comfortable and at ease, only from experience of not having always done that myself and later asking myself why did I do that? And it’s always because I felt pressure to go against instinct… :)!

  4. Jane says:

    Good luck Michelle! It’s frustrating when you hear that from relatives. For the record, my son is 15 months and still takes 2 naps. His morning one is always the best one too. He’s pretty flexible which is nice. A couple weeks ago we had a holiday party and he only got the morning nap. He was exhausted at the end of the day but wasn’t cranky. It helped that there were lots of different people around and we were not at our house. I think if we were at our house he would have been more fussy. Good luck!

  5. Emily DeJeu says:

    @ Michelle — sorry I’m just now seeing your comment – I’ve been off the past few days and am just now returning to work. Sounds like you were facing one of those frustrating but all-too-common holiday dilemmas! What did you end up deciding to do?

    For the record, I’ll say that choices like this depend on so many factors that are unique to you. Some parents (myself included) really prefer to stick to the normal routine whenever possible, while others are just fine with changing things up to accommodate special events. And babies/toddlers are the same — some flip out at the smallest of schedule changes, while others seem to roll with it.

    I will say, too, that I think the number of children you have influences these kinds of decisions. When I was a new mom, I was a lot more rigid about my oldest son’s schedule. But now that I have 3, I’ve found that I couldn’t be rigid, even if I wanted to, because I have to take all 3 kids needs and activities into account. It’s quite the juggling act!

    Hoping Christmas Day went off without a hitch for you. We were all stricken with the flu at my house — I don’t remember adding ‘influenza’ to my Christmas list, but what are you gonna do? ;)

    @ Jennifer, Lisa, and Jane — Yes! This! Thank you so, so, SO much for reaching out to a fellow mom and offering some of your wisdom. I love this. Love that you ladies took the time to offer support and encouragement, and to let Michelle know that she’s not alone. Thank you – it’s parents like you who help make this blog an encouraging place to visit! :)