How the Holidays May Impact Your Baby’s Sleep


With the holidays quickly approaching, I’m sure many of you are wondering what you should do, if anything, with your baby’s schedule and sleep. It can be tricky when you travel or need to be at a family event during a nap time (our extended family Thanksgiving “dinner” is at 2 p.m., for example). Depending on your baby’s personality and temperament, some babies will be fine with an “off” schedule for one day. They may be a bit overtired, maybe have a little rougher night’s sleep, but get back on track the next day. Other babies will take days to get back on track. We always went a little late to dinner, so our eldest son could take his much-needed nap (because routine disruptions took us a minimum of one week to get back on track). This year will be our second year in six years we’ll be on time, since our youngest is (still) transitioning to no napping (which we are looking forward to with bedtime getting so late!).

I know many of you will be going out of town for the holidays, either in the coming week or near Christmas/Chanukah, and I wish you safe travels. Thanksgiving is one of the most traveled holidays in the U.S. Of course, traveling always presents challenges for those of us with kids. After all, a 6-hour drive can mean one 3-hour nap (that we only can dream about at home) at 9 a.m. (not so good), leaving a very overtired baby in the evening or, for those of us whose babies are “allergic” to sleeping in the car, it might mean no nap at all. Here are a few nap and schedule tips for this holiday season:

  • If your baby is just getting on a schedule, try to stick to routine or schedule as much as possible. The first couple of weeks you are “setting” a schedule are typically the most important.
  • If you have to choose between a missed morning nap or missed afternoon nap, opt for a missed afternoon nap PLUS an early bedtime (if possible). The morning nap usually sets the mood for the rest of the day. An overtired baby in the morning typically plagues you the rest of the day and night.
  • If your baby readily sleeps in the car, you can try to time bedtime in the car and then transfer her to bed when you get home. Even if she wakes up, do not treat this like a nap. Her body will still expect to sleep, so do a mini bedtime routine and put her to bed. Try to keep it dark while you are doing this, so she doesn’t wake all the way up.
  • If your baby won’t nap at all in the car, try to drive after the first nap of the day in hopes of starting the day on the right foot and then try a nap when you arrive at your destination.
  • If you are trying to decide whether you should start sleep training now or after the holidays, I do recommend going ahead and getting started. In a week’s time, you will have a good handle of how things are going. You can always opt for a break, but if things go well, all the better to enjoy the holidays! I know a lot of families have time off, so it’s best to use them to the fullest and give your baby the gift of sleep.

The holidays can impact your baby’s sleep in a variety of ways including too much daytime napping (during travels in the car), over-tiredness at bedtime (leading to more night-waking and waking up too early in the morning), or not enough napping due to schedule disruptions. Some babies will get back on track the next day while others will take days or weeks to get back on track. All in all, try to enjoy the holidays as much as possible and we can work on your baby’s sleep when you get back home. For more holiday travel sleep tips, please check out this article: 11 Holiday Baby Sleep Tips.

If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 40 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. 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.

What concerns you most about the holidays and your baby’s sleep?

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7 thoughts on “How the Holidays May Impact Your Baby’s Sleep”

  1. I am traveling in the upcoming months with my 1-year-old (will be 21 months when traveling). He is currently well-trained in his crib at home. However, when we travel, he will have to sleep in a pack-and-play. I thought I read a blog post about preparing your child to sleep somewhere other than his crib for whatever reason. Is there one, or can you guide me on the best way to transition? I have a pack-and-play that I can use to transition him, although he’ll be in a different one when we travel. I also have extra rooms that I can use to teach him to sleep in a different “place.” He never sleeps well in the pack-and-play so transitioning would be better than cold turkey, especially since it will have been 10 months since the last time he slept in one.

  2. Hi @Rachel,
    Sorry we did not get your message on time! I hope the travel and late-night went well! Many babies can handle ONE night that is out of sorts, and even if you are in the middle of making sleep changes, he should adjust back to the routine fairly easily with consistency! Happy Holidays, and again I hope it went well and sleep was not too disturbed. 🙂

  3. I JUST started my 11 month old on a sleep routine and he’s being sleep trained at night. We do 9am naps and 1pm naps and a 7-7:30pm bedtime. We’re going to his dad’s family in the morning and have an hour long drive and an hour long drive back home at around My family doesn’t start dinner until maybe 6 pm and we might not be home until 11pm or later. I have no idea what I should do about this since we just started our sleep training this week. Today will be day number 4. Is it going to ruin everything we’ve done so far?

  4. My 16-month-old has transitioned to one nap, and we don’t have far to drive. Therefore, napping in the car is not an option. My main concern is that he either doesn’t nap or doesn’t nap well when away from home. He’s too in tune with his environment and busy looking at all the new stuff. So, it’s either no nap or possibly a 30 minute nap, and overnight is miserable! Any tips on getting him to sleep better away from home? I’ve been stuck at home for nearly 16 months!

    • @Paula Haha! Well, that’s great you don’t have to worry! 🙂

      @Lori That is really tricky because some kids/people do have difficulty being that adaptable to sleep in a “foreign” place. I’ve had some families have luck with doing pack-n-play naps at home in the living room to set the stage and get them used to napping in the pack-n-play or other travel crib. A nice long nap routine at your destination may help, too. Also, if you ,know he typically naps just 30 minutes, he may be more apt to wake more if you aren’t there between sleep cycles. It’s not ideal, but you can try to make sure you are right there when he wakes after his first sleep cycle and quickly get him back to sleep. He won’t feel alarmed he is alone and think you are staying there the whole time (which is also an option but not ideal when you’re supposed to be visiting). For us, it was always better to go after nap time, but I know that’s not ideal for everyone. I promise it gets better once they are no longer napping, though you then lose your “down time.” 🙂 Good luck!!

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