With Thanksgiving in the U.S. and other holidays quickly approaching, we’re betting many of you are wondering what you should do (or if indeed you should do anything) about your baby’s schedule and sleep based on upcoming travel plans. It can be tricky when you travel or need to be at a family event during a nap time. Depending on your baby’s personality and temperament, some babies will be fine with an “off” schedule for one day. Your baby may be a bit overtired and may have slightly rough night of sleep, but if your baby adapts quickly, then he will likely get back on track the next day.
Other babies, however, will take days (or – gasp! – weeks) to get back on track. Nicole’s firstborn son (who was the inspiration behind The Baby Sleep Site® was a slow-to-adapt child. Nicole remembers,
“We always went a little late to our family’s Thanksgiving dinner (which is held at 2 p.m.), 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. In recent years, since our son has stopped napping, we’ve been able to attend dinner on time, but I remember well those years of being late to dinner to accommodate a nap schedule!”
Helping Your Baby Nap Well During Holiday Travels
Now, given that many of you will be going out of town for the upcoming holidays. Thanksgiving is one of the most traveled holidays in the U.S., as it happens! 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. Alternately, you can suspend your schedule efforts until the holiday season is over, particularly if you have a very busy holiday season ahead of you.
- 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, we generally 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! We know a lot of families have time off around the holidays, so it’s best to use them to the fullest and give your baby the gift of sleep.
How Holidays Celebrations Will Impact Your Baby or Toddler’s Sleep
The holidays can impact your baby’s sleep in a variety of ways including too much daytime napping (during travels in the car), overtiredness 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.