A simple guide to keep the calm at Christmas, prevent overtiredness and get that nap dodger sleeping on the go.
Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was sleeping...
I remember how exciting Christmas Eve was as a child. It's so magical, but as a parent I get the anxiety surrounding children not sleeping over the Christmas holidays. The combination of excitement, late nights and travelling to see relatives can mean there will be an inevitable lack of sleep. However, these simple tips will help minimize overtiredness, get bedtimes running smoothly and ensure some sleep on the go. Plus, there's some advice for what to do when your little one just won't sleep.
1) ROUTINES ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND - Number 1 top tip, kids thrive off routine. Their body clocks are so well regulated that sticking to their daily routine will naturally encourage them to feel tired when they're due a nap and at bedtimes. It also helps them feel safe when there's a lot of big emotions surrounding Christmas or going to unfamiliar places. I know it can be easy to forgo the daily routine for a couple of days, but you will do yourself and your child a favour by keeping to your usual wake times and bedtimes.
2) GET A NAP IN, ANYWAY YOU CAN - For little ones napping during the day it can be easy for them to skip naps with all the excitement that comes with Christmas day or visiting family in the days after. For Christmas day, if you're at home, prioritise nap times and keep to your routine. Take some time for calmer activities in the lead up to naps, get out on a family walk for a nap on the go, and get those littles ones outside or exercising to burn off some of that excess energy. If you're not in your usual environment a nap in the car or pram is still sleep. Use it to get out for some fresh air or get a break from the extended family!
3) KEEP SLEEP FAMILIAR- Ever slept in a hotel room and just not slept that great? There's nothing better than sleeping in your own bed, and that can be expected for little people too. If you're travelling over the Christmas holidays keep your child's surroundings familiar. This means their usual pyjamas, the sleeping bag they sleep in and their comforters or dummies. When it comes to bedtime, keep the bedtime routine the same as you would at home. Children love familiarity just as much as adults.
4) BRING BEDTIME EARLIER- If it's all gone awry and there's been no naps bring that bedtime earlier. There's no harm in bringing your usual 7pm bedtime to 6pm! It will give your child a little extra time to unwind and calm down after a busy day. An overtired baby or toddler will battle sleep, leading to mostly tears, so bring bedtime earlier to prevent this. Even if there have been naps, starting the bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier and in a nice quiet room, will just give your little one some extra time to wind down.
5) SLEEP ENVIRONMENT WORKS- When our body clocks are regulated, we produce a hormone called Melatonin that makes us sleepy. Melatonin is naturally produced when we are in the dark, and the same goes for babies and toddlers. For getting day naps in to prevent overtiredness, make sure the room is dark- like can't see your hand in front of your face dark. You can also get blackout covers and travel blinds for naps on the go. Use white noise to block out all the Christmas festivities going on, keep it on throughout the nap or overnight, and play it
near the closest source of the noise e.g., the door.
6) PREP, PREP, PREP- Toddlers are more likely to meltdown and have temper tantrums during periods of excitement like Christmas. And a toddler that is on the edge of a meltdown all day will certainly dodge that nap and make bedtime a real battle. So, prep them. They will know Christmas is a few days away but keep reminding them what the day will consist of. Remind them that they will be having a nap. If you're travelling, let them know when and where you're going and role play having a sleepover at a different place.
7) DON'T FORGET ABOUT SAFE SLEEP- With all the festivities and tipples it is usual for normal routine and sleeping arrangements to get changed. It's really important to keep your babies sleep environment safe during the festive period when there's a chance parents are more tired. Never fall asleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair, and don't allow anyone who has been smoking, drinking or overly-tired to co-sleep with your baby. Remember, the safest place for your baby to sleep is in their own moses basket or cot in your bedroom for the first 6 months, with their feet to the foot of the cot. If you're travelling use a travel cot and a firm flat mattress, and don't be tempted to sleep them in a pod or nest.
8) GET FATHER CHRISTMAS ON BOARD- For the toddlers who just won't get to bed on Christmas Eve, a little fib won't hurt. Personally, I like the good old 'Father Christmas doesn't come until you're asleep' like. The reward for going to sleep is obviously presents!
9) RESPOND AS IF YOU WERE AT HOME- If you manage to avoid your little ones eating all the sugar, or your relatives fuelling them with chocolates all day then give me your tips! But for most, it's hard to avoid. The sugar, the naps that don't go to plan and the excitement of the day can lead to more night wakes. If that happens, respond to your baby as you would usually. Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean you have to read 8 books at bedtime, and sleep in the bed with them if you wouldn't usually.
10) PLAN AHEAD- Schedule your days to suit your baby's naps. If they're on 3 naps a day, plan to be home for the long lunch nap and don't do Christmas lunch until after the nap. If you have a baby on 1-2 naps, plan for travel in the morning or during their naptime so they can sleep on the go. For the older babies and toddlers that don't (or won't) nap, set a quiet activity during the day for them to chill out. Go for a walk and get some fresh air or watch some Christmas TV. Even as an adult, the Christmas period is exhausting, and we could all use a rest planned into the day.
Above all have a memorable and enjoyable Christmas with your little ones and remember, if it all goes tits up and no-one gets some rest, it's not the end of the world. An earlier bedtime and a little extra sleep the next day will do wonders.
If you're struggling with supporting your child's sleep, then give them (and yourself) the gift of sleep this Christmas with one of my 1:1 Consultations.