Ahhh the holidays; filled with love, joy and cranky overtired kids! With all the parties, school performances, caroling, shopping and baking it’s a wonder we get any sleep at all. But I promise you, the better rested you keep your family the more enjoyable your holidays will be. Here are a few ways your baby or young child’s sleep can be thrown off this holiday season and how you can prevent it.
Your child’s sleep schedule is thrown off.
Yup, all those fun events cause kids to stay up late and then sleep in later than usual. They can also throw off your napping schedule. I suggest trying to stick with the hour rule when possible: try and put your child to bed within an hour of their normal bedtime or naptime and then wake them within an hour of their normal wake time. This will help them stay on schedule and feel better rested. Now, you might have a night or two that you can’t follow the hour rule. Just get them to bed as soon as possible and try to make the next day a quiet one!
Screen time too close to bed.
I have fond memories of curling up on the couch with my family, eating popcorn and watching holiday specials. It is one of the joys of the holidays! Around this time of the year we also find kids spending more time on electronics in the evening while we socialize with friends and family. The blue light emitted from these electronics trick their brain into thinking it is daytime and delays the production of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep. Your best bet is to watch that holiday special early in the evening and make sure your kids turn off all screens at least 1 hour before bed.
All those cookies, candies and special drinks can wreak havoc on your kid’s sleep, especially if you have a younger child new to sweets! If you are going to have a special treat or sugary drink, try having it earlier in the day so the effects have worn off by bedtime. The other benefit to indulging earlier is that you don’t have an uncomfortably stuffed tummy at bedtime.
Not allowing time to wind down before bed.
A quiet bedtime routine helps children prepare mentally and physically for sleep but with parties and evening activities, we often hastily send our kids to bed without giving them enough time to wind down. If you are visiting family or have company, try to sneak away with your child 15 – 20 minutes before bed time. If you can’t perform your usual routine, try having some quiet time reading books or simply snuggling in bed for a few minutes. Make sure to dim the lights so your child’s body knows nighttime is approaching.
Early weaning or lowered milk supply.
It’s not uncommon for you (or even your baby) to become distracted by the hustle and bustle of holiday activity to the point that you might start pushing your nursing sessions further apart or even skip one or two. You might depend more on pumped milk as you leave baby home with a baby sitter to shop or attend parties, but then struggle with keeping up with pumping. This can lead to early weaning-often called holiday weaning-or a lowered milk supply. It can also lead to more frequent night wakings as your baby attempts to supplement the missing daytime feedings with night feedings. Be mindful of your baby’s nursing needs—wear your baby or be comfortable saying no to parties where a baby may not be welcome.