HO HO HO, the holidays are fast approaching! Or maybe if you’re going to be travelling with a little one it feels like “OH NO OH NO!”. 

Christmas with its promises of being “merry and bright” can hold a slightly different feel for parents of little ones with the dread of sleepless nights, unsuccessful naps, sugar-highs and grumpy kiddos (in front of potentially judgemental family and friends, no less!!) looming amidst celebrations ahead. 

Here are our best holiday sleep tips for babies, that will keep your sanity and save your sleep this holiday season! 

Toddler chewing on red wooden block with text overlay that reads: "5 Best holiday sleep tips to help your baby sleep well through the holiday chaos"

Holiday sleep tip #1: 

Recreate the sleep environment the child knows at home while away

While this isn’t always entirely possible, there are a few tried and tested practical tips that can help make your child feel more comfortable in a new sleep environment:

  • Bring a Pack n Play (travel cot) with you, and better yet, get your child used to sleeping in it 1-2 weeks before you go on holiday or travel to see relatives. That way your baby already knows the bed and it feels safe. 
  • Take your baby’s unwashed sheets from their bed with you! While this may sound a little gross at first, it actually helps! The familiar homey smell of used sheets can help baby feel more comfortable and fall asleep easier in a new sleep setting. 
  • DON’T under any circumstances forget to take baby’s lovey, pacifier, or special stuffed animal with you! (And try not to wash these too much before you go either, so that they smell familiar and cozy!)
  • Portable black-out blinds, such as the Gro Anywhere Blind, and portable white noise (e.g. Sound Sleeper App) are also great options for creating a soothing sleep environment when away from home.

 Holiday sleep tip #2:

Choose your travel times to suit baby where possible

For those babies who sleep well with movement, it can be really helpful to travel over nap-times and even through the night (especially for long-distance travel or flights). However, make sure you have someone on the other end to help receive your well-rested baby, so you can take a break and rest from your travel!!  

If your baby is one of those that has trouble sleeping on the go, your best bet is to travel during awake times, or over the morning or late afternoon nap (if still applicable). 

No matter what, travel messes with baby’s schedules and the quality of their sleep, so try to give your little one time to catch up once you arrive at your destination. 

Holiday sleep tip #3:

Respect baby’s need for sleep

Sometimes it’s hard to keep right on schedule while on holiday, especially with grandparents and friends wanting to spend as much time as possible cuddling and playing with baby. Your baby WILL cope with some exceptions, however here are a couple of helpful tips to keep in mind that will help you respect your baby’s need for sleep

  • A nap is better than no nap – even if it happens in a parent’s arm, Aunt Susie’s lap, stroller or carrier. Overtiredness is one of the main causes of frequent night waking and difficulty settling to sleep, so it’s much better for your little one to have even a short power-nap, than no nap at all. 
  • If your baby is still having 2-3 naps a day, try to get in 1 long restorative nap a day, even if the other naps are on the go. The lunch nap is a good one to focus on as it’s in the middle of the day, with the morning and late afternoon naps being easier to manage on the go. 
  • Don’t feel guilty about prioritising your little one’s sleep, even if it means a little less time for baby with doting relatives! At the end of the day, your baby will be happier and more content when they are well-rested and you’ll all sleep better. 
  • If your baby skips a nap because of some holiday celebrations, either move bedtime or the next nap-time earlier to compensate, or allow them to sleep longer at the next nap. 

Check out the Dreamy Day Routines Guidebook for our recommended day routines for easier days while travelling!

Holiday sleep tip #4:

Try not to create new unhelpful habits, but remain flexible

Try not to start any new bad habits while on the road that you don’t want to continue past the holiday season, especially if you’re mainly staying at home. However, sometimes it’s hard to avoid doing things differently when on the road, especially for lack of space! For example, you might be staying with relatives where you have to share a room with baby, but at home Junior would have his own room. In this case, feel free to turn up the white noise or nurse a little more often if needed. The most important thing is starting back to your normal good habits as soon as you get home – babies are usually pretty good at knowing what is an exception and what is normal! You can expect a slight sleep regression, but as long as you are confident and consistent, your little one’s sleep should recover within a week or so. 

Holiday sleep tip #5:

Don’t make any big changes unless you can be consistent for 2-3 weeks

If your baby generally doesn’t sleep well anyway, you might be considering working on their sleep over the holiday period. In general, this is definitely worth considering, especially as you’ll likely have more time and maybe the help of a spouse, partner or friend at this time. Working on your baby’s sleep over the holidays might be right for you if you have 2-3 weeks of time without many plans or interruptions. Changes in sleep habits usually take that long to really take hold, and if the schedule isn’t somewhat consistent, especially in the first 3 weeks, the process can take longer, cause more tears and sometimes even backfire and make things worse. 

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the team at Sweet Babydreams! 

We’re currently all booked up for 1:1 coachings until the New Year, but our team is still available till the 20th of December for Free Initial Consults! We’d love to brainstorm some holiday strategies for managing your little one’s sleep, or get you booked in for a January coaching session. 

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