Holiday visitors and parties can throw little ones of their sleep routine. Here are Ann Douglas's tips for getting them back on track
Photo by Kevin Hewitt
It’s fun to experience the holiday season through your child’s eyes, whether it’s his first Christmas, or the first one he remembers. But it can be challenging also as the excitement and change of routine lead many babies, toddlers and older kids to become sleep deprived and grouchy enough to out-grinch the Grinch.
Sleep challenges don’t have to end your family’s holiday fun. Try these tips to coax your reluctant sleeper to get some shut-eye:
A family get-together nixes your baby’s nap time
Some babies and toddlers find it difficult to settle down for naps when they’re in an unfamiliar place. If this seems to be the problem, do your best to carve out some downtime alone with your child. This way, you’ll both get a bit of a break, even if your child doesn’t actually fall asleep, suggests Vancouver mother of two Gwendolyn Floyd. “Having some quiet time built into your day can help to keep you sane!”
There’s usually no need to panic if your baby misses a nap now and again. But don’t make a routine of sacrificing nap time throughout the holiday season. “Most children will resist that strenuously,” says Wendy Hall, a sleep researcher and professor in the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. If your child’s temperament is such that any missed nap means a very unhappy baby, make it a priority to carve out time for her to sleep.
It’s 10 p.m. and your toddler still hasn’t settled down for bed at her grandparents’ house
There are a number of possible causes for your child’s difficulty with drifting off. Sometimes children struggle to stay awake because they don’t want to miss out on the fun. Reassure your toddler that you’ll be heading to bed soon, too — and then follow through on that promise. “Be good to yourself,” advises Hall. Or it could be that your child needs some more wind-down time. Especially if you’re the party host, you may want to zip through your child’s bedtime routine and get back to the group. But resist the temptation, even if you’re the one hosting the party; excuse yourself for a few minutes to focus on your child and return when you can — your guests will understand. According to Toronto-area sleep doula Tracey Ruiz, your child may become anxious or upset if you read one story instead of two. Providing pre-bedtime reassurance will help him enjoy a better night’s sleep, and be in a happier mood the next day.
For kids who have trouble relaxing in unfamiliar surroundings, Toronto sleep coach Andrea Strang suggests toting along a set of unwashed sheets from your toddler’s bed, a well-worn pair of pyjamas and favourite blanket or stuffed animal, so your child’s borrowed bed looks, feels and smells more like home. Try using a white noise machine or run a fan to block out the unfamiliar sounds.