How to Tackle Holiday Travel AND Keep Quality Sleep
The holidays are officially here! If you've successfully gotten your baby on a schedule, you may be worried that they may regress with travel and a little upset to the routine. You desperately want to maintain sleep over the holidays.
You have good reason to be concerned!
Whether by car or plane, the travel and excitement paired with extra stimulation are the perfect combination to throw the hard work out with the turkey bones and wrapping paper.
The good news?
A little strategic planning will help you maintain your well-orchestrated routine whether at Memaw's or Aunt Sue's.
The two main obstacles in your little one's solid slumber are travel and family and friends.
Let's address travel first.
First, do yourself a favor and don't sleep train right before traveling. Now, if you've already started, don't worry! A trip shouldn't completely derail your progress if you can maintain some semblance of normalcy. Just be ready to rock and roll when you get home.
Driving to the turkey dinner destination?
Do everything you can to schedule your drive around your baby's first nap. While the car seat isn't ideal, it's a great substitute for no nap. The bonus? A little peace on the drive for that podcast you've been wanting to catch up on OR the absolute peace of silence.
Have a long drive?
Try to find something to stop and do mid-trip. It's great for everyone to move and get a little fresh air. It may take a little longer, but you may snag a second nap in the car which means you'll arrive a much happier, less stressed human.
Flying? Bless. Your. Heart!
My best piece of advice is to accept that planes and babies don't always get along. Some immediately fall asleep and some scream the entire time. However you little feels about the experience, own it. The dagger eyes from the row behind you may need some help in the compassion department, but that's not your job.
For toddlers and older children, I give you my permission to break out all the snacks. I LOVE Melissa and Doug "On the Go" coloring books, too. Of course, when all else fails, take out the phone.
Ok, back to sleep.
EVERYONE is excited.
EVERYONE wants to hold the baby.
EVERYONE wants to play with those cheeks and take a scrapbook's worth of pictures.
It is an absolute BLESSING to share life with family. The only problem with all the fun is that your baby will easily become overstimulated and potentially miss a nap. If you are off your schedule and arrive with an already tired baby, this is magnified.
So, mama, you must advocate for your child. It's FINE to take control and let everyone know that your baby needs a break, a nap, or that it's time for bed. You may have to explain that your baby becomes overstimulated and that it's hard to go to sleep in that condition. Your well-meaning matrons will understand.
Trust me when I say that every nap is important. One missed nap results in a rise in cortisol, which results in a domino effect of overtiredness and more missed sleep. Start strong on day one. You don't want the trip to be full of crankiness and crying that could have been prevented. Neither does your grandmother.
So, everyone is now on board and supporting your schedule.
How do you deal with the actual night part?
You and baby may be in the same room. No big deal! Except that it may be.
Your baby will know you are there! I know from experience that what will probably happen is that you will have an extra bed buddy. Those snuggles are wonderful until your baby falls in love with it and expects it when you get home.
Divide the room.
Do anything you can to place a barrier between you and your baby. Can you hang up a blanket, stack some boxes, have a portable clothes rack? It doesn't matter how beautiful it is. Room in the closet? Even better! It's dark and quiet, baby can't see you, and you can play on your phone without the light being an issue.
I know firsthand that grandparents HATE to hear your baby cry. Do everything you can to keep the peace and maintain healthy sleep for your baby. If you don't rock at home, don't rock. If you don't use a pacifier, don't start now.
Now, the not rocking part is probably as easy as having a kid hold open chocolate and not eat it. For many families, that's a losing battle. While the professional side of me says to stand firm, the mom side of me says to be so THANKFUL that you have a loving family. If YOU want to let someone rock your baby to sleep, DO IT. Just don’t let it become a habit and stick it in high gear when you get home.
I find that the biggest reason that parents give in is that they are simply embarrassed or intimidated. You may be a new parent. If so, it's common to feel quite small among the eyes of experience that are watching every move of your baby AND YOU.
Remember that your baby, family, and the health and well-being of both are important. While you may have someone tell you under their breath that your methods are a bit ridiculous, be confident that your cause is noble!
You are fighting for sleep! You are defending your baby who is too small to fight for him or herself. Superheros are often misunderstood and this could not be truer in motherhood.
You've got this, mama!
Hug your family hard. Good luck!