Many parents dream of their baby’s first holiday season. The tiny plaid outfits, a new stocking on the mantle, and establishing new traditions have new parents eager for the holiday season to arrive. But, as the crisp Autumn days come to a close and the holidays draw nearer, reality hits – we have to travel with our baby! The very idea of uprooting your carefully crafted routine for holiday travel fills many new parents with a sense of dread. These diligent moms and dads have spent the last few months perfecting a sleep routine for their baby and are rightfully worried that all that hard work will be ruined when they go to visit family for the holidays.
However, seeing Grandma and Grandpa at Christmas doesn’t have to spell disaster for your baby’s sleep routine. It is possible to have a perfectly enjoyable trip with a well-rested baby in tow. You just need to be patient and flexible with your routine while you travel. Use the tips below to ensure your little angel gets all the comfort and joy she needs to have a sleep-filled holiday season.
It is only natural for your family and friends to be overjoyed when they finally get to see your new baby during the holidays. Everyone will want a turn holding the baby and playing with your adorable bundle of joy. While it is important for you to allow your family to bond with your baby, as a parent you have to know when to pump the breaks on the snuggles and put your baby down for a nap.
We understand this is no easy task — even the most seasoned parents find it hard to snatch their baby away from their doting family members. We want to avoid a dreaded mother-in-law-side-eye situation just as much as anyone else! So, we recommend transitioning to nap time as delicately as you can. Use phrases like “I need to put this baby down before she turns into the Grinch!” to make light of the situation and establish the end-goal you seek: a baby who stays on her sleep schedule.
Keep things Familiar
Try to mirror the sleep environment you currently have at home while traveling. You can go all out and bring many items from your nursery or you can streamline your packing and only bring a few items of familiarity. Choose the items that work best for your family and your packing routine.
However, we do recommend that you make sure your baby’s favorite sleep sack is in the suitcase. If you use a noise machine or special music at home, consider bringing that with you as well so the sounds your baby hears when going to sleep are familiar. For an added sense of security, pack the fitted sheet you use on your crib mattress at home to put on the mattress where you are traveling — don’t wash it before your trip. The familiar feel and smell of the sheet will help to comfort your baby to sleep.
If you have the room in your suitcase or car trunk, you can even bring the diffuser from your nursery to establish familiar air quality during your travels. We have even known particularly diligent parents who stash some black-out curtains in their checked baggage for traveling with baby. As we all know, nothing can derail a perfectly good nap like an overeager Mr. Sun shining down into the window.
Make Note of any Time Changes
If you are traveling to a new time zone, that can add a new challenge to your sleep routine. The best way to overcome a time zone hurdle is to make adjustments to your schedule as quickly as possible to establish a new normal. If you are traveling from one coast to another and your baby is ready to settle down for the night far too early, allow her to take a one- or two-hour nap. Then put her down for the overnight stretch a few hours later at a more appropriate bedtime.
Don’t allow your baby to become overtired as you adjust to your new time zone. Instead, accommodate your baby’s sleep needs by shifting your nap schedule and adding a few short naps. Instead of trying to ‘power through’ the shock of a time change, allow your baby to take a cat nap when she needs it during the day.
It’s Okay to Cheat a Little
Let’s be honest a minute here, mom and dad — it’s the holiday! You should be able to kick back and enjoy yourself during this special time, too. It isn’t fair to you if you spend your entire holiday break trapped in the guestroom trying to get your baby to nap in a Pack N Play that she isn’t really feeling. ‘Tis the season to be jolly – and that might mean (temporarily) tossing your baby’s sleep regimen out the window like old Thanksgiving turkey if it means you’ll both get a break.
For example, if you know for a fact that your baby will nap for hours in the carrier, then by all means use that carrier! You don’t need to stick to your at-home sleep plan every single day if taking a break from the routine will make your trip more enjoyable for everyone. Remember, a well-rested baby and happy parents are the main goals. If you need to cheat the routine a little to get the job done, we certainly won’t tell anyone!
In the end, do what works for you during the trip. You can resume your normal routines when you return home. But take the pressure off, and enjoy your trip! I’ve helped thousands of families get a better night’s sleep… and I can help you, too.