How to Keep Your Little One’s Sleep on Track During the Holidays


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toddler holiday sleep tips"
toddler holiday sleep tips
Source: @raven.vasquez
Source: @raven.vasquez

The holidays are quickly approaching and it is such a special time for parents and little ones alike. Family gatherings are filled with unique holiday traditions and parents are able to witness magic in those sweet little eyes. But it’s important to recognize that despite the amazing moments and rooms full of love, it can also be stressful for families with babies and toddlers. If you find yourself already wondering how derailed your child’s sleep is going to get from late nights out, skipped naps, or overstimulation, do not fear! As a certified sleep consultant, I am here to help you prepare and relieve some stress. Here are my top tips for how to keep kids sleep on track during the holidays.

How to Keep Kids Sleep on Track During the Holidays

1. Remain flexible, within limits

After the uncertainty of a few past holiday seasons, many of us have realized that being able to get together with extended family during this time of year is a true gift. But, even with this in mind, it’s important to find a balance between treasuring family time and keeping up with your little one’s schedule.

I highly suggest an 80/20 rule when it comes to bedtime and nap times. For 80 percent of the time, it is helpful to keep your little one on schedule, while 20 percent of the time, I would suggest you attend the late dinner or miss a nap. This perspective will allow for flexibility without leading to a chronic overtired state for your baby or toddler.

2. Plan ahead and incorporate down time for your little one

With the holidays comes a profusion of excitement. Between the lights, singing, and additional interactions, it is likely that your baby or toddler may become overstimulated. To prevent the overstimulation from affecting their sleep, plan some quiet time for your little one each day before starting the bedtime routine. Even just 10 minutes can make a difference.

holiday sleep
Source: @featuringthefulchers

3. Recreate the sleep environment

If your holiday plans include staying at a family member’s house or a hotel, it is essential to recreate your baby or toddler’s sleep environment. Both white noise and a pitch black environment are key. Additionally, I suggest bringing familiar sleep associations from home, such as a sleep sack or the same book you read every night, to help your little one settle easier.


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4. Travel during nap times

If you have a longer car ride, use this to your advantage! Leave 10 minutes before your baby or toddler’s usual nap time and let them nap on the go. This ensures they get a nap and are well rested upon arriving at the holiday gathering.

5. If traveling across time zones, consider the length of your trip

If you are traveling to a different time zone for the holidays, I suggest considering the length of your trip when determining if you should adjust your little one’s entire schedule.

If the trip is three days or longer, you can proactively shift your baby or toddler’s schedule closer to the desired time zone one to two weeks prior to your departure date in small increments of 10 to 15 minutes each day. If it is just an hour or two shift, I would recommend doing the change within one week. If it is longer than a two-hour time zone change, spread the shift out over two weeks. This gradual change will help your little one ease into the new time zone. If the trip is three days or less, do not change the schedule and instead manage the early/late wakeups for a few days.

6. Give yourself and your little one grace

Now that you are well prepared on how to tackle the holidays with regards to sleep, give yourself grace if each day is not how it should be. There might be a night where your little one falls asleep on the way home and you have to transfer them to the crib, and that’s OK! Once the holiday parties have commenced, it is so helpful to get your baby or toddler back to their usual sleeping schedule.

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