Does she really need to go for a nap now? She doesn’t look tired.”

Can’t he stay up a little bit later? It’s Christmas.”

Wow. You’re strict with sleep, eh?”

With the holiday season quickly approaching, if you haven’t heard these things before – you’re likely about to. Many clients share stories about amazing family members who are totally onboard with sleep coaching and happily support it. But we also get stories about family members who think the parents are over the top, too strict or are offended when the family needs to leave a gathering to be home for bedtime.

Today, we’re happy to share our team’s tips on how to set boundaries over the holidays, how to honor your child’s sleep needs and encourage you not to give in to any pressure you may be facing.

Here’s the pep talk.

You know your child best.

You know what they need in terms of healthy sleep.

You know how they behave when they don’t get the sleep they need.

You know how they react if their routine is thrown off.

And you know how you react as well.

We understand that there are important events that can happening during naptime or close to bedtime and you want/ need to do whatever you can, to make it work. But we also know there are times when you’ll be invited to an event that just doesn’t work for your family. You won’t be able to do it all. So, today, we’re giving you permission to say ‘no’ if you need to. Nicely, of course. But it’s ok to hold boundaries. Even with family. And yes, even over the holidays.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how you can honor your child’s sleep needs and keep your sanity over the holidays.

How to handle leaving early

So, you’ve been invited to a holiday event that you really want to go to, but your family will need to leave early to make it home for bedtime. Our biggest advice here, is to be confident in your decision. You’ve decided that leaving at a certain time, to allow your child to sleep at home is what’s best, so, move forward with confidence.

Tip 1: Tell your host in advance. It can be super awkward to have to duck out early and answer everyone’s questions on the spot.

Tip 2: Give the details. For example, you can say something like “We’d love to come! We’ll need to leave by 6pm to get the kids home for bedtime, so we won’t be able to stay for dinner. What time should we arrive so we’re able to spend as much time with you as possible?”

How to handle naps away from home/overnight visits

The beauty of a child who has gone through sleep coaching, is that they can sleep anywhere. It may take them a little bit longer to fall asleep, but, if their routine is the same and their sleep items (sleep sack, snuggle buddy) are the same, they can sleep soundly outside of their home.

Tip 1: Connect with your host in advance and let them know when your child will need to nap/go down for the night. It helps to tell people in advance, so no one is surprised when you need to take your little one away from the action and put them down.

Tip 2: Explain your little one’s sleep needs. Ask your host if there’s an area you can use to set up your child’s sleep space. Keep in mind it needs to be well-ventilated and the pack and play needs to be far from anything your little one may be able to reach for, like curtains, blinds, or power cords. It doesn’t need to be a full bedroom – but it does need to be SAFE.

Tip 3: As soon as you arrive, set up your child’s sleep space. This way, you can enjoy yourself and you won’t be stressing about covering a window right at nap time.

Tip 4: Bring your child into their sleep space a few minutes before their naptime/bedtime routine begins. Let them calm down, decompress, and take in the space.

Tip 5: Stick to your routine. It’s so easy to get pressured into pushing naptime later because a family member wants to play with the baby. But special occasions aren’t the time to mess with your schedule (if you can help it) as your little one is probably overstimulated and will already take longer to fall asleep.

Tip 6: Replicate home, as much as possible. Bring your child’s sound machine, sleep sack, sheet and snuggle buddy with you. If you are going to have a separate set of these items for travel purposes, make sure they’re washed in advance, so they feel and smell like the ones they’re used to.

Pro Tip: If your little one is a toddler, prepare them in advance to avoid a meltdown. Explain that they’ll be having a nap or sleepover at someone else’s house. Tell them what room they’ll be sleeping in and explain that they’re safe. You can tell them that you’ll be able to see them on the monitor and will be there when they wake up.

How to handle curveballs or last-minute plans

You can prepare as much as possible, but things happen. Set yourself up for success no matter what’s thrown your way, with a ‘sleep on-the-go’ bag. You may not need it but give yourself the peace of mind and keep it in your trunk. Here’s what to include:

  1. A portable blackout blind that can suction to a window or a SlumberPod if you have one
  2. Your pack and play with mattress
  3. A pack and play mattress sheet
  4. A sleep sack or swaddle
  5. A sound machine
  6. A couple of books
  7. A pair of pajamas

If you need to buy any of these things, we’ve got them all listed on our Amazon.ca and Amazon.com storefronts.

If things go sideways – don’t panic.

You may hit traffic and arrive at your destination later than expected, making nap time, later.

You may have planned your car ride for nap time, in the hopes that your child will sleep in the car. Only to find that they won’t.

Grandma may give your toddler one a few too many treats, resulting in an epic sugar high and crash.

Your child may be so over-excited from the day and have a hard time falling asleep that night. Resulting in a 5am wake up call.

Things happen. If possible, try and plan for a low-key, normal day, the day after a big event to allow your child to get back into their routine and sleep in their own space. This familiarity and return to routine will give your child a sense of security, especially after a day in a new place, with so many faces. Tomorrow is a new day, and a chance to get things back on track.

Remember – you’ve got this.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!