Christmas can be anything but relaxing: especially if you spend most of the time on the road visiting, or staying over at relatives, all crammed into the same bedroom with no-one getting any sleep.
Nothing kills the holiday vibe more than being exhausted. Follow my practical tips to help you and your little ones survive the festive period in someone else’s home!
Stick To Routines
This can be challenging if you’re staying at other people’s houses, but if you can stick to the same nap and bedtime routines things are likely to be much, much easier. So that’s the same bedtime routine at approximately the same time with the same night time responses. If everyone is a bit tired and emotional, bring bedtime forward by up to an hour to make sure they don’t lose their self-settle by constantly conking out.
Create a familiar bedroom environment
Take their nightlight/sleep clock with you and the sheet from their cot or bed and their pillow/duvet if you use one – ideally a little bit used so you’re taking a familiar smell with you. Familiar soft toys are essential. Make the room as dark as possible – use towels over the curtains if you don’t have a portable black-out blind.
Flex Your Nap Approach
Sometimes it can be too exciting to nap so if they’re refusing, get them out and about in the buggy or the car so they can get some sleep on the go to recharge – this is not an ideal solution but it’s better than nothing and will avoid the inevitable nightmare of wired and unmanageable tinies at 4pm.
Even if you don’t use White Noise at home, use it when you travel – it will block out unfamiliar sounds, including those outbursts from the particularly gripping game of Pictionary, creating a calm, relaxing environment.
Get outside for at least 30mins in the morning and afternoon if you can to help with everyone’s circadian rhythms – whilst vegging on the sofa is very appealing when it’s cold outside, daylight and fresh air are really helpful for keeping our wake/sleep hormones regulated.
Don’t leap at every gurgle
If you’re not used to sharing a room with your little one anymore, you may be tempted to jump in every time they stir. Be careful of this though: allow your baby the chance to resettle or you run the risk of waking them up (they may just be coming out of a sleep cycle and about to drop down into another) or interrupting their self-settle. Children are noisy sleepers, so if you find it hard not to be disturbed think about earplugs for the room sharing – you’ll hear them if they need you.
Avoid introducing any new sleep associations
If you don’t want to cosleep at home, avoid cosleeping when you’re away. Mixed messages are at the root of so many sleep issues – consistency is SO important. The same goes for rocking or feeding to sleep – if you don’t do it at home, avoid doing it when you’re away. You’d be amazed at how quickly a ‘one-off’ can become a habit.
Take the pressure off
It can be really hard to let your little one self-soothe when you’re sharing someone-else’s home, but that someone-else is someone who cares about you and your children. They’ll understand if the baby makes noise at night – most of them were parents once too – so don’t let that stress you out. Take help when it’s offered – if your hosts want to take the children to the park for an hour while you stare at the wall, LET THEM. It’s rare to have an extra pair of hands for 24/7 so make the most of it.
Don’t overload yourself
As tempting as the thought of arriving at your In-Laws on Christmas Eve laden with delicious homemade treats, being a Domestic Goddess takes time and energy, something all parents of young children are short of. Be kind to yourself: don’t run yourself ragged getting everything PERFECT so that you end up exhausted before Christmas Day even begins – that is absolutely no fun for you and it’s no fun for your family. Everything can be bought and you’ve years to establish family traditions – it’s important that you stay healthy when you’ve got small children so pop to M&S and enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labour for once.