Gobble gobble! Long weekends are a fantastic time of year for reconnecting with family, starting new traditions with a new babe, and taking part in fun-filled holiday activities; but, none of these is particularly joyful alongside an exhausted wee one who has missed three days of naps or gone to bed way past bedtime for the past week!
Here are five tips for keeping sleep on track this long weekend:
1. Plan travel around sleep (when you can!):
Many of us may be travelling to another city to visit family or friends. Car rides can be tough on babes still needing naps, but you can work around this!
If you’re driving to a destination, start first thing in the morning and – if you can – have someone sit in the back with your babe to entertain her until it is around her usual naptime; then, let her drift off and get a decent sleep during your drive. Once again, try to get her room set up as soon as you arrive at your destination so she can have her last nap – or, at minimum, a proper bedtime – in a comfy space at your destination.
2. Create a familiar sleep environment:
Whether you’re staying at a hotel or at Grandma’s for the long weekend, remember that the best way to ensure your little one will sleep well on the road is to create a familiar sleep environment to what she has at home. So, ensure she has a crib, travel crib, or bassinet to sleep in when you are staying at a hotel or with friends. Remember to take along her sleep bag, her comfort object (if you use one), a sound machine (if this is what your little one is used to), and even a portable blackout blind to make the sleep space very similar to what’s at home. This will help to create a familiar, comfortable sleep environment for her when she’s away from her usual surroundings.
3. Stick with routines:
Whether you are putting your child down at a friend’s house while you enjoy an evening with family, or staying in a hotel over the long weekend, consistency is key to your child’s great sleep! So, continuing a consistent bedtime routine each night when you are away from home will help to ready your child for sleep and make bedtime much easier on everyone! Do a bath if you can or, at minimum, simulate one with a warm, damp cloth and a quick wipe down. Baths are great sleep cues for little ones, so it’s an important step – try not to skip it, along with all the other regular steps of your fantastic bedtime routine!
4. Don’t skip the naps (even if that means doing on-the-go naps!):
It can be tempting to skip naps altogether when the chaos of a long weekend ensues and you are travelling from function to function, but try not to make missing naptime a regular occurrence. When your baby gets proper daytime rest, she will get better rest at night as well – sleep begets sleep. Of course, there will be days when the crib-nap is just not possible, and your little one may doze off in the carrier while you are visiting family or in the car while on the way to your third Thanksgiving feast, but, again, try to make this the exception and not the rule so your little one doesn’t gain a big sleep debt. And, when possible, make the first nap of the day at home in the crib, and one of the other ones “on the go.” The first nap of the day is usually the strongest and most restful for babe.
5. Prioritize bedtime:
It can be tempting to give in to the pressure of well-meaning friends and relatives who just want your baby to miss this nap so they can cuddle a little longer, or beg you to let your toddler stay up two hours past his bedtime with Grandma. But, you are in charge – do not forget this. This is your child and if his healthy sleep habits are a priority for you then it is not unrealistic to ask others to respect this. Politely explain to your family and friends that it is your child’s naptime or bedtime, and they will be much more rested and pleasant later or the next morning if they don’t miss out on proper sleep.
Most of all, do not stress if sleep is a bit out of the ordinary for a day or two over a long weekend or holiday –well-rested children who are already great sleepers generally bounce back quite easily from these types of “off” days.