Maintaining your baby’s sleep routine on holiday
Learn more about how to manage your baby’s routine during the holidays, including your baby’s sleep routine; & how to get back to the usual routine after.
Your baby’s routine on Christmas holidays
The holidays are an exciting time for little ones and whilst ideally it is best to keep to their usual routine as much as possible to maintain good sleep, it isn’t always possible with travel. You will need to be prepared to be adaptable at times, or you may in fact choose to be in order to enjoy the festivities.
Baby sleep schedule and Christmas
Naps can be the most difficult thing to stick to during the excitement of Christmas- either your little one is too excited or you may lose track of time altogether!
- If you use a schedule, set an alarm on your phone to remind you it’s almost naptime.
- Beware that your baby could be extra tired if being passed around and held by different family members- it’s ok to take back control of your little one especially when it comes to feeding and sleeping!
- Try to find a quiet space for feeding and sleeping so that your baby isn’t distracted. If the environment is too noisy for sleep, then go out for a walk using the sling or buggy;
- Remember, babies under 6 months should be in the same room as an adult for day and night-time sleep.
- If naps are all out of sync for the day, don’t worry- use a 15 minute cat nap in the buggy or an earlier bedtime, accept the possibility of night-time disruption and start again the next day. It’s ok for every day not to be the same and it isn’t Christmas every day after all!
- If you choose to use a later bedtime on occasion, then allow your little one to nap a little longer or add in an extra cat nap towards the end of the day to keep them going.
Baby bedtime routine on holiday away from home
If you are staying away from home, it’s important to keep things as similar to home as possible so that your little one can settle to sleep peacefully.
- Take bedding from home so it smells familiar and a training clock for your toddler if you use one.
- It’s important to familiarise your little one with the room they will be sleeping in by spending some awake time in there playing during the daytime or pre the bedtime routine.
- Beware of too many sugary foods close to bedtime and screen time for toddlers. Turn the TV off at least an hour before bed and allow some down time.
- Try to keep to the same timings and routine that you use at home, for example bath time. This will help your baby or toddler to feel safe and secure in a new place as they will recognise the usual cues to sleep and not get overtired.
Sleep routine while travelling during the Christmas period
- If you are going on a car journey, try to travel during nap times so that your baby isn’t falling asleep outside of their usual routine. It is recommended that a baby isn’t in the car seat for longer than 2 hours (up to 12 months), so take regular breaks during a long journey. Also remove any outdoor clothing such as hats and snowsuits whilst in the car seat so your baby does not overheat and once you reach your destination if your baby is asleep, move them to a safe, flat surface.
- If you have a toddler that doesn’t usually nap but falls asleep in the car don’t worry, just use a later bedtime to compensate so that they don’t have difficulty falling asleep later.
Your baby’s sleep routine when travelling abroad for Christmas
If you are flying abroad over the holidays, take your baby’s bedding in your hand luggage and a sling or foldable buggy for sleeping at the airport.
- Ask your airline for the bassinet seats if you are travelling long haul.
- When you first arrive, put your baby or toddler to bed when they seem tired, not worrying too much about their usual bedtime and then the next day try to get on the new time zone straight away.
- Expect a few days of disrupted sleep whilst your child adapts- getting lots of fresh air and daylight will help their body clock adjust.
- If the time difference is only an hour or two, consider staying on the same timezone as home so that everything seems the same to your little one.
My baby won't sleep on holiday
It can be quite stressful if your little one isn’t sleeping well when you are away from home, but remember the environment is new for them and possibly the time zone too and therefore it may take a few days to adjust.
- At Christmas time we tend to spend a lot of time indoors, but try to get outside daily as fresh air and sunlight is conducive to a good night’s sleep.
- If you are room sharing and don’t usually and find this is disturbing your child, try to set up a separate sleep space away from your bed. Consider using white noise, a black out cover for their cot and a red or amber night light so you don’t disturb them when you go to bed.
- If your toddler no longer naps but they are running out of steam due to waking up early or are simply on sensory overload, then allow a nap or some down time doing a quiet activity away from the excitement and interaction with family and friends.
Getting baby back into a routine after the holiday
Some children are very adaptable and can get right back to their normal life when you get home. For others, if the sleep routine has changed significantly over the holidays, you might find it takes a little time to get back on track- but try not to worry, it will all settle down again soon!
- Return to your usual timings once you are home. If little one seems exhausted, use an earlier bedtime by 30 minutes or so to allow them to catch up and then return to normal.
- If you changed the way you settle your child to sleep, you might find you need to withdraw gradually over the space of a week or so rather than going straight back to your normal approach.
- Consider what is happening developmentally with your child at the moment. If they are trying to master a new milestone, like crawling for example, this in itself can cause some disruption to sleep so it may not necessarily have to do with the change in environment. Sleep isn’t linear and is ever evolving, it will pass!
- Car seat safety. Available at: https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/9-car-seat-factsheet-2019.pdf, accessed November 2022
- Same room for sleep safety advice. Available at: https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/room-sharing/, accessed November 2022
- Bedtime problems in children: Solutions for the science-minded parent. Available at: https://parentingscience.com/bedtime-problems/, accessed November 2022
- NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Sleep. Available at: https://www.nhsggc.org.uk/kids/life-skills/sleep/, accessed November 2022
- NHS, Helping your baby to sleep. Available at: Helping your baby to sleep - NHS (www.nhs.uk), accessed November 2022
Infant Sleep Consultant
Leanne Fraser is an Infant Sleep Consultant supporting and guiding exhausted families to get better sleep with a completely non-judgmental approach.
"I'm Leanne Fraser, a certified Sleep Consultant for babies and young children.
Every day I coach and support families to get better sleep for their child, and for themselves. Sleep is a basic human need, we can't function without it- I'm a Mum myself I know exactly how it feels to be exhausted!
My approach is completely non-judgmental- if what you are doing is working then there's no need to change it, but please know that if your sleep situation is un-manageable then there is help available".