How to stick to a smart sleep schedule for baby — while on a group getaway!
Tips from a sleep expert on having fun and a well-rested little one too
The warmer weather means planning for cottage retreats and summer overnights. Family vacations and friend get-togethers can be a fun way to pass the summer months but when you have a baby who's following a consistent sleep schedule it can suddenly be difficult to navigate their schedule when everyone around you doesn't understand.
It's a common concern I see from many parents and families and there are ways to help make sure that everyone has a great time together while also protecting your little one's sleep.
Start with communication
If you feel comfortable doing, share why it's important to follow your little one's sleep routine, and how it benefits your baby and everyone around.
Explain that having a consistent sleep schedule means there is better predictability — which makes planning trip itineraries that much easier since you'll know the best times to take baby out on excursions. This also helps group meals go more smoothly, whether it be on the road or at the cottage, since they are always more enjoyable with a well-rested (well-tempered!) baby.
Share also that you've worked hard to build a sleep routine that works best for your little one and you would appreciate the support to keep it on track.
Get them involved
An easy way to protect your little one's routine while also allowing grandma and grandpa to get their baby fix is get them involved in the nap or bedtime routine. Hand off baby to them and they can get baby ready for bed, give baby a bottle, read them a book, and smother them in kisses and cuddles before putting them down. It's a win-win! Baby is going down to sleep on schedule, your family is getting the time they want with your little one, and you can sneak off and enjoy a glass of wine by the dock!
Don't forget about the big kids too! It can be hard to pull the littles away at bedtime as the FOMO is real. Finding a lull in the hangout may be an easier time to start bedtime than tearing your little one away from the fun but also get the older kids on board and explain to them that in order to achieve an easier bedtime for the younger kids everyone can play along that they are headed to bed. Make it a "top secret bedtime mission!" The older kids can head off to another room and play quietly and everyone can hit their age appropriate bedtimes keeping everyone well-rested for the next day!
Apply the 80/20 rule to strict(er) sleep schedules
Here's the thing, if your child is a solid sleeper veering off routine a little bit is okay. Missing the occasional nap, or pushing out bedtime a little later won't affect a baby or child who for the most part gets great quantity and quality of sleep. Family and friends vacations and get-togethers is a great time to implement an 80/20 rule when it comes to sleep.
80 per cent of the time protect your little ones' sleep. Protect bedtimes and naps as best you can. Keep things simple with little ones in tow. If you know bedtime will be pushed out later than focus on proper naps that day.
20 per cent of the time, if you have to veer off the norm, no big deal. As long as you aren't doing it consistently for consecutive days your child will adapt to it fine. Remember it can be a slippery slope and a sleep debt can slowly accrue. If you feel like you've pushed things for a few days, give your child a day of rest and get him back to his usual routine.
Let it go
Try not to stress out this summer knowing that you have a family trip coming up. Remember as parents, we make our own choices, and that's okay. Simply put, it's about finding a balance that allows you and your family to get out and "live life" while still respecting the healthy guidelines for sleep that your little one has come to rely on and draw comfort from.
If naps are missed and bedtimes are late don't stress out about it. Try your best to let it go and enjoy each moment. Balance is key for any busy extended trip. Make sure to balance a busy day with a quieter one where naps and bedtime can be protected for your baby and quiet time can be encouraged for your toddler. Keep in mind the excitement of endless busy activities could result in some overtired meltdowns. It's easier to go into a vacation accepting possible misbehaviour rather than expecting total perfection.
And here's how to make sure that your little one gets the best sleep possible, when they actually are snoozing.
5 tips for ensuring a solid sleep for your baby:
- If you're concerned about a louder than normal bedtime choose a room for your child that is furthest away from the common area to keep things as quiet as possible.
- There is going to be a lot of hustle and bustle while being away, so when you get back home focus on an earlier bedtime. An early bedtime will help everyone get back on track for better sleep.
- Bring their room on the go with packing along positive sleep tools like a white noise machine and black out blinds that will help you create a welcoming sleep environment for your little ones no matter where you are.
- Start off right by having a well-rested child going into any busy get away can mean changes in their normal routine won't affect them as much as it would a child with an already existing sleep debt. A few weeks before your vacation make your child's sleep a priority.
- Make sure to prioritize your sleep as well. Being well rested is an extra tool in your parenting toolbox to help you navigate a very busy time.
Alanna McGinn is Founder and Certified Sleep Expert of Good Night Sleep Site, a global sleep consulting practice. She serves on the faculty of The Family Sleep Institute and is host of the 'This Girl Loves Sleep' Podcast. Alanna has established the world-wide brand of Good Night Sleep Site as being a #1 sleep resource for families and she and her team of sleep consultants strive in helping families (baby to adults) and corporations overcome their sleep challenges and have well-rested smiles in the morning. Alanna lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and their 3 children (1+twins!)