Our family was fortunate enough to visit New York City over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit my brother-n-law who has lived there for more than 30 years and works in the theatre community.We knew it would be a whirlwind mini-vacation and when going to NYC its most people’s goal to see as much as they possibly can while they are there. Well we attempted to do that too! We ran around Times Square, fought our way to the barricades at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (and even watched them blow up the hot air balloons the night before), enjoyed a never-ending Thanksgiving Feast, and saw the hit Broadway show, The Lion King, AND went backstage after the show! Whew! Even though we only scratched the surface of what there is to see and do in the Big Apple, even I was surprised at the impact on my kids who are ages 8 and 5 1/2.
Between the fresh air, all that walking that us Minnesotans aren’t used to doing, the late evenings (shame on me, Ms. Sleep Consultant!), and all the stimulation and excitement — our boys were EXHAUSTED! And talk about messed up sleep schedules! Yep, I am guilty! We were an hour off because of the time zone change, early mornings and late nights and this made for crabby-pants kids! So yes, even I take a chance now and then and mess with my kids’ sleep. But… I had a recovery plan the very moment we got back home. Some of which I will share below. I will also include some other tips that you might want to consider while you are away. During your travels:
- Protect your children’s bed time and nap times. It’s easy while traveling to loosen the reigns on sleep times so that you can visit longer, see and do more, and have more fun. But the risk you run is having a child who is fussy, crabby, sleeping restless at night, and waking too early in the morning. As best you can, get your child to bed at the normal time and don’t skip the naps! And don’t let your family members or friends make you feel bad for protecting your child’s sleep. They aren’t the ones who will have to deal with tired, fussy baby or child the rest of the trip!
- Don’t over-schedule your children. Now I know I’m being a bit of a hypocrite with this one since I did exactly this on our NYC trip! However, once I realized how they were reacting to a busy schedule, we quickly backed off and made sure the boys got a nap in and we had some down time in our hotel room. Block time each day for down time; whether its a nap or just some snuggle time reading or watching a movie. Give yourself some padding around each activity also so you aren’t having to rush from one place to another.
- Create a similar sleep environment to what your children are used to at home. Bring their favorite sleep item whether its a lovey blanket, animal etc. If you use a white noise at home bring that too. This will help block out extra noises they aren’t used to. Make the room they are sleeping in as dark as possible. When we used to travel to a cabin every summer we would bring black sheets to hang over the windows because the bedrooms would get so bright way too early in the morning! Read familiar books, sing familiar songs.
- Avoid the old sleep props your child relied on. When traveling it is really tempting to fall back on old sleep props used to help your baby or child go to sleep. The most common ones? Cosleeping and rushing to them in the night so they don’t wake anyone else up. If you are staying in a hotel, try to get a room with a separate bedroom where your baby can sleep separate from you or your older child can sleep in a separate bed. And try to arrange your sleeping location so that you don’t have to worry about your baby’s partial wakening whimpers waking up anyone else.
When you get back home:
- Expect a recovery period. Give yourself 3-5 days/nights for your child to return to his/her normal sleep habits; especially if there has been a time change involved.
- Get back on track ASAP. The first night home get back to your normal routines, sleep locations, and how you respond to night wakings, etc. Talk to your child if they are older about how nice it will feel to be back in their own comfy bed (yes, this is suggestive messaging but it works!).
- Keep middle-of-the-night interactions to a minimum. When you were traveling you may have experienced an increase in night wakings or a child who needed just a bit more comforting being in a new place. When you get back home and your child wakes you up, keep your interaction to a minimum and as boring as possible. Your child will quickly realize there is no reason to wake you up in the night this way!
My last piece of advice? Try not to sweat it too much. Its important to protect your child’s sleep but its also important to enjoy these precious moments around the holidays with family and friends that you don’t get to see very often. Enjoy your holiday and just commit to getting right back on track when you get home! Happy Holidays! In Tender Care, Leann