Tips for Baby Sleep While Hosting for the Holidays

Cara Dumaplin, Founder
Hosting loved ones over the holidays creates life-long memories. However, joy can often turn to frustration when a baby is added to the mix if expectations and preparations are not clearly established beforehand. A sleepy and cranky little one is not on anyone’s Christmas list, so let’s lay out a game plan before the guests arrive.

If you are planning to travel over the holidays, please refer to the blog post HERE to help you on your adventure.

Here are my 8 top tips to help you truly enjoy your visitors while maintaining your well-rested baby:

  1. Communicate!

Before your guests arrive, let them know what they can expect from your baby and his sleep while they visit. Keep in mind that if your guests are not used to a baby in the home, they may not know (or have forgotten) how an overtired baby impacts the entire household. (Cue the meltdowns!) 

Consider these questions and talk about them with your guests. 

  • Are you hoping to be at home for any of your baby’s naps? What time works best for your baby to take naps?
  • What bedtime works best for your baby? Are you planning to be home for bedtime most nights?
  • How often does your baby typically cry out at night? Is there a chance the visitors will hear the baby? If so, just discuss this. Your visitors will likely say: “No problem! We can go back to sleep.” This will greatly reduce your stress and allow you to maintain your normal approach.
  1. Be confident.

You know your baby better than any person on this planet. Well-meaning loved ones may question your methods. “You are going to wake a sleeping baby to feed him? That’s crazy! If he were hungry, he’d wake up. My babies were great sleepers. You should do it my way.” Please remember, you know your baby and what works for your baby. Have confidence in the skills and techniques you have learned. If you’ve taken the “Will I Ever Sleep Again?” newborn class or the ABC’s of Sleep, you can also be sure that the methods you implement are created using evidence-based research. 

If you took “Will I Ever Sleep Again?” you don’t have to stop implementing your newborn tips while you have visitors in town! Even if your baby is in a different environment or your days are a little shaken up, the same techniques can certainly still be applied. Remember—you can even let your mother-in-law snuggle your sweet little one for naps without ruining the night sleep you’ve established. 

  1. Keep your baby in her normal sleep environment for sleeping if possible.

Don’t we all sleep best in our own beds? Babies are no exception! If it’s possible for your baby to stay in her normal sleeping environment, do that. Whenever we can stay consistent, that’s what we want to do. 

I understand that not all homes have a guest bedroom. Often the baby’s room IS the spot where we allow guests to sleep. If this is your situation, don’t fret. We will discuss that in tip 5. But, do consider allowing your baby to have her own room for naps even if she has to give up her spot during the night. Most visitors aren’t hanging out in the bedroom during the day, and this could make your days much smoother. (Please include this in the conversation you have with your guests prior to their visit.) 

  1. If you have to decide whether to displace a baby or older child, move your baby!

Having more than one child often forces us to decide who can more easily adjust to giving up their own space. In my opinion, babies can adapt more easily than toddlers. Moving a little one to a Pack’n Play can feel very similar to the crib. 

On the other hand, young children will likely be thrown off more by staying in a new room, especially in your own home. We don’t want your toddler to decide he wants to permanently camp out on mom and dad’s floor! This could make for weeks of difficult nights. 

  1. If your baby is displaced, recreate his normal sleep space as closely as possible.

If you DO need to move your baby, consider setting up his temporary sleep space in an office or even a bathroom. Anywhere that is safe and has adequate circulation will work. If the only place is mom and dad’s room, try to provide a barrier, or at least considerable distance, between your bed and the baby. (The Slumberpod is a fantastic barrier and keeps it dark. “Cara10” saves you 10%. If that’s not an option, try this: A sheet hung with command strips from the ceiling to divide the room. Just keep the sheet safely out of reach. I have a quick tutorial to show you how to do this HERE.) 

Most displaced babies end up sleeping in a Pack’n Play. If this is your plan, do a trial run with the Pack’n Play in your baby’s room several nights before your visitors arrive. Practicing nights in the Pack’n Play while in the familiar environment of your baby’s bedroom can set her up for success while she’s in a different room. 

Remember to set up your baby’s temporary space with familiar sleep cues like complete darkness, her sound machine, and her lovey. (If you need a little help with creating a temporary dark place, check out these fabulous travel black out shades.)

  1. Keep your bedtime routine consistent! 

When you have visitors, so many things shift and change. This can mean that your baby is in a different room or going to bed at a different time than normal. Maintaining your everyday bedtime routine will help your baby to understand that she is getting ready for sleep, just like always! 

This often requires some forethought. You’ll want to move his bedtime book, pajamas, diapers, or any other routine tools to the room where he will be sleeping. (You don’t want to get ready to lay your baby down, only to realize that his pacifier is in grandma’s room!)

  1. Try to get at least one good nap a day!

Just like those who are traveling, you likely have a full schedule with guests in town. If your little one is taking more than one nap a day, attempt to get a solid morning nap at home. Daytime sleep is usually more difficult than nighttime sleep, so that one good nap will probably go best if your baby can sleep in her own crib.

  1. Bend the rules. 

Visits don’t last for forever and neither do these sweet baby days. Please don’t miss out on treasured memories and joy because you fear baby sleep repercussions. 

If your little one does best with a 7-8:00pm bedtime, but you stay out late for a nice dinner one night, it’s fine. Consider sneaking in a late afternoon nap if you can. No matter what, go with the flow. Realize that your baby feeds off of your anxiety, so relax and enjoy your evening.  

Your baby may do better than you could ever have hoped when you bend the rules a bit, but even if she struggles, you don’t want to miss this precious time with family. Rest assured, you can get your great little sleeper back by returning to what you learned in the class after your visit with grandma and grandpa. 

Insider Bonus Tip: If you’re out for the evening and pushing bedtime later, do a mini bedtime routine before you head home! This will make a smooth transfer more likely and ensure that you get in that last good feeding before your baby falls asleep.

  • At Aunt Sandy’s house for your family Christmas gathering? Sneak into a quiet room to get that full feeding, read a book, and put on your baby’s pajamas before putting her in the car.
  • Out to eat for the evening? Try to at least offer that full feeding and change him into bedtime attire before buckling him in.

After the holidays is the time to get sleep back on track if you bent the rules a bit. If you have already completed “The ABC’s of Sleep,” pull out your booklet and read it again after your visitors head home. Follow it with 110% consistency. Typically within 3-5 nights, you’ll have your great little sleeper back, even if you “broke the rules” over the holidays.

If sleep-deprivation is your family’s new normal, sleep may be at the top of your Christmas wish list. We have two great classes that can give your family the gift of sleep. “Will I Ever Sleep Again?” is our newborn class, designed to help you with your baby (birth-12 weeks) by gently setting a foundation of healthy sleep. If your baby is 5 months or older, “The ABC’s of Sleep” is a 14-night plan for achieving 10-12 hour nights in the crib.

Featured photo for this post provided by Keira Kielmeyer of The Unreserved Table

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I'm Cara.

I’m a mom of four, neonatal nurse, and wife of a pediatrician. My passion is teaching parents how to help their babies sleep with the science of a nurse and the heart of a mama so they can reclaim the joy of parenthood.

I'm Cara.

I’m a mom of four, neonatal nurse, and wife of a pediatrician. My passion is teaching parents how to help their babies sleep with the science of a nurse and the heart of a mama so they can reclaim the joy of parenthood.