Christmas means chaos - it's unavoidable, but also part of the charm of the festive season. It means your little one's routine will be disrupted - there's no way round it - but there are lots of things you can do to adapt your tot's routine at Christmas.
First of all, look at your Christmas diary and decide which events are important and which can be adapted time-wise, or even avoided. Then consider how these events will impact on your tot’s sleep. ‘A baby or child who hasn’t had enough sleep probably won’t be all that interested in food, or playing, so sleep has to be a priority,’ explains maternity nurse Lisa Clegg.
1. Put your child first
‘If your baby is under one, try to keep sleep times as normal as possible,’ says Lisa. ‘Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends if they can visit after naptime, even if your child is a little older. Most people would rather eat a little later if the alternative is dealing with an overtired toddler!’
Adapt the schedule to fit around your child’s routine. If sitting down to eat dinner at 1pm won’t work because it’s bang in the middle of your toddler’s two-hour nap, then why not eat at 3pm? Think of it as a new family tradition!
2. Move naptime?
Every family is different, and if timing just isn’t flexible in your family, and you want your tot to participate, then you’ll need to move his nap forward. If he has two naps a day, it won’t hurt to miss the first one, as long as you bring the second nap forward. If he only has one nap, then bring that forward a little or push it back – excitement will keep him going a bit longer as a one-off.
‘Don’t be tempted to skip the nap completely, though,’ says Lisa. ‘You can’t expect him to be happy with no sleep at all. And bear in mind that if he doesn’t get enough sleep one day, he’ll be tired and want to nap earlier the following day too. Don’t be afraid of adapting your routine for a few days, but be strict about getting back to your normal routine as soon as you can.’
3. Catch up on sleep
Even the best-laid plans can go awry, and an unexpected visitor, last-minute change of itinerary, or a tot who won’t settle away from home may well result in a late nap. A young baby should respond to his usual sleep cues, so follow his normal pre-sleep routine as soon as you can and find him somewhere quiet to sleep. If he’s fighting sleep, being pushed along in his pram, or taken for a drive in the car, should do the trick, and, if necessary, he can be transferred to the cot once fully asleep.
‘A toddler may appear full of beans even though it’s past his normal naptime,’ says Lisa. ‘But, if you can, convince him to lie down for a short while on the sofa, or have some quiet time in bed, and he’s likely to fall asleep. If that’s not possible, then distraction will delay the impending meltdown – a walk outside often works. But after that, it may be time to call it a day and head home!’
4. Keep life the same
It’s tempting to use the Christmas holidays to make other changes, like giving up a dummy, or starting potty training: after all, you’ve got time off work and your partner and family are around for support.
‘Don’t be tempted to do make unneccessary changes,’ says Lisa. ‘Keep things as normal as possible, so that the changes you need to make don’t feel so big to your child. It’s especially important when this involves giving up a source of comfort, like his dummy. Save this for January.’