The Festive season is upon us, and for many of you it may be your first with a baby. It is such an exciting time to be sharing your little one’s first Christmas or holiday. Let’s look at some simple tips to help you not only survive, but thrive this festive season.
1 Bedtime Routine
If you don’t already have a sleep routine for your baby, now is a good time to start offering cues to your baby that sleep is not far away. This will help establish this bedtime routine so it is familiar when you need to settle your baby away from their usual place of sleep.
You may wish to take your baby to the room where they usually sleep at home about 10-15 mins before you expect your baby to fall asleep
- Darken the room by closing blinds or curtains, turning overhead lights off. Use a low watt lamp so you can see your way around the room. If you are outside at a park, try and find a space under a shady tree that is a little darker and slightly away from your group if possible, this helps your baby to disengage from the activity around them. At someone else’s home, look for a darker room or hallway.
- Check your baby’s nappy and dress for bed in a sleeping bag. Sleeping bags are a great way to cue your baby to sleep. Our favourite bags come from Bubbaroo. The sleeping bags help with having your baby sleep away from their usual bed and Bubbaroo bags all have 5 point harnass openings so your baby can be secured into car seats or prams.
- Then have a quite cuddle/song/ story with your baby, this is to de-stimulate your baby not to get them sleepy. It helps to locate your baby to the room that they are going to sleep in. If your baby’s awake time has been very stimulating, consider extending this pre-bed wind down period a little longer.
- Then settle your baby to sleep as you usually would.
If you are planning on going away in the festive season, this will help your baby adapt to a place that they are not familiar with. You may wish to take the sheet off your baby’s bed that has not been washed and place in their away cot so it smells like their cot at home. I remember reading an article from Deborra-Lee Furness about how she manages her children when they move around the world so frequently. She talked about having the same fragrant candles burning in the living areas and using a scented room spray that she used so for the children it smelled like home wherever they were You could start spraying your baby’s room with a few squirts of room spray just as you start wind down time before settling at home, and then continuing this once you are away.
Timing is one of the most overlooked features of a baby’s sleep. If you know that your Christmas season will be a busy one, just stick to your baby’s usual sleep times when you can’t be at home. For example, if your baby usually sleeps around 11am each morning, then aim to stick to this timing if you are out. It may be that your baby has a quick half hour nap in the pram, but still better than keeping your baby up until you get home and risk them being too overtired to settle later on.
If your baby doesn’t have regular sleep times then aim to settle them at regular intervals eg, such as 1.5 – 2 hours from waking if that is suitable for your baby’s age and needs.
If you are traveling to a different time zone, just do your best on the day of travel. Wake your baby at 7am local time if they are not yet awake. This helps your baby to start to adjust to their new timezone. Then aim to settle your baby to sleep at their regular sleep times that they would have at home. You will soon have your baby on their regular routine in their new timezone.
3 Keep Calm
As romantic as the festive season seems in the months leading up to Christmas, in reality it is often hot, family members spending more time together than usual, and everyone working hard to be happy. There is the stress of shopping, food preparation, gifts and ……getting your baby to sleep. It may be that you are hosting Christmas festivities at your place but great aunt Nora has the loudest, cackling laugh that is getting more raucous with each glass of sparkling she drinks, or that you are out at a park in 40 degree heat and trying to settle your baby under a tree. Just keep calm, try not to let the situation get on top of you. Remind yourself that it is just one day. Decide if you can keep settling your baby, offer your baby more help than they would usually offer or just abandon the sleep altogether. Speak to your partner or close family supports before your festive celebrations and ask for their support if you are finding the day difficult.
4 Keep Cool
Australian Christmases are usually very hot. Your baby will feel the heat with being in areas without air conditioning and moving between venues. Plan ahead on how you can aim to keep yourself and your baby as cool as possible. I used to keep small pump pack spray bottles in the fridge, filled with water. When we were heading out, I would keep a few of these spray bottles in a freezer bag so they stayed cold. Then when we became too hot, I could lightly spray us with a cool mist which was very welcomed! Ensure you have lots of cool water for yourself and if your baby is old enough to drink water. You may look at getting a small battery powered fan to keep air moving around your baby wherever you are trying to settle them to sleep. Take some shade options such as umbrellas or shade covers.
With settling your baby in prams out and about, many parents will elect to place a muslin wrap or blanket over their baby’s pram to darken the sleep space and help their child go to sleep. Please be aware that this is a SIDS risk as it can lead to overheating of your baby. Your baby will need a well ventilated area when they sleep, and when their is a cloth over the pram, this traps in a lot of heat around your baby. Look instead to products such as COZIGO Which is a universal cover that goes over prams or plane basinettes for babies on the go. These are 97% block out and 100% breathable to ensure that your babies have that essential ventilation while they sleep. Use the promo code of “Sleep Angel” to receive a discount if you decide to purchase one.
Sleep and babies can often be contentious subject amongst family members and close friends. You may be overwhelmed by well meaning relatives that want to impart their own experiences and beliefs on how to manage your baby which includes how and where they sleep, solids, discipline, even how you hold them. While much of this information my be valued and wanted, for others it will be the opposite. Having a very poor sleeper myself, I was often on the receiving end of tips and tricks of how to improve my son’s sleep. I learned to acknowledge the attempt to assist him without getting upset or offensive. “That’s very interesting, I will give it some thought, thank you” That was usually met with a smile and I could move forward without being hounded further. It kept the peace without me appearing ungrateful for the unsolicited advice and not needing to cause a fuss if the suggestion was just plain ridiculous or unsafe. Just work on finding the language that can keep your focus positive, especially if you are exhausted.
One dear old lady at an event could see how exhausted and overwhelmed I was with my first son at a hot Christmas function. She came up to me and gently took my hand. She spoke very softly and kindly. “Dear, just love and feed him – the rest will come. Then you have been a good mother.” It was such a simple statement but so very powerful. I have reminded myself of her wise words so many times over the last twenty years of raising my sons. There have been some less that proud mama moments that I give myself a hard time over. Then I try and remind myself that I did love my boys, and I did feed them, and that day, I did the best I could.
So my Christmas message to all the parents doing he best that they can each and every day, is just love and feed your babies, the rest will come all in good time. Enjoy your time with your babies, for soon they will be grown. Take lots of photographs, don’t worry about your hair or your make up, just take the pics, your children will be thankful you did.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas full of silent nights.