The year has come to an end and a new year commenced, and as families are busy with the holiday period my consultations have begun to focus upon how parents manage their child’s sleep performance over the holiday season.
Interestingly of all the holidays and celebrations which can have an impact upon infant sleep, it is Christmas which causes the largest disruption. Every year I see patients and families in the weeks and months after Christmas attempting to regain high-quality sleep.
The problem is in some ways self-evident. There are multiple family events which occur over Christmas and New Year. It is difficult to maintain a regular evening bedtime. Children are up later for a number of reasons. From the baby’s perspective this results in them becoming overtired and also recognising that possibly bedtime and overnight sleep may be “negotiable”.
So what of the best strategies to adopt?
As always I emphasise that tiredness or more accurately over tiredness is the enemy of sleep. Secondly that to the best of your ability we need to maintain cues of sleep achievement and sleep maintenance which are parent independent.
It may be impossible to maintain a structured bedtime every single day.
To the best of your ability minimise the total volume of fatigue which the baby experiences over Christmas.
One strategy which can be helpful if you are out during the evening is to attempt to arrive a little early with a pram or a porta cot, and attempt to get the baby to sleep before the family celebration begins. It can be quite difficult if you are attempting to get a child to sleep when they have recognised that there are other people around, particularly if they have recognised that other children are playing.
If for reasons beyond your control the child is up late and becomes overtired simply spend the next day or two attempting to regain the required volume of sleep.
After the holiday season and you are back to normal routine, return at once to a regular bedtime and parent independent cues of sleep. Some babies will attempt to negotiate about this. Remember that this is a love driven problem. The child loves you completely and has found over the Christmas season that you may be available during the evening or overnight. Gently, affectionately but effectively return to your normal sleep routines as rapidly as possible.
All the best for the holiday season and best wishes for the New Year.
Dr Brian Symon
The Babysleep Doctor