5 tips to avoid sleep sabotage these holidays

It’s almost Christmas and the perfect time to remind you that it’s your child, your rules. My gift to you today are these 5 tips to avoid sleep sabotage these holidays. I want you to remember that you oversee your child’s schedule. Not your mother-in-law, not your parents, not your sister or best friend. You. And if you sometimes need to put your foot down and say “this is how it is” to avoid sleep sabotage. Then you are well within your right to do just that!

I’m all for family getting along, but…

Now don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love this time of year. And I’m all for family getting along. It’s at this time of year that we get the opportunity to reconnect with special people in our lives. Including those we might not have seen in a while. Everything about the Christmas holidays is special to me. Yes, I love the “magic” and the pretty lights, but it’s the people, and the connection that really get me excited.

Family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances often take this occasion to visit with one another in person. And because of the pandemic, this may be the first time that those friends and family members are getting the chance to meet your new baby. And that’s such a magical moment for everyone involved. Babies and children bring us together in a very special way.

But back to the “your child., your rules” statement. I don’t want to sound like a grinch here, but if you’ve been working hard to teach your baby independent sleep skills and they’re finally sleeping through the night, then I just want to warn you. This Christmas, even though it is a wonderful time to celebrate and spend time with the people you love, may also be an absolute minefield of potential sleep sabotage.

It starts with a subtle nudge

I’m going to single out grandparents for sleep sabotage here because they’re the most likely to be staying with you (or you with them). And as the older “parents” they are most likely to take liberties with your rules around your little one. But it’s not just grandparents. The same strategies apply to anyone who might be nudging you to ease up on bedtime and naps so they can visit with your baby (aka suggesting sleep sabotage).

Common examples of this “nudging” include…

  • Can’t she stay up a little longer? It’s the holidays!
  • We just got here! You can’t put her to bed yet!
  • We haven’t seen the kids all year! They can sleep in tomorrow morning!
  • We’ll take care of her when she wakes up! You guys sleep in!

All of these things are said with the best intentions, of course. Grandparents are usually more than willing to get up and dote on their grandkids. You can’t really fault people for wanting to spend time with your adorable babies, can you?

Good intentions aside though, sticking to your guns when people ask you to push back your little one’s bedtime can be tough. But I assure you, it’s necessary. Your child, your rules.

Late nights and babies don’t mix

One late night is often enough to leave your baby overtired. And we know overtired makes it tough for your baby to get to sleep. Overtired causes less restful sleep when they eventually do go down. And it often results in nighttime and early wakeups. Yep, overtiredness causes sleep sabotage. And that then leaves your baby tired and irritable the next day.

And then it becomes your problem

Where are the doting friends when baby is grumpy? Whose problem is it then? Well, it’s yours, obviously. The first thing most people do when a baby starts to cry is hand them back over to their parents, thinking they know how to get them settled. Then the bad night’s sleep leads into a tough day of naps, leading to another rough night, and here we go again, just in time for the holidays. I can see your mind spiraling just thinking about it….

I’m not trying to be an alarmist, honest! But things can get out of hand pretty quickly in some instances. So, I wanted to give you five tips for politely, but firmly, putting your foot down when your houseguests ask you to hold off on putting your baby to bed. Your baby, your rules. Here they are:

1. Be confident in your decision

Remind yourself of what you and your baby were going through when they weren’t sleeping well. Then ask yourself if you can really go through it again, especially in the midst of the holidays. Remember that you’re doing the right thing for everyone involved by avoiding sleep sabotage, and that’s never selfish.

2. Explain the situation

If people understand the struggle you went through when no one was sleeping. And how you’ve worked to get your baby sleeping well. Then they’ll be much more likely to accept it when you insist on rigorous bedtime and nap schedules. Let your guests know that you value your baby’s sleep skills and their better mood for it. So, yes they’ll need to go to bed at specific times, no exceptions.

3. Highlight the rewards

This is really the best method I’ve found of appeasing houseguests who don’t know the value of sleep. When they’re pushing for you to let baby, say, skip a nap, ask them, “Would you rather spend three hours with a crying baby, or two hours with a happy one?” After all, it’s tough to bond with a baby when they’re fussing and irritable. So, remind Grandma and Grandpa that it’s a choice. They can form those cherished memories of their grandchild laughing and cooing in their arms, or alternatively they can remember them fussing, screaming, and reaching for their parents. Simply because they’re tired and miserable.

4. Take deep breaths

I know that sounds simple, but deep breathing really is an effective method of calming your brain and body. You need to pause in those moments when, let’s say, your mother-in-law goes to “check” on your baby after they’ve been napping for 15 minutes and then emerges from their room holding a tired, bleary-eyed baby in their arms. Your mother-in-law is claiming that baby was already awake when they walked in. That was just a hypothetically example, of course. It’s not like your mother-in-law would dream of really doing such a thing to sabotage baby’s sleep.

Take a few deep breaths though, seriously. Before you say anything, just smile, breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth Then remember that they are just head-over-heels in love with their grandchild and didn’t do it to overrule or defy you. Give it a minute and, once you’ve cooled off a bit, calmly tell her that you’d like to see if baby can get a slightly longer nap. And take your little one back to her cot.

5. Be the Boss

Above all, remember, this is your child, and you know what’s best for them. Don’t let other people’s suggestions or experiences influence your judgment. When we’re talking other people (who don’t care about sleep or have never faced the struggles), you may hear things like, “We always let our little guy stay up late on Christmas Eve so he’d sleep late on Christmas morning,” or “You’ve got to make exceptions during the holidays.”

None of those people know your baby like you do, so all of their opinions combined don’t hold a candle to your knowledge and proficiency in this arena. You don’t need to be a tyrant to avoid sleep sabotage. But you should always keep in mind that you’re in charge because you’re the expert! So, rock that boss-parent title and do what you know is right!

It’s not always like this…

The great news is this sleep sabotage situation is usually a one-time ordeal. Simply because once your family and friends see how well your little one sleeps, they will quickly learn to appreciate why you take it so seriously. After experiencing first-hand how delightful it is to be around a well-rested baby, they won’t be asking questions when they come back next year. They’ll just enjoy the experience and quietly marvel at how awesome you are at raising kids.

Because you are awesome for putting sleep first! It’s the very best gift you’ve given your child this season.

Happy holidays, everybody! Have fun, enjoy the season, and sleep well!