Managing your baby’s sleep schedule over the holidays can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Whether you’re traveling or hosting holiday gatherings this year, follow these simple tips to avoid sleep problems and keep everyone happy during the most wonderful time of the year.
1. Plan your holiday travels accordingly.
Two simple tips to help you survive the holidays with a baby are to pick the right time and way to travel. If your baby is a champ at sleeping in the car or on a plane, then plan to drive or fly when it’s naptime. If the opposite is true, then try traveling right after they wake up in the morning or after naptime. A well-rested baby will be a better travel companion than a sleep-deprived one.
If you plan to drive, depending on the length of your trip, plan to make enough stops for changing, feeding, and giving your baby a break from their car seat. If you’re flying, know your baby and what they can handle. Decide whether direct flights (so you don’t have to get on and off multiple times) or layovers (so your family can get breaks) are better for you. There’s no right or wrong answer!
2. Make your baby’s sleep space as familiar and comfortable to home as possible.
You may be staying at family’s or friends’ homes during the holidays. The excitement of the season, plus an unfamiliar environment, can make it harder to get your baby to fall asleep. But you can help them sleep by making the room feel more like home. How can you do that?
- Bring your own pack ‘n play, newborn sleep sack, white noise machine, favorite book, etc.
- Follow your normal bedtime routine.
- If your bassinet, co-sleeper, or crib is too big or expensive to bring, some businesses rent baby furniture. Check to see if that’s an option for wherever you’re staying.
3. Prioritize your baby’s first nap of the day.
If your baby is still taking two naps, the first nap is the most important one according to Janey Reilly, the founder of the baby and toddler sleep consulting company, WeeSleep. “The morning nap is usually the longest and strongest nap of the day, so if they’ve had a good start to the day, they’re more apt to be able to handle a nap on the go later or bedtime being a little bit later,” Reilly says. 
4. Enlist the help of your stroller or carrier.
If your Aunt Carol’s house is too noisy or if your baby won’t sleep in an unfamiliar room, then go get some fresh air—weather permitting of course. Try taking a stroller walk or putting your baby in their carrier for a nap. The break from your family could be restorative for both of you.
5. It’s OK to say no.
During the holidays, you have to do what works best for your family. In the past, you may have attended every holiday party and stayed out until 1 a.m. on New Year’s Eve. But this year you have a baby, and baby’s first holiday may mean you can only attend one or two events – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Or, if you don’t want to say no, offer to host the gathering. Then, you can party downstairs while your baby sleeps soundly in their room upstairs.
6. Know your baby.
Ultimately, you know your baby best. You know if any adjustments to their sleep pattern will make them hard to put down or extra irritable the next day. If a missed nap or later bedtime will wreak havoc on your holiday plans, then do your best to stick to your baby’s regular sleep schedule. You can also try to prep them for some adjustments if you’ll be traveling and staying with family for an extended period of time. On the other hand, if you have a more adaptable baby (lucky you!), then you may not have to be so strict with their sleep schedule.
What the Baby Sleep Experts Have to Say about Maintaining Good Sleep Routines Through DST and the Holidays
With more than 20 years working with families, 12 of which have been as a children’s sleep consultant, and recently writing a baby sleep book, Rebecca has more than enough experience to be deemed a sleep expert.
Two of Rebecca’s sleep tips for the holidays are to plan ahead and watch your baby’s cues. If you know you’re going to have a late night, then keep the next morning free so you can have a slower, more relaxing morning. The excitement of the holiday season can also overstimulate your baby, so watch your baby for any sleepy cues. These cues may come sooner than your baby’s normal nap time, and Rebecca says it’s better to go with the flow and put them down for an earlier nap. 
Cara Dumaplin from Taking Cara Babies
Cara is a mom to four kids, married to a pediatrician, a neonatal nurse, and a certified pediatric sleep consultant. She started Taking Cara Babies in 2013, and since then has been using her passion and knowledge to help parents of newborns and toddlers through her courses, products, online content, and social media.
When it comes to Daylight Saving Time, Cara has some tips for parents with babies who are 4 months old or younger. She wants to remind you that these little bodies don’t regulate melatonin yet. Babies this young are extra sensitive when it comes to adding awake time. But there is hope and help, as she offers two tips to help shift your baby’s bedtime later after the time change:
- Add one extra catnap into your baby’s day.
- Extend your baby’s naps throughout the day by babywearing, rocking, or snuggling them. 
Chrissy Lawler from The Peaceful Sleeper
Chrissy is a licensed marriage and family therapist, baby sleep consultant, and like all of us parents, a lover of sleep. When it comes to traveling, Chrissy offers three hacks to help your baby sleep:
- Have realistic expectations. Your baby won’t sleep as well as they do at home, but it’s OK. You’ll both survive and bounce back!
- Be flexible but consistent. Keep their schedule as normal as you can, but a little deviation here and there is all right.
- Bring the right gear for a good sleep space. Her top three recommendations are a white noise machine, something to help darken the space (like portable blackout curtains or a nursing cover if you’re flying), and the crib sheets right off their bed (because they smell familiar). 
Susie Parker from Sleep Baby Love
Susie is a sleep-deprived mom turned child sleep consultant. Although based in Chicago, she offers sleep consultations around the world.
When it comes to the end of Daylight Saving Time, she has one tip I think we can all get behind: Live your life. Don’t let DST stop you from doing things you want to do with your family. Everyone has to go through the time change (except you lucky Hawaiians and some Arizonians). And if there’s anything good to come of this, it’s learning how your baby adjusts so you’ll better know how to handle springing forward. 
Joleen Dilk Salyn from Baby Sleep 101
Joleen is a certified pediatric sleep consultant. One of her top holiday sleep tips is to put your baby to sleep early for a few nights if they’ve become overtired after celebrating too much.
“The first half of a child’s sleep is filled with many cycles of deep sleep. Later, as the night wears on into the wee hours of the morning, the quality of sleep changes into lighter sleep,” Joleen says. “However, it’s the deep sleep cycles that are the most restorative to the body and brain and can help your little one feel refreshed in the morning. So by putting an overtired child to bed early, you help them have more cycles of the deep sleep, thus helping to pull them out of the sleep debt.” 
Lastly, give yourself and your baby grace. Each year we go through Daylight Saving Time and the holidays, and parents and babies have been successfully adjusting to both for years.!