Summer holidays, Chanuka and Christmas are upon us! And as the days get longer and more festive, we expect the same from our babies and toddlers – long, happy, cheerful days! The problem is that all the changes in routine and excitement that holidays and family events bring, may make your baby over stimulated and irritable. To help you survive the festive season, here are some sensible tips. Your baby will love all the fun associated with the festive season and if you go on holiday it is likely to be the first time in a while that your baby will enjoy both mom’s and dad’s full attention. But all the fun and games can be disruptive for babies. Do have fun with your baby and help them to enjoy all the stimulation but always balance all the excitement with ‘down time’ and calming input. Here are 5 tips to surviving the long, exciting days:
- Watch your baby’s signals. As the excitement mounts your baby will give you signals that warn you that he is becoming over stimulated. For little babies looking away and sucking furiously on their hands often precede grizzling and finally crying. As your baby gets older he may push you or a toy away and try to turn away from the stimulus. It won’t be long before he starts to cry and fuss. Toddlers who are becoming over stimulated may start to suck their hands or whine for a dummy or bottle. Thereafter they become obstinate and difficult before descending into chaos. When you notice these signals, remove your baby from the environment and settle him quietly in a calm space or take him for a calming walk in a sling or pram.
- Have a quiet space Holiday times are often spent in strange places, with disrupted routines. It is vital that your baby has a secure space created for him that he can retreat to when things get too exciting. Newborns are happy to sleep anywhere but it is still worth choosing a quiet room where you can go to feed your baby and put on a white noise CD and let him go to sleep, even in another persons’ home. Baby’s really need familiar sleep zones if you are to keep them in their routine. Choose a dark, quiet room with a cot placed in a similar way to their own room. Then put their own bedding into the cot to create a comforting space. For your toddler, take a familiar toy and blanket with you and make a space with cushions and books for him to have time out. Time out needs not be used as a punishment but rather as a tool to prevent over stimulation.
- Travel with a sling Traveling with a baby can be stressful as you are generally confined to a space and time schedule that you have little control over. A good idea if you are flying is to use a sling as this can be used to create a womb space or quiet space where your baby can sleep and feed without being disturbed too much. If you are driving or flying try to schedule the trip during your baby’s sleep as they will sleep peacefully while you travel. For the older baby and toddler, a flight may be too exciting and it this case an overtired toddler will be a mission to travel with. So schedule flights for when your toddler is well rested and fed.
- Keep a focus on day sleeps A well rested baby or toddler is much better equipped to deal with excitement, stimulation and disruptions to routine. Make sure that no matter where you are and what is going on, your baby or toddler has the opportunity to sleep when he needs to. Follow the ‘Awake time’ guidelines in Baby Sense for your baby’s age and be sure that he is in his sleep zone 10 minutes before his sleep is due. For newborns, you may have to disrupt a family event as opposed to miss your baby’s sleep, because and overtired baby won’t be fun for anyone. As your baby gets older, the awake times get longer and your baby becomes more flexible too. If you have an easy baby, then you can push the ‘Awake times’ out slightly.
- Take time out Many a seasoned mom will tell you from bitter experience that holidays aren’t holidays at all any more. Somehow being out of the familiar environment with all the support and conveniences of home makes holidays hard work. Try to find holiday venues with child care and rely on family to give you a bit of a break.