Today Heather Turgeon (co-author of The Happy Sleeper) is back with sleep advice for all of us desperate mamas! We decided to switch things up and do a Q&A this time around, specifically about daylight savings time, travel and the holidays. As always, her advice is so, so helpful! Read on for her tips…
Natalie Borton: Daylight savings time is upon us—what do we do with our kids?! Should we adjust their schedules in advance? Or adjust after the fact?
Heather Turgeon: You can do either one – babies often do better with gradual shifts, whereas older kids jump to the new time. Shifting bedtime is the easier part, whereas it takes a little more work and consistency to shift a wake up time. What used to be 6am will now be 5am, so as you’re helping your baby adjust, you can gradually shift the time you get her up in the morning and feed her, etc. – this gives the right signals to her internal clock.
NB: This time of year a lot of us are traveling to see family. What tips could you offer us for making sure our little ones get the sleep they need while we’re on the go and away from the comforts of home?
HT: Think about the room set up of the place you’re staying ahead of time. Are there good curtains or blinds on the windows? Travel with your own black out shades (they make them specifically for traveling), or just put up dark trash bags with painters tape, or blankets over the curtain rods – get creative but make it dark, it really helps in the morning. When I travel back to my parents in New York, there happen to be these foam core poster boards in the kids’ room – I prop them up in the windows and I usually keep the kids on west coast time unless we’re there for more than 2 weeks.
NB: What two things related to sleep should we NOT be doing during the holiday season?
HT: Try not to let sleep schedules go out the window. Of course be flexible, but people enjoy their vacations so much more when the family is rested. Keep your little bedtime routines and a semblance of the same bedtime and nap schedules. Don’t let family members make you feel weird for sticking to your schedules if you feel like you and your baby will benefit from the regularity. The other thing that tends to happen is that people slip into new and unhelpful sleep habits while traveling, and those habits snowball into something they feel stuck in. Try not to over-help a baby or little kid who otherwise was sleeping independently (bouncing or rocking your baby or lying down with your little kid until they fall asleep). If it happens, make a plan for getting back to your normal patterns when you’re home.
NB: My son normally sleeps in a very dark, cool room in his crib at home, but obviously that’s not always in our control when traveling! Do you have any tips for dealing with less than ideal circumstances (bright or warm room, sleeping in a pack and play, etc.)?
HT: Yes, the sleeping environment is so powerful! Make sure to have your darkening plan for the room. Bring a few different options for what your baby can sleep in (a light cotton footie PJ, a layer underneath, etc.) so that you have choices depending on the temperature of the room you’re in. The ideal sleeping temperature is 65-68 degrees (kind of chilly), so don’t be afraid to lower the heat. Most babies and toddlers do well with the pack n play if you set it up like their normal crib with the usual stuff, do your bedtime routine, sing their usual song and so forth.
NB: I, for one, have been quite the stickler about sleep routines since Jack was around 5 months old, and I’m sure I’m not the only mama like that! But obviously there are times when it’s okay to make exceptions with your child’s sleep plan (ex: teething, travel, separation anxiety, special events, etc). When are those times and how do we do so without messing up their sleep habits for good?
HT: The holidays are a perfect example of making exceptions and being flexible. I would say it’s a good idea to give your baby a little extra you-time, spend time playing in the room he’ll be sleeping in, be attuned to his mood and possible need for more contact and attention from you, or to check out and be in a quiet place if he’s a more introverted baby. But when it comes time to go to sleep, you can usually re-create the same independent sleep set-up you worked so hard to have at home. When we travelled recently and were staying in a hotel with a big bathroom, I put the crib in there and — after a bath and PJ’s and stories — my daughter slept beautifully!
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Heather Turgeon is co-author of the book The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide To Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night’s Sleep (Penguin Random House, 2014). She and her partner Julie Wright run a Los Angeles-based sleep consulting practice for babies and little kids.