Silly Season and Sleep – How to Manage Christmas with Your Baby in Australia
Whether you’re going away for a couple of weeks at Christmas or just staying home, you’re entitled to ease up on your usual pace. At this time of the year, housework and other tedious pursuits tend to become a little less important and in their place, we find more time for connection and joy.
Routine, what Routine?
It’s one thing to be a little more lax, but another entirely to pick up the pieces once all the merriment is over.
Many babies and small children are much happier when they follow a predictable and regular routine, whether on holidays or not. Others just have a much easier temperament and tend to fit in with whatever else is happening in a busy family life.
Think about your own baby’s individual temperament and personality. If they’re little creatures of routine and structure then it will be much kinder to them (and in the long run yourself), if you aim for the same routine over the silly season as every other day.
Feed your baby when they’re hungry, cuddle them when they’re tired and place them into their cot when they’re sleepy.
Truths about Christmas Time Routines
There’s value in watching parents who have more than one child. Younger children in families just need to fit in and there’s generally less parental worry about how the baby will manage. Another valuable lesson is to see how experienced parents juggle everyone’s needs. Every child seems to take turns vying for their parent’s attention and inevitably, the smallest people need to wait their turn too.
The heat of an Australian Christmas means that maintaining hydration and a cool body temperature is a priority. Small babies particularly, can become very grizzly when they’re hot and uncomfortable. Extra breastfeeds and offers of cooled; boiled water for babies who are bottle-fed is a good way of maintaining hydration.
Your baby may not be too keen on hot solid foods such as vegetables and meat. If they’re old enough, aim for a family diet with a focus on salad type vegetables and small pieces of cut up meat, egg, chicken etc. Introduce your baby to a sipper cup with cooled, boiled water so they can learn what’s involved with drinking from a cup.
When in doubt, bath your baby. Over the long weeks of summer, a cooling bath can be the best way to defuse crankiness and help boost feelings of comfort.
Remember, your baby doesn’t know that it’s Christmas. No matter how excited you are or tell them how many sleeps until Santa comes, they really won’t understand you. Think about things from your baby’s perspective and use empathy as a basis for all your decisions. It’s never wrong.
Dress your baby in cotton or natural fibres. Feel the temperature of their skin on their back and consider what you’re wearing yourself. Although it’s lovely to dress our children up in festive finery, they can become very hot and uncomfortable, so think about their experience and what’s right for them.
Relax a little and expect your baby to be passed around for cuddles and attention. Babies learn how to be social as a result of how they’re cared for and importantly, the way other people respond to them. It’s inevitable they’ll be rocked and cuddled to sleep at times, just go with the flow.
Everyone will be an expert about your baby’s needs and development. Even if you’ve not seen some of those relatives and friends for a very long time, expect them to be the font of all wisdom. Be gracious and a role model for your baby on how to be a decent human.
Six Silly Season Tips for Australian Babies
- Limit your alcohol consumption if you’re breastfeeding. Current research is inconclusive about the considered safe level of alcohol for breastfeeding mothers. Stick with soda water, cordial, juice or just plain tap water to be completely safe.
- Confirm in advance who is caring for your baby when you attend functions. Negotiate who will be the main carer for your baby if you’re going out and likely to be distracted by conversation.
- Never leave your child in the care of someone you don’t know and don’t trust. The same rules of responsible caregiving apply whatever the time of year.
- Check the safety of new toys. Do your own checking for safety and be satisfied that button batteries, ties, buttons and other choking hazards aren’t part of a toy or present.
- Don't take unnecessary risks. Remember, physics doesn’t take holidays and risky behaviour is still dangerous whatever time of the year. Cross at the lights, keep your baby’s pram close to you and use the pram brakes if your hands aren’t on the handle.
- Keep to the safe sleep rules with your baby. Many parents start bed-sharing on holidays because of no cot and room availability. But start as you mean to go on and always follow the red nose safe sleeping rules
- Use your baby’s own cot for their sleeps. If using a porta-cot, ensure it meets the Australian Safety Standards.
- Follow your baby’s usual routine for feeds and sleeps. Don’t become so relaxed that their routine is completely abandoned and will need some serious adjustment once Christmas is over.
- If you’re going away, set up your baby’s nursery in a similar way to at home. Position their cot in the same way and organise the room so you know where things are and you’re sorted.
- Decide which parts of your baby’s routine can be a bit more flexible and which you’re keen to maintain over the holidays.
- Don’t become anxious about struggling to resume your usual routine once home. It’s important you relax and take things as they come. You deserve a break as well.
Five Tips on Managing Christmas Sleepy Time
- Share the work with your partner and family. Accept all reasonable offers of support and let trusted family members and friends settle your baby if they offer.
- Try to be home for your baby’s nap times through the day. If you can’t, then decide which ones you can be home for. Babies can quickly get used to going to sleep in the car or their pram and often need help adjusting back into cot settling.
- Follow your baby’s lead and settle them when they’re showing tired signs rather than sticking with an inflexible routine. Your baby is more likely to settle easily if they’re genuinely tired.
- Expect your baby’s routine to change if they’re surrounded by lots of lovely stimulation. In the big scheme of things, stimulation and interaction with others is a vital part of healthy development. Missing some sleep is a small price to pay for other benefits.
- Be a little more relaxed and try not to stress out too much. You deserve a break as much as anybody else. Focus on what’s truly important like relationships, connection and enjoying each other’s company.
If you're needing some extra support during the Christmas holiday season, our RockaBub app has heaps of advice and tips to help.
The Health Professionals who developed RockaBub have worked with literally thousands of sleep challenged babies and toddlers and now share their wisdom with families in this app.
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Written for Safe Sleep Space by Jane Barry, Child Health Nurse and Midwife.