Holidays and toddlers. Can they mix?

A lot of people come to me after they have been on a holiday with their toddler. Things have gone awry since returning and now their toddler is not sleeping as well as they were prior to the holiday. This can happen for a number of reasons:

  • You may have shared a room with your child while you are away, something you don’t do at home.
  • You may be sharing a house with other people and because you are concerned about noise, you are staying with your child longer than you normally would at bedtime.
  • Your toddler might be going to bed later than they normally do because you are out and about more in the afternoons.
  • Your child might not be getting their normal amount of day sleep because of other activities happening during the day.

And the list goes on!

Holidays are meant to be relaxing for everyone and so I completely understand why things might slip a bit. There is nothing worse than coming home more stressed than when you left! Here are some things you can do to try and minimise the disruption to your toddlers sleep while you are away and when you get home.

  1. Try to keep your routine as much as you can.

When I say routine, I really mean naptimes and bedtime. Children can get extra tired on holidays. Swimming, walking, lots of different activities, even the change in temperature can affect them! So try to get your child into bed around the same time you would at home (obviously taking into account time differences). You should also keep in mind that they may be overtired so getting them down a little earlier could help.

  1. Don’t introduce anything new into the routine.

By this I mean, if your child starts to wake overnight, when they hadn’t previously, or they start to take a bit longer to go off to sleep in the evening, don’t start doing something that you weren’t doing before i.e. sitting with them till they fall asleep, or getting them into your bed if they wake overnight. The problem with doing this while on holiday is that they will expect it to continue when you get home. Try to just settle your child as you have always done. If you need to provide a bit more comfort, do that, but again, try to allow your child to fall asleep on their own, if that is what they usually do.

  1. Once home, get back into your routine as quickly as you can.

If you have had to do things a bit differently while you are away, which is totally understandable, once you are home get back into your usual routine quickly. If you continue doing things as you did on holiday, everything can go a bit pear-shaped. Toddlers’ sleep can go off the rails pretty quickly as they latch onto new routines in just a few days. Try to remember that if your toddler was sleeping well before you went away, they should still be able to do it when you get back. Gently re-establish the bedtime routine and things should get back on track in no time.

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.