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toddler sleep problems travel

Silent Night, Sleepless Night

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,

Moxie just opened for the 2012 holiday season, and I want to throw up as it means holidays are around the corner. I have a 14-month-old son (who makes reading about Ike even more fun than it might otherwise be). He’s a darling, wonderful, brilliant child, but he sleeps like crap. We’ve had pretty good success with Ferber-style sleep training, and he goes to sleep on his own. The problem is that if ANYTHING (teeth, sickness, developmental milestone, overtiredness, grandparents, you name it) happens in his life, he starts waking up a ton at night. We’re talking 4 to 8 full-on, screaming screamfests, at least one of which requires parental intervention for any of us to get any sleep. He’s struggled with every single sleep regression anyone has ever identified, and we’re barely limping out of the teeth of yet another lousy two weeks (molars + cold + started walking = AGH).

Previously, when we’ve traveled we have just adopted an “anything goes, let’s just get through this trip and then we’ll get back to normal” attitude that generally results in me nursing him to sleep a lot and sometimes cosleeping. We’re not willing to deal with the screamfests in our parents’ houses, let alone hotels, and when he was younger it was pretty easy to get him back on the routine when we got home. But we traveled to my family at the end of June, and I feel like we never did get quite back to normal. We’d be close, and then there’d be a new setback.

We just cancelled a trip to see my inlaws this coming week, because I’m exhausted and we just, finally, maybe, touch wood, turned the corner on the latest set of sleep disruptions. But we are supposed to spend Thanksgiving with my inlaws, and Christmas with my family. My husband is of the opinion that we should just put a moratorium on travel until our son is 3 or so. He feels that if it’s really that important to spend holidays with our family, they will come to us. His family likely will, but my family can’t.


1) What do people with non-sleeping kids do? Do we cancel travel for a while, or deal with no sleep for a while, or is there a magic strategy I don’t know about?

2) If we have to cancel holiday trips, how do I explain to my family that we aren’t coming? Furthermore, I have two nieces who are local to my family, and who have spent the night with their grandparents before without incident. How do I deal with the inevitable judginess if we choose to accommodate our darling screamer?

3) It was my inlaws’ turn for Christmas last year. My family will feel it very keenly if they don’t get their turn this year, and also I’m sad at the prospect that they might never get to spend Christmas with my son. Long lasting sleep deprivation is not a particularly good basis for handling highly emotional subject matter, and so I’m having trouble evaluating the importance of fairness, and of family disappointment.

What to do, what to do?

Oh man, I am sorry. This is SUCH a tough issue. And one that I’m guessing there really won’t be any sort of consensus. Except to simply do your best, do what feels the most right, and try to cut yourself some guilt-slack.

Noah was only about two months old when we traveled from DC to PA for his first Thanksgiving. Because we always went to PA for Thanksgiving! And because we weren’t gonna start changing our plans and sit at home and demand people come see us on the holidays instead JUST because we had one teeny tiny easy little baby.

After the three-hour car trip turned into a six-hour nightmare excursion of traffic and screaming baby hell (BOTH WAYS), we cried uncle. We haven’t been to PA for Thanksgiving since.

Now, we still go up for other visits — last year was the first time we hosted Christmas here, though I’m not really sure that was “easier” in any way, shape or form — and while we certainly have had our share of travel-related sleep disturbances (strange bed! strange people! I slept too long in the car and NOW YOU MUST PAY! etc.), I don’t think we have experienced anything quite as brutal as what you’re describing. Maybe one initial rough night and some stressful nap times, but no screaming for hours and hours on end.

HOWEVER, even the worst sleeper at 14 months is not ALWAYS going to be the worst sleeper. Or always going to be 14 months old. If I could make a baseless prediction, I’d say by next year, he’ll be much, much better. Possibly even fine. At least from a screaming perspective. I mean, Christmas 2013 is 14 months away. That’s DOUBLE HIS WHOLE LIFE. You’ll be absolutely amazed at how much maturity and development is going to happen in that time. He might still be a sensitive sleeper, but hopefully not a screamer, and you’ll likely have other tools at your sleep-soothing disposal besides nursing and co-sleeping.

(THINK: cartoons and toddler apps loaded on a phone or tablet and a set of headphones. You sleep, he basks in the warming glowing glow until he eventually passes out. No, it’s not ideal, but it’s SURVIVAL.)

But yeah, I would totally have your back on skipping the holidays this year. But just frame it as ONE YEAR off, not some indefinite “we’re out for two, three years” hiatus. If you want to avoid the “judgment” because other babies in your family THAT ARE NOT YOURS have different sleep habits and needs, make up some other excuses. One of you has some work stuff — a big project, a deadline that means you can’t take as many days off. Someone suddenly comes down with a poorly-timed illness.

Or tell the truth that your son just isn’t a good traveler yet and you’re toast, and just really really need to spend ONE Christmas morning at home.

If your cancellations are met with much sturm und drang and DRAMAZ, you could try asking for a little help from the group. If your son is in a houseful of loving grandparents and/or aunts and/or uncles, cousins, etc., and that houseful of relatives REALLY wants you to come, well…enlist their help with the night shift. Ask Grandma if she can rock him for awhile. Or if that’s not helpful, insist that at SOME POINT during the day, you can turn him over to someone else and take a nap. A long one, so you’re more prepared for the night ahead. And stick to that plan and get some rest when you can.

Again, this is a really tough situation, albeit one that a lot of families with young babies and toddlers have been in, to some degree. The holidays are supposed to be wonderful and relaxing and yet suddenly this precious little person (for whom you are TRYING to create wonderful memories and traditions for) comes along and makes everything complicated and stressful. I’m sure everybody has made different choices and calls.

For some, it’s just too important to see family and carry on traditions and get the photos/videos while you can (especially in the case of elderly or sick parents), so you power through the sleep problems or traffic jams or airport nightmares. Others might just unapologetically choose their own sanity and sit one or two Christmases out. Others move to a hotel, offer to host instead, visit on non-major holidays so baby can have his own room and mom can avoid the traffic…or start booking family vacations and branch off completely with a new set of holiday traditions that don’t involve going to the crazy in-laws or whatever dysfunctional situation was going on before. 99 problems, 999,999,999,999 different solutions and compromises.

We personally called it quits on Thanksgiving, but stayed committed to Christmas. (Though in our case, we’re SUPER LUCKY that both of our parents live(d) in the same town, about 10 minutes apart. You don’t have that luxury and I completely recognize the wrench it throws in things.)

Now that we have three (THREEEEEEE) small children, I’ve gotten admittedly more stubborn about dropping everything and hauling them all over and have more or less insisted that people come see us. Some do, some don’t. But one day I will have three older children and won’t have to drag diapers and Pack-n-Plays and 500 million pounds of gear around, and it will be easier to visit family around the holidays. Maybe even Thanksgiving! But…uh…probably not yet. Not this year.

Readers? Any tips for powering through the holidays with a non-sleeping baby? Or tips for breaking the news gently to the grandparents that you’re staying home for Christmas?

Photo source: iStockphoto/ Thinkstock

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Amelia

    October 15, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I just want to offer an “I’ve been there” message.  My first son didn’t sleep through the night, EVER, until he was 20 months old.  And he would scream.  Oh, how he would scream.  He would wake up and hate it, he would hate being put back to bed, he hated teeth, growth spurts and milestones made him cranky… it was all there, just like you.  And if I brought him into my bed he would either pass out and then turn sideways, thus shoving dad and mom out of the way, or he would magically be awake! awake! let’s play games! awake!  There was a time there when he would only fall asleep if he was resting his head ON MY FACE.

    Whew!  I’m glad those days are over!  And you will be, too!  Eventually!  Because Amalah’s right, this won’t last forever.  Heck, it might not even last until Christmas.  And your next baby (if you have one) might be totally different!  So fear not – even if he never sleeps, eventually, he’ll be able to sit and read on his own until he’s tired (my son still doesn’t like bedtime and doesn’t get to sleep until 10 most nights, which seems really late to me for a four-year-old).

  • Liz

    October 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Oh shit, girl. I have one of these and I’m so sorry. SO VERY SORRY. My son is now 28 months and is just NOW sleeping through the night, most of the time anyway. It’s been a horrible, sleepless, terrifying, screamfest of a first and second year. He never slept well, from birth. We have tried all the things, a few times, and been as consistent as possible with each until we gave up and tried something else. Cosleeping stopped working around your son’s age (this was our fourth baby, we coslept with all of them until this guy). He was just too fighty, no one was sleeping at all. Moving into his own bed helped for him a BIT, but the screaming was just UGH. He’d scream while you held him, if you left the room, wore him in a carrier, you name it. I just think he was SO beyond overtired by that point that he just wasn’t functioning well anymore. He couldn’t fall asleep or stay asleep once he got there.

    When he was able to consistently fall asleep, it was staying asleep we struggled with. It slowly, slowly got better.

    I have no help really beside hope. It will get better. It got better for us when our extremely defiant, extremely sensitive, full of drama (but honestly, wonderful) son could actually begin to understand the things we were saying well enough and to be able to tell US what was bothering him.

    I offer you so many hugs and a nap. I’m sorry. It will get better!!!!

  • Stephanie

    October 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I feel for you. Neither my parents nor my in-laws live anywhere near us, so it sucks. I absolutely hate having to travel, on a plane, with kids, especially during the holidays. Last Christmas I was pregnant with baby girl number 2, so both sets of grandparents came to us, thankfully at different times.
    Anyway, flash forward to today. I have a 7 month old who is generally a good sleeper, but if anything gets her off track, man. She will let us have it! Last night she screamed at the top of her lungs for 2 hours. I think it was because she had a cold, or she is teething. I don’t know. But uggh! We’re flying to see my in-laws in a couple weeks because it’s just easier to do it at a random time than during major holidays. Plus, traveling to Chicago at Christmas is the worst. It’s always freezing, there’s nothing to do outside for us non-winter people. Still, I’m fully expecting the baby to be horrible. Good luck! I hope it gets better.

  • Shannon

    October 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Oh man, have I been there and I feel your pain. My advice is to follow your gut on this one holiday season. If you really feel like the travel is going to be more work than fun, just be honest with your family. Tell them it is only for this year and that you’ll re-evaluate next year.

    We had a nightmare travel week when my son was 10 months old and we had several families staying in one house. My son would wake up early (freaking different time zones!) and proceed to wake up the whole house of hung-over people who just wanted to sleep in. And at night if he woke up crying, I would run to get him which caused my MIL to complain that my running woke her up! That trip left a very bad taste in my mouth for a long time.
    I say, stick to your guns and do what is best for your little family. Good luck!

  • Bonnie

    October 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    I, also, have no real advice, but I wanted to chime in and say that I’ve been there and it will get better in time. Maybe less time than you think, too. My son is now 21 months and I NEVER thought he would EVER go to sleep easily, much less sleep through the night, but gradually it just happened. He was definitely still a terrible sleeper at 14 months. We didn’t participate in any formal sleep training programs, aside from sending Daddy in to get him back to sleep boob-less if possible. It was the same situation as you described- we would be sleeping well enough that we were surviving, and then something would happen- a trip, a visitor, a new batch of teeth- and all hell would break loose and it took about three weeks each time to get back to “normal”, except that usually by that time some other disruption arose and started the cycle again. My parenting motto is to “muddle through”. That’s the only advice I feel I am ever qualified to give about tricky situations, but it works! Just try to make it through, day to day, and if you continue to be consistent and loving I really believe things will just get better. What helps our little guy sleep is having a really solid routine, which means that we have special music that we play at nap and bedtimes, and we bring that with us everywhere now, along with a familiar blanket. Start the soothing routine HOURS before bed, to help him dissipate some of the tension that these changes bring. We still utilize our Ergo heavily on trips, because he’s always liked taking walks in there and it relaxes him. He’s also an avid comfort nurser, to this day, and I feel comfortable using that to help him keep his stress level down throughout the day. Whatever things help your son calm down, let him use those tools, even if it’s something people might frown at (nursing, paci, bottle, lovey, whatever). Take turns sleeping in with your partner (and any other family willing to help out) to keep a lid on your exhaustion. Feel free to not participate in all the daily activities you are expected to do. So much of it comes down to managing his tension level during the day to help him rest at night.
    I hope that some of this is helpful. You aren’t doing anything wrong, and you can help your son ride out this rough period in his sleep-life. Some day he will sleep better and you can get back to doing all the trips and things you want to/feel obligated to do. For now, do what you think you and your son and partner will enjoy the most, whether that’s staying home and relaxing together or sucking it up and making the most of your trips. Parenting is HARD, so I think the most important thing is to make sure you are enjoying your babies to the fullest extent, and you won’t ever look back at what you decided to do and regret it.

  • Whozat

    October 15, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    I’m just going to throw this out there – are nursing to sleep and cosleeping absolutely off the table for you? 

    I’m a “do what works” kind of gal, and that’s what worked for us and for our daughter

    I can’t imagine what we would have been dealing with if we’d been attempting to do it any other way.

    • Julie

      October 15, 2012 at 6:59 pm

      I want to second this one. It’s so not for everybody, I know, but the day my husband and I gave in and threw a couple of mattresses on the floor for a giant family bed, the world changed. We sleep, we’re happy. Even when the kid wakes up a lot because she’s going through something, a boob in her face and a cuddle put all right within a couple of minutes and I only have to roll over. 
      And then there’s this, which may be obvious, but it wasn’t to me: just realizing that her bad nights had a reason (developmental burst or whatever) and weren’t a signal of the deterioration of all that was right and good calmed me down about it all. To be fair, I haven’t experienced ANYTHING like you, but the days I truly lost my mind over her waking up ended when I understood that a new leap of independence during the day might mean she would need more closeness and dependence at night.
      I so wish you a good night’s sleep!

  • Kailee

    October 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    I have a baby who is VERY sleep sensitive. He likes his crib and his room and sleeps best there. However, we recently moved from DC to Denver and we had to stay at my mom and dad’s house while our things were shipped. 

    They had set up a crib in the spare room with the exact same mattress we have in his crib at home. We had packed his mall fan we use for white noise and you know what? He did really well! Now, then adjusting into his new room and the new house, well that’s a different story!

    I know not everyone has the option for the baby to be in their own room (especially with lots of family around for the holidays) or in a crib instead of a pack n pay, but if it is an option it might work!

    You know your guy best, and if it will be too stressful for him AND you, just skip this year and reevaluate next! Yeah, you might get a few eye rolls or whatever, but who cares? They’re not the ones dealing with him when his sleep schedule has been disrupted!

  • allison

    October 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Oh man…my 18 month old still kind of sucks at sleeping and I hear you, it’s so hard. If you ask me at 1am on one of those nights when she’s been up already 2-3 times (or even once, really)…well sometimes I might growl that YES I AM READY TO WEAN HER THANK YOU. Then the morning comes, I feel guilty, I want to nurse her forever and it all seems ok again.

    I’m so torn.

  • Susan:)

    October 15, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Ugh, flashbacks to the last two Thanksgivings! We spent them in one big cabin with all the extended family. Trying to put the baby to sleep was awful. She sleeps best in her room alone with her own bed. Sleeping in a cabin in a portable crib was not agreeable to her and she screamed and cried for hours. She was 1 yr old the first year. Last year, at age 2, she still did not want to sleep there, but she screamed and cried much less. This year, we are hoping she will do much better, as she will be three and she’s now used to sharing a room with her older sister. And I think we will bring her usual bedtime music this time, that should help. Good luck with whatever you decide!

  • Hannah

    October 15, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Thank you for this post – my kiddo is a great sleeper…until she’s not. And she’s just started skipping naps, and waking up in the middle of the night and generally driving me bonkers. So I’m glad, I guess, that I have a whole community of people who are also up in the middle of the night. I, too, dread Thanksgiving – we’re all going to be crowded into one little room, my parents are much less than understanding, but we can’t cancel OR ELSE, and etc. So, If you can cancel, do! I’ll be rooting for you!

  • Jessica

    October 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Just a word of hope / testament to the unpredictability of toddlers. My son, now 3 and a half,  was a terrible terrible sleeper. He had major regressions with every out of town trip. He was still waking with some regularity overnight when, at 26 months, we visited the in-laws. He was sleeping in a pack-n-play in our room. When woke overnight, we would mumble night-night, lay down, etc from the comfort of our bed. And, he DID IT! By the end of the visit he was sleeping through the night. And, he kept on sleeping through the night once we got home. There was something about that experience of having us near him overnight that FIXED whatever was going on in his 2 year old brain in those wee morning hours. A year later, he remains a good sleeper. So, just to say travel can impact sleep in either direction, and past history does not predict future behavior in a ever-changing, developing, child. 

  • Lindsay

    October 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    The ONLY thing that worked for us was “The No Cry Sleep Solution.”  It took a while, but it was the only thing that helped my oldest fall asleep on his own without the screaming.  For the love of God…THE SCREAMING! 

    Good luck to you!

  • Jimmy

    October 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Sounds very familiar.  Our oldest wasn’t much for sleep until he was about one year old.  Our extended families live close together, plus my wife’s side has step parents involved, so we had three “home” bases to appease with each holiday.  I feel your pain.  Our families are big and close and not spending holidays together never felt like much of an option, even though we knew that it was going to be a baby sleep disaster.  

    We learned that two things helped (didn’t solve the problem, just helped) when we spent the night away from his own crib: 1) loud sound machines and 2) pitch black rooms.  If someone has a closet big enough for a pack-and-play it might be worth setting the little one up in there (target sells a no-frills pack and play that is a little smaller than the others and only costs 50 bucks – it’s about two feet wide by three feet long).  

    The deep darkness helped keep him from seeing that he was in a strange place in the middle of the night.  The noise maker was a nice way to keep the night sounds consistent with home.  

    We also finally pushed to spread out the celebrations.  We used to try to cram everything into one day.  It became more stress than joy.  And the stress of running around led to worse sleep for the baby.  Instead, everyone got their own day.  My wife’s dad got chrismas eve, my parents got christmas, my wife’s mom got the following weekend.  Thanksgiving is a similar situation.  Everybody ends up with more time with us, which made telling them we wouldn’t see each other on the actual holiday sting less.  My three older brothers and their wives have adopted our approach after seeing how well it worked.  

    Good luck!

  • IrishCream

    October 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    My kids are little, so we’re still figuring out the sleep thing (and are cutting back on our holiday travel this year in part for that reason). My niece and three nephews are all elementary-aged or older. Of the four of them, the one who didn’t sleep through the night until he was almost three turned into the kid who put himself to bed from the age of four on. He’d disappear at family parties and we’d find he’d gone ahead and tucked himself in and gone to sleep. At age 15, he’s the kid who falls asleep first at sleepovers. So there is hope for the future. Wish I had better advice for the right now, but I think earlier commenters (and Amy) have summed it up well: do whatever gets you through, and know that it won’t last forever.

  • K

    October 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I’m right there with you. My youngest child hates riding in the car. Actually hate is not a strong enough word for it, I suspect, but I’ve learned to dread anything more than a quick trips. Anything more than that, she’s miserable, we’re miserable, then it throws off her nap, which throws off her sleep, and blammo, we’re back a square one. The family is 6 hours and the in-laws are 9 hours away. We’ve gone the route of reducing our travel schedule considerably. And we pissed off a lot of family, but I’m just not going to make my kid be miserable for 6 hours or 9 hours. I just can’t justify it, at least until she’s old enough to understand and/or outgrow it. To make matters worse, my older child has been a good traveler, so now the family doesn’t understand why my youngest is such a problem.

    One thing that did help was to let those who complained the most (mainly my mom and mother-in-law) experience my youngest child when she’s miserable in the car and off-schedule because of it. A good 1hour car ride followed by a rough evening cured most of the complaints. It helps them understand what we’re dealing with, because after all, they don’t want their grandchild miserable, either.

  • Autumn

    October 15, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    I feel your pain.  My kiddo is about the same age, and she sleeps great except when she doesn’t.  We are going to do thanksgiving just cause my brother will be in town and I haven’t seen him for over a year.  Christmas is really up in the air, plus MIL drama that I just don’t know if I feel up to dealing with. Last Christmas she put all the food away before I was able to eat cause I was taking care of the baby.  Twice.  

    Do what you have to do.  Start your own traditions.  I’ve always traveled for holidays, and part of me really wants my daughter to not have to deal with all of that and enjoy a major holiday in her own home

  • Liz

    October 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    I have the same child, but even worse probably. Up 8-10 times a night with inconsolable screaming, from birth through 20 months. I kept pushing for normalcy, tradition and travel, and it was all a huge mistake. Every holiday and vacay was essentially ruined, plus payback after returning home. Wish I would have just taken it easy and stayed home for most of it! Now at 22 months, she’s finally getting better with sleep. So maybe next year we can have travel holidays again. Don’t even feel guilty about it!

    • Liz

      October 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      PS – we co-slept and breastfed on demand for 18 months and it did not make it better. Mostly worse, when you are dealing with such a light sleeper. I was dead set on it, but not every baby can handle attachment parenting if they are overly sensitive and can’t self-calm.

  • Susie

    October 15, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    My munchkin sleeps great, and we still don’t l much! Both grandparents require planes to visit, and I can’t fathom how we’re gonna make that happen for great-grandpa’s birthday next summer. My son will be two. I’m terrified of that flight…

  • TwinMamaTeb

    October 15, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    I vote for going another time. Holidays are tough bc you are stuck inside ALL DAY, with all of those new people, and NO WHERE ELSE TO GO. Go when its just you and your parents, who maybe 1 on 1 will be a little bit more understanding and not judgmental. When you can take him to new parks, museums, etc that will certainly tire him out. My kids pass out from sheer exhaustion every night when we make the 5 hr drive to Gigi’s house. 

  • Antje

    October 15, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Oh man, I hear you.  My daughter did not conform to anyone’s sleep expectations or training methods for the first year of her life.  My advice is to DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU, and don’t apologize for it.  Co-sleep, nurse to sleep, Ferberise, cancel holidays, WHATEVER.

    I mean, I would certainly try to imagine a few compromise scenarios for the sake of your family, but if they won’t work for you, then don’t to them.  Of course you’ll need to gently explain your decision to your family and acknowledge their disappointment, but you don’t need to apologize for doing whatever you feel is best for your own nuclear family and the priorities you have decided on.  Have courage!  You can do it!

    Also:  Things do change.  I can’t promise when, but I can promise that they will.  My daughter really turned a corner at her first birthday, and today (at 17 months) she has a nice early bedtime and mostly only wakes up once or twice per night and we will NEVER COMPLAIN AGAIN.

  • Myriam

    October 16, 2012 at 10:01 am

    My 22 month old is now an amazing sleeper, but she was tough until last august. She went from not being able to fall asleep on her own EVER, to requesting to go go to bed, skipping the books, turning her music on and falling asleep! All that after a week-long vacation with my family. We were ready to cry-it out, with my sister’s help (she has 2 older daughters), and on the 1st night, we put her to sleep in a pack-and-play, she cried for 2 minutes, and then her dad talked to her through the monitor, and she recognized his voice and laid down to sleep. Problem solved! We were flabbergasted! I hope that offers some hope for the future. I also wanted to share some ideas IF you decide to travel for Christmas this year. Find out what the sleeping arrangement while be where you’re going, and start that at home about 2 weeks before. Bring the same linens and pillows and stuffed animals/music/white noise machine from home. If you can, isolate yourself and the kid about 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Say goodnight to everybody before that. Maybe do bathtime and lock yourself in the bathroom, after go to your room and do the usual night routine. That might help with the calming-down from the overstimulation of the company. I highly recommend a video monitor, that way you can watch and talk to the baby without going in the room and disturbing their self-soothing attempts. Godd luck, and do what’s right for YOU and YOUR CHILD!

  • Elizabeth

    October 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I don’t have any solid sleep advice except to say we’ve been there. Even with my daughter, who was always a good sleeper, trying to put her down in a strange bed in a strange room while a dozen adults are making their loud holiday party noises downstairs was rough.

    I do want to put a vote in for being nice to yourselves and choosing what’s best for your family this year. Neither my husband nor I have family in town. After 11 years (!) of always being the ones to pack up, pay for gas/tickets, take on the stress of travel we’ve put our foot down. It’s too stressful for our little family and it isn’t fair that we’re always the ones taking the burden. Plus, I think it’s important to build holiday traditions and memories in your child’s home, too.

    Yes, I’ll miss the traditions we love. But this is the first year my daughter has a concept of Santa and presents and I can’t wait to see her gleeful face in our very own home on Christmas morning.

  • Brooke

    October 16, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    I can tell from your letter that you really care about your parents and making them happy. If I were you, I’d call your mother and tell her exactly what you said in your letter. Maybe even read it – and then ask her to weigh in. She might surprise you and agree that it doesn’t seem to be a great time – and work to schedule a different visit at a later time, or just agree that the rotation you have going get moved so that you do Christmas with them next year. Or she may offer to help with the sleepless nights. I’ve found my parents and in-laws to be more understanding than I gave them credit for when we had an open discussion about whatever was bugging me. If, even after you have the discussion, you can’t come to a mutually acceptable agreement – do what is best for your family. But a discussion about it at least lets your parents know your reasons why, and that you cared enough to let their opinion be heard.

  • VG

    October 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    As what others have said, you need to do what’s best for your son. I know Holidays are special times to get together and see family, but THIS family (you, your hubby & son) always comes first. I don’t have any advice to offer for the sleeping, but I can tell you that doing the holiday house hopping with a semi-sick child is just TERRIBLE. That happened to us last year. I spent Christmas Eve sleeping on my couch with my daughter next to me in her Pack & Play since she wasn’t still sleeping well from a bad cold. Then had to get up early, do our Christmas here, get dressed, have Brunch at my BIL’s (which last for several hours), then go home for a little bit, then trek over to MILs for dinner. The days prior to that, my daughter and I hardly slept. So, hubby has been forewarned that from now on, if the kid is sick, she goes NOWHERE on the holidays. He’s not keen on that, but he ain’t the one up at night with her, so I trump him 🙂

  • Corinne

    October 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Ugh, this is a problem that we have had since our 17 month old was born. Actually, I take that back, the first trip back to Ohio when he was 3 months old, he slept better while we were there, because the room had blackout curtains. We quickly bought some blackout curtains when we got home. Now he sleeps pretty well at home (although anytime something is wrong, teething, cold etc. he’s up at night). But travelling is a nightmare. He is such a light sleeper, and if he can see (or sense or smell, I don’t know) that we’re in the room he will not go back to sleep until he’s been cuddled and nursed. Which is fine, if it’s once, but not if it’s every 45 f*cking minutes. And if he would just sleep in the bed and help himself, that would also be fine. Co-sleeping involves even less sleeping than the waking up every 45 minute scenario. At least then we get a good 40 minutes of sleep at a time. He will not co-sleep. And if we make the mistake of falling asleep (i.e. passing out from sheer exhaustion) he usually head-dives onto the floor.

    I have no solution for you, it’s just awful. We’ve cut back on trips to visit everyone in Ohio because it’s just so awful. We might only go once this year (after Christmas). Basically whichever parents we’re visiting, that person gets to get up with the baby come daybreak and visit with the family while the other person gets a couple more hours of sleep.

    We don’t want to cut out visits entirely because then we would never see our friends or our grandmothers, and my baby nephew who is due in December!

  • Kat

    October 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    We have a six month old and this will be our first holiday season. But we have already had to have a few conversations about what we can and can’t do regarding travel for other events. His family lives a good piece North of us, and initially we were driving up constantly so that everyone could see baby. I finally lost it one weekend (4 hours in the car with a teething baby who just wants momma and to nurse and nap and cuddle was just too much for me). It just wasn’t worth it to see our son so upset and miserable, and by the time we got there he just wanted to nurse and sleep (and not be held by anyone at all, no). Basically I told my husband that I was done shuttling baby back and forth, and if they wanted to see us they could come down every other trip. I would happily cook for them, do whatever, but we were not getting in that car. The result: some “well, but all of us live up here and it’s easier for all of us…”, but eventually I got my way. I just explained that baby was not happy, and they weren’t getting to interact with him anyway because I spent the whole visit nursing him under a blanket because he was upset so…yeah. You wanna see him? Come to our house. MIL doesn’t see him nearly as often (funny how it isn’t as important when you have to do the driving/pay for gas), but everyone else makes an effort to trade off with us (and sees how much more active and fun baby is when he hasn’t been trapped in the car). So: totally worth the initial drama it caused, and in the end I have been surprised at how much more accommodating everyone is (my SIL has a baby a few months older, so she now understands why commuting like that a few times a month is not fun and appreciates splitting the visits like we do). Tell the families the truth, travel is difficult with a baby and everyone needs to pitch in a bit and be flexible!

  • Erin

    October 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    We have decided to stay home this year for our first Christmas at home with our almost two year old.
    And we just flat out told our families straight up that we were doing it and why (its important to us to start our own traditions) and when we’d be up to see them.
    I’m sure they’re miffed on some level, but they have all supported it and aren’t throwing fits. I think because we have mentioned that we aren’t cuttin them out altogether for the holiday helps. But also both of our families never dragged us kids around on the holidays and I think they understand that we don’t want to do the same.

  • Carmen

    October 22, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    My son did not sleep through the night until he was nearly 3 years old. I tried and read everything, as I’m sure you have and if you get another piece of advice you’ll probably want to scream.
    Here is what I would have done with regards to travel (because we did it):
    1. Warn EVERYONE many times that your child does not sleep and if they expect to get any sleep either they need to bring earplugs or a white noise machine.

    2. I highly recommend getting a white noise machine for yourself….some cell phones have the white noise app on them. 3. Who cares if your relatives don’t get a good sleep over the holidays, they only have to deal with it for a few nights, you have already been dealing with it for over a year!!!

    4. Jokingly tell everyone that all you want for Christmas is a full night’s sleep. Keep saying it over and over until somebody offers to give you a rest – then take them up on it. If they truly mean it they will just do it for you and make you get some rest. 5. Don’t go. Tell everyone that it is just too hard with the amount of exhaustion you’ll have to endure on top of the exhaustion you are already dealing with. Tell them you don’t have room to get any more tired before your body breaks down. 6. Your body will break down with lack of sleep. So will your relationships. Do EVERYTHING in your power to get some good sleep. Your marriage and your relationship with your children with thank you. And your patience factor will thank you also.

    7. If you must go, rent your own hotel room. I think it makes things easier when you have your own space.

    Good luck with everything, I feel for you. Been there, done that. They just grow out of it.

  • Deborah

    October 24, 2012 at 4:03 am

    I feel for you on this one. Different set of holidays (Passover, weekly Sabbath visits, etc), but same issue. When our son, who is now 4, was tiny, it was no big deal, as we knew we would be woken up several times a night wherever we were, and being away didn’t make much difference. However, when he was five months old we did a long, trans-atlantic trip over Passover. We were on five different planes, I think. He didn’t sleep for longer than 2 hours at a time the entire month we were away, and then, to add insult to injury, when we finally got home, the jetlag was so bad that we nearly went insane. We had to take turns staying up with a baby who was wide-awake at night, and then work during the day while he slept. It took a full week for him to adapt, and then we went through two months of traumatic sleep-training.

    We didn’t fly with him again until he was 2.5, and even then it was only a 4 hour flight/2 hour time difference. We didn’t do the trans-atlantic thing again until he was 3.5 and it was a totally different, wonderful experience. 

    Sabbath visits were also an issue for us. Our son *always* hated sleeping in the pak n play. It would take around an hour of screaming and crying before he would finally settle down and sleep – an hour which would have me on edge and nearly in tears myself. Because at home, by then, he was an ok sleeper (although we had a lot of trouble turning him into one). Then, invariably, he would wake up at about 1am, full of beans, convinced it was daytime already, and want to jump all over us and play – for the REST of the night. It was actually cute, and I would laugh – until I started crying out of sheer exhaustion. And then my husband would take him downstairs somewhere and stay up with him all night so I could get some sleep. And then we were all just miserable for the rest of the day, and seriously sleep-deprived the rest of the week. We went through this a number of times until we realized we just couldn’t handle it. We couldn’t handle knowing we would be missing almost an entire night of sleep, it just wasn’t worth it. So we stopped going anywhere overnight with him for about a year. When he was about 2, he started sleeping better when we went away, so we gradually started it again (started it one weekend when we had no choice as it was our niece’s batmitzvah, which we just could not miss). From then on, it got much, much better, and we were able to start travelling for Sabbath and festivals again.

    I’m pregnant now and due in January. We are *not* going to travel for Passover next year with a two month old baby. Not anywhere. Hopefully parents will come to us. We may travel trans-atlantically a year later, when this baby is 15 months – we’ll see what the baby is like by that point. But we have learned our lesson. There may be times when you can’t avoid travel, but if you have a bad sleeper, and your time away is going to be more pain than pleasure because of it, then it is well within your rights to decline invitations/change traditions. It is only temporary, and it WILL get better. Our son has been a champion sleeper for about a year and a half now, still taking naps over the weekend even though he’s 4, and sleeping a solid 11-12 hours a night. Never would have believed it if you’d told me that 2 years ago.

    Good luck! 

  • Nikasha

    November 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    You didn’t mention why your family can’t travel to you, or how big your family is. However, if it’s for financial reasons and just your parents, another option would be offering to pay for them to travel to you this year as a Christmas gift. You would have been spending the same amount anyway to travel to them.