Navigating Nap Time and Holiday Meals

In this episode of the Rockabye Mama Baby and Toddler Sleep Podcast, we’re continuing our series on the holidays and sleep — specifically, how to navigate when your child’s nap time happens to fall during family meal time.

Um, Katie…I’d prefer to read the transcript.

No problem! Read it below!

The last few weeks, I’ve shared a holiday series on sleep — traveling with your kids and then responding to family who may not agree with your sleep plan. Today is a bonus episode, and I am putting it out a little earlier than normal because I want you to feel prepared when it comes to holiday meals.

In the US, Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and as my family was making plans yesterday, I realized that Thanksgiving lunch was going to be right at Olivia’s naptime. And I know many of you will be in a similar situation, with family meals occurring at naptime or bedtime, so I wanted to offer you a few suggestions to navigate those scenarios.

Before we start, I want to give you permission to not stress about this at all if you don’t want to. You have the authority to adjust your child’s schedule for the day and not stress about their naps or bedtime. You can carry on with the day and let whatever happen happen. If they miss a nap, okay. If they take a nap later, okay. If bedtime is later, fine.

You 100% can do that. BUT, just know that, depending on your child, it could cause more wakings at night or an early morning wake the next day. And that’s not the end of the world, I just want you to be prepared.

So if that’s you — if the thought of trying to manipulate your child’s nap schedule stresses you out, then thank you for tuning in today, but I want you to click out of the podcast. It is never my intention to make you feel like you have to do something.

Now, maybe you know that you need to adjust your child’s naps. Maybe letting them skip a nap isn’t an option because your child’s behavior will make it worse for you to get through a family dinner than it would be just to adjust a naptime. If that’s you, let’s get to solutions.

If mealtime is during your child’s nap time.

If your child takes more than two naps a day, just follow their wake windows, let them contact nap if needed, or see if you can put them in a pack and play in another room.

If your child is taking one or two naps a day, you can wake your child up one-two hours earlier for the day so that their naps are adjusted 2 hours earlier. So let’s say your child normally wakes at 7 am, naps at 12 pm. If we adjust it, they will wake at 5 am, nap at 10 am. This means bedtime may have to be brought up a little, and that’s okay.

If your family’s mealtime is at bedtime

If your family is planning a mealtime that will interfere with your child’s usual bedtime, you can wake them up earlier as mentioned and give them a catnap, or, depending on their age, let them stay up an extra hour.

These suggestions, trying to change your child’s nap schedule, are for the situations where your child can’t just nap wherever you are. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You can ask your aunt or cousin or whoever is hosting if there is a room where you can set up a pack and play for your child to sleep.

In some cases, it may be nice to put your child down for a nap or bedtime and then go out and enjoy dinner with your family. That will just require a little pre-planning, as you’ll want to make sure to pack everything your child typically needs when they go to sleep.

I also want to offer another option — you can show up late. While I don’t want you to feel like you have to plan everything around your child’s naptime, I also believe that it’s okay for parents to honor their child’s schedule and just arrive later to lunch.

It depends on your family and the traditions you have, but at our Thanksgivings, it’s not uncommon for family members to show up late after coming from another lunch.

So if your family lunch is at 2 pm, and that’s when your child will be waking up from their nap, it’s okay if you show up at 3. I would just encourage you to communicate with everyone so that they aren’t waiting on you to begin.

Because trust me, I’ve been on both sides of that before, and it’s not fun for anyone.

Let’s recap some of the suggestions here.

  1. Don’t do anything and just let it play out.
  2. Wake your child up earlier for the day so their naps are earlier.
  3. Ask if you can let your child nap there
  4. Show up later

But Katie, I don’t know what to do. There’s too many options. And that’s really the point. Every family is different, every child is different, and there is no one-size fits all here. For some parents, they will head into this season not wanting to stress about their child’s sleep, and that’s okay. One off day won’t derail everything.

For others, you know your child needs to keep a consistent routine because if they don’t, it’s not going to be fun for anyone. If that’s you, there’s nothing wrong with waking your child up earlier, letting them nap somewhere else, or showing up later.

I want to empower you to make the right choice for your family, even if that means others won’t agree. Because as I mentioned on the last episode, sleep and parenting choices can be very polarizing, and even if their intentions are pure, family members may say the wrong thing, making you feel like you’re doing something wrong.

But you’re not. If you’re making the right choice for your family, it’s not wrong.

I am so glad that you tuned in today, and I hope this holiday season is stress free and enjoyable, at least when it comes to your child’s sleep. If you haven’t yet listened to the other episodes in this holiday series, be sure to check them out. And don’t forget to follow along on Instagram and Facebook, where I’ll be sharing all things baby and toddler sleep. 

Sweet dreams, y’all.

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I’m Katie

certified pediatric sleep consultant

Fueled by equal parts caffeine and passion, I spend my days helping exhausted mamas get their babies the sleep they need. 

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