Many parents around town have heard of Andrea Elovson — a.k.a. the brains/talent behind Sleepy Bug, LLC, a.k.a. the sleep coach helping Philly-area parents stay sane. The mom of three (11, 9 and 5 years old) has been doing the job for roughly eight years now, helping little ones—thus, entire families—learn how to get quality sleep. Quoth Andrea: “I had so much trouble with my first son’s sleep and the ensuing sleep deprivation (mine) that I vowed if I survived the first year of motherhood, I was going to help as many moms with their children’s sleep as I could, so they didn’t have to suffer the way I had. There was support for birthing and for breastfeeding, why not sleep?”
Why not sleep, indeed? Elovson is certified in the Gentle Sleep Coaching Program; she has additional specialty training in the sleep issues of 4- to 5-month-old-babies; and she’s a preferred provider for Center City Pediatrics, Fairmount Pediatrics, and a whole mess of other local doulas and parenting facilities. Also? She’s funny, and all about the real talk when it comes to plans that actually work for a family. And now she’s kind enough to weigh in with some exclusive advice for Wee readers about sleep and the holidays. We asked her our most pressing questions — namely, how to make it through all the traveling, the babysitters, the screwed up sleeping routines — and she’s got awesome answers and advice.
(BONUS: SEE END OF POST FOR SPECIAL SLEEPY BUG OFFER FOR WEE READERS!)
So I’m already anxious about holiday travels: Our baby– who’s totally a creature of habit– will be in a Pack’n’Play, not a crib, for several nights. I fear the worst. Any tips on helping us all adjust to new accommodations?
Keep reminding yourself that sleep disruptions are common during the holidays— even if you stay at home. I advise my clients to gather details about where your baby will be sleeping before you leave. Is the room sun-drenched? Noisy? Will your family share a wall with a relative who “can’t stand” to hear a baby cry? If so, pack portable solutions like a small sound machine and some dark sheets to darken the room. Ask your host or the concierge if there is a more secluded sleep space. Don’t even consider dismantling and shipping your baby’s crib to ease the transition. (My sister-in-law actually did this. Didn’t work). Limit yourself to a beloved stuffed animal, baby’s crib sheet, a fistful of identical pacifiers and familiar smelling bath soap and baby lotion. Preparing for holiday accommodations can make a big difference, but nothing about baby sleep is guaranteed. Make arrangements to share nap and bedtime duties with your partner so each of you can recharge seeing friends, working out or attending chosen festivities. Please don’t forget, it’s your holiday, too!
Time zones. To re-set the watch and schedule based on the new time zone or not? I’m not psyched about transitioning the baby TWICE in a week, but then again, it’s not so awesome keep the Philly time zone and then wake up an hour earlier than everyone else, and put him to bed at 6 instead of 7 p.m. … Eh. Should we just loosen up and not be so time-oriented?
If the lengthy travel, crowds and delays aren’t enough to torpedo your baby’s sleep schedule, a change in time zone might. Luckily, it is temporary. Most babies will adjust to local time within a day or two. Obviously an hour difference is easier to master than a Thanksgiving trip to New Zealand. Either way, I don’t advise trying to ease your baby onto the destination time before you leave. All you get is an overtired baby who is bound to be crankier during the trip. Instead, protect your child’s current sleep times. Once you arrive, move naps and bedtimes onto local time as quickly as possible. If you land in Los Angeles from Philadelphia at 11 a.m. PST, try a nap as close to 1 p.m. PST as possible (even though it is 4 p.m. Philly time). This will help your baby stay awake until bedtime at 7 p.m. West Coast time. Anticipate a few days to adjust (for you and your baby), and grab any and all offers to babysit so you can nap!
In terms of party season: Any tips on not derailing good bedtime habits with babysitters? Also, we’ve gotten into the habit of getting sitters after we’ve already put him down for the night, to avoid any potential issues. Is this smart to do when we can, or are we going overboard?
When it comes to babysitters, obviously safety comes first. Vet your prospects, tattoo your cell phone numbers to her forearm and encourage her to call with any and all questions. There are no absolutes about whether a babysitter should arrive before or after your child goes to sleep. Granted, it is anything but “jolly” to leave for a party with your little one screaming in the arms of the sitter. However, many babies actually fall asleep faster and easier when it isn’t mom putting them to bed (grrr…). You also eliminate the element of surprise if your child wakes up while you are still out. It’s hard enough sleeping in an unfamiliar place, no less waking up to an unfamiliar face.
Any common issues you see arise over the holiday season? Can you save us (in advance) from ourselves?
One of the biggest stressors of holiday travel is perfectionism. Many of my clients put enormous pressure on themselves to appear the completely pulled together during the holidays: shiny hair, fresh mani-pedi, and, of course, a cheerful, adorably-dressed baby. But if you arrive smelling like curdled breast milk, your husband wielding a poopy diaper in a Ziploc bag and your baby screeching like a banshee, it’s OK. Everyone will understand. And for those who don’t? Drop the poopy plastic bag in their kitchen trash. And don’t forget to unzip the bag, just a smidge.
GUYS! Andrea is offering 10% discount on private Sleepy Bug consultations for those who mention Wee Wander when they call.