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How to make sure your kids get enough sleep during the busy holiday season

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The holiday season has arrived, and as it does each year, it feels impossible that we're already here! This is a time that so many of us look forward to. The holidays are full of family, activities, good food, and plenty of fun.

Unfortunately, it's also a season of meltdowns, tantrums and complete de-railing of schedules for many of us with small children. And while I do look forward to this time, I don't look forward to the overload of everything—sugar, activities, crazy schedules, over-stimulation, too many presents and people, and the inevitable gain in my waistline.

Sleep seems to be the first thing that goes during this hectic season, and yet it's the very thing we need the most.

I've learned over the years, that if I'm not prepared before the madness happens, it overtakes my children, and rather than enjoying the season, I am simply surviving. And that's just no fun.

Here's how to enjoy the season without sacrificing your family's sleep schedules—which means less tantrums and more smiles for all.


1. Put sleep first

During the holidays most of us have family and friends coming to us, or we're traveling to see them. Either way, there's a shift in the daily patterns and structure of your household and blending of households is often inevitable.

When my son was a newborn, I got major anxiety about visits with family. Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with them, and I was always happy to see them, I just knew how stimulated he would get and how much it affected his ability to sleep. What I realized was that there were just too many people and noises and, despite their best intentions, they did not understand the black hole of sleep I was in.

I almost skipped the holidays with my family the following year, but realized if I simply had a conversation with them ahead of time it might relieve some of the anxiety I was experiencing.

I basically had to say, "Neither of us are enjoyable without enough sleep so we might not be able to participate in ALL of the things, because sleep is going to take priority."

Seven years later I am still communicating the same message that my child's health comes first and sometimes that means leaving in the middle of family game night to put him to sleep.

You might be surprised that your family is more understanding than you think—I definitely was.

2. Stick to your child's current sleep schedule as best as possible

You might already be preparing yourself for nap times and bedtimes to go out the window.

If so, stop. With all of the extra stimulation your child is experiencing around the holidays, they need more sleep, not less.

Even though this season is temporary, it is still important to keep your child's sleep schedule as consistent as possible.

Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Plan travel realistically. My sister (bless her soul) booked flights at 6am for her family out of state and it was a nightmare, as anyone could have predicted. Maybe you get in later than you want, but at least your travel time won't be completely miserable if you can plan for a more realistic option.
  • Schedule activities around nap time, if possible. If it's not possible, this might mean you miss some activities e. Skip the family outing or skip nap time and deal with a cranky child the rest of the day? A nap sounds much better to this mama.
  • Try for an earlier bedtime if nap time wasn't sufficient. It's possible you might have several failed nap attempts, due to the simple fact that you might be in a new environment or your child is too stimulated. In this case, move bedtime up to ensure you reach your sleep goal for the day.
  • Keep your child's bedtime routine, even when you're somewhere new. Sticking with the same routine you practice at home will help your little feel more structured amidst the chaos.

3. Prepare a healthy sleep environment

Environment is quite possibly the biggest challenge when traveling or when space is an issue. There are a few ways you can anticipate and prepare a sleep environment if you are traveling or hosting visitors:

  • Plan your child's sleep environment ahead of time. This might mean bringing a pack-n-play, preparing another room in the house, or borrowing a crib.
  • Avoid bringing your child into bed with you if you don't co-sleep at home. Even though it may just be for a few days, if your child is not currently co-sleeping, it is not best to bring this practice in now since it can feel like a big shift.
  • Ask family members and friends to be respectful of their noise level during nap and bedtimes. It might mean they need to leave the house during this time or plan a quiet activity during a scheduled nap or bedtime.
  • Consider getting a hotel room, or encouraging family and friends to check out local hotels. If you are traveling and are worried about noise interruption or too close of quarters, a hotel might be a better option.
  • If traveling, try and bring a few things that are familiar to your child, such as a lovey or blanket.

4. Avoid sugar like the plague

Growing up I always looked forward to making cookies, building gingerbread houses, and enjoying a large cup of hot cocoa. And while I still enjoy these holiday treats, I have also learned that sugar and my kids equals significantly more meltdowns and sleep interruptions.

Thankfully, I have found a way to make some simple substitutions when baking and preparing treats (including a few other healthy swaps)

Instead of…

  • Sugar use syrup, honey, fruit juice or applesauce
  • White flour use almond or coconut flour
  • Cow's milk use almond or coconut milk
  • Milk chocolate use dark chocolate or carob
  • Using the full amount of sugar, use half of what the recipe calls for

In addition to these substitutions, these foods are off limits for my family before bed:

  • Dairy
  • Fried foods
  • Citrus
  • Fruits high in sugar (like figs, mangos, cherries and grapes)
  • Spicy foods
  • And, of course caffeine.

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, and although a lot of us feel the stress that comes with the season, sleep shouldn't be one of those. By following these simple steps, you'll give your kids one of the greatest gifts of all—rest.

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If there's one thing you learn as a new mama, it's that routine is your friend. Routine keeps your world spinning, even when you're trucking along on less than four hours of sleep. Routine fends off tantrums by making sure bellies are always full and errands aren't run when everyone's patience is wearing thin. And routine means naps are taken when they're supposed to, helping everyone get through the day with needed breaks.

The only problem? Life doesn't always go perfectly with the routine. When my daughter was born, I realized quickly that, while her naps were the key to a successful (and nearly tear-free!) day, living my life according to her nap schedule wasn't always possible. There were groceries to fetch, dry cleaning to pick up, and―if I wanted to maintain any kind of social life―lunch dates with friends to enjoy.

Which is why the Ergobaby Metro Compact City Stroller was such a life-saver. While I loved that it was just 14 pounds (perfect for hoisting up the stairs to the subway or in the park) and folds down small enough to fit in an airplane overhead compartment (you know, when I'm brave enough to travel again!), the real genius of this pint-sized powerhouse is that it doesn't skimp on comfort.

Nearly every surface your baby touches is padded with plush cushions to provide side and lumbar support to everything from their sweet head to their tiny tush―it has 40% more padding than other compact strollers. When nap time rolls around, I could simply switch the seat to its reclined position with an adjustable leg rest to create an instant cozy nest for my little one.

There's even a large UV 50 sun canopy to throw a little shade on those sleepy eyes. And my baby wasn't the only one benefiting from the comfortable design― the Metro is the only stroller certified "back healthy" by the AGR of Germany, meaning mamas get a much-needed break too.

I also appreciate how the Metro fits comfortably into my life. The sleek profile fits through narrow store aisles as easily as it slides up to a table when I'm able to meet a pal for brunch. Plus, the spring suspension means the tires absorb any bumps along our way―helping baby stay asleep no matter where life takes us. When it's time to take my daughter out, it folds easily with one hand and has an ergonomic carry handle to travel anywhere we want to go.

Life will probably never be as predictable as I'd like, but at least with our Metro stroller, I know my child will be cradled with care no matter what crosses our path.

This article is sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's been more than a year since Khloé Kardashian welcomed her daughter True Thompson into the world, and like a lot of new moms, Khloé didn't just learn how to to be a mom this year, she also learned how to co-parent with someone who is no longer her partner. According to the Pew Research Center, co-parenting and the likelihood that a child will spend part of their childhood living with just one parent is on the rise.

There was a ton of media attention on Khloé's relationship with True's father Tristan Thompson in her early days of motherhood, and in a new interview on the podcast "Divorce Sucks!," Khloé explained that co-parenting with someone you have a complicated relationship with isn't always easy, but when she looks at True she knows it's worth it.

"For me, Tristan and I broke up not too long ago so it's really raw," Khloé tells divorce attorney Laura Wasser on the podcast. She explains that even though it does "suck" at times, she's committed to having a good relationship with her ex because she doesn't want True to pick up on any negative energy, even at her young age.

That's why she invited Tristan to True's recent first birthday bash, even though she knew True wouldn't remember that party. "I know she's going to want to look back at all of her childhood memories like we all do," Khloé explained. "I know her dad is a great person, and I know how much he loves her and cares about her, so I want him to be there."

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We totally get why being around Tristan is hard for Khloé, but it sounds like she's approaching co-parenting with a positive attitude that will benefit True in the long run. Studies have found that shared parenting is good for kids and that former couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse" are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Khloé says her relationship with Tristan right now is "civilized," and hopefully it can get even better with time. As Suzanne Hayes noted in her six guiding principles for a co-parenting relationship, there's no magic bullet for moving past the painful feelings that come when a relationship ends and into a healthy co-parenting relationship, but treating your ex with respect and (non-romantic) love is a good place to start. Hayes describes it as "human-to-human, parent-to-parent, we-share-amazing-children-and-always-will love."

It's a great place to start, and it sounds like Khloé has already figured that out.

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Kim Kardashian West welcomed her fourth child into the world. The expectancy and arrival of this boy (her second child from surrogacy) has garnered much attention.

In a surrogacy pregnancy, a woman carries a pregnancy for another family and then after giving birth she relinquishes her rights of the child.

On her website, Kim wrote that she had medical complications with her previous pregnancy leading her to this decision. “I have always been really honest about my struggles with pregnancy. Preeclampsia and placenta accreta are high-risk conditions, so when I wanted to have a third baby, doctors said that it wasn't safe for my—or the baby's—health to carry on my own."

While the experience was challenging for her, “The connection with our baby came instantly and it's as if she was with us the whole time. Having a gestational carrier was so special for us and she made our dreams of expanding our family come true. We are so excited to finally welcome home our baby girl."

A Snapchat video hinted that Kim may have planned to breastfeed her third child. What she chooses to do is of course none of our business. But is has raised the very interesting question, “Wait, can you breastfeed when you use a surrogate?"

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The answer is yes, you sure can! (And you can when you adopt a baby, too!)

When a women is pregnant, she begins a process called lactogenesis in which her body prepares itself to start making milk. This usually starts around the twenty week mark of pregnancy (half way through). Then, when the baby is born, the second phase of lactogenesis occurs, and milk actually starts to fill the breasts.

All of this occurs in response to hormones. When women do not carry a pregnancy, but wish to breastfeed, they can induce lactation, where they replicate the same hormonal process that happens during pregnancy.

A woman who wants to induce lactation can work with a doctor or midwife, and start taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone (which grow breast tissue)—often in the form of birth control pills—along with a medication called domperidone (which increases milk production).

Several weeks before the baby will be born, the woman stops taking the birth control pill but continues to take the domperidone to simulate the hormonal changes that would happen in a pregnancy. She'll also start pumping multiple times per day, and will likely add herbal supplements, like fenugreek and blessed thistle.

Women can also try to induce lactation without the hormones, by using pumping and herbs, it may be harder but some women feel more comfortable with that route.

Inducing lactation takes a lot of dedication—but then again, so does everything related to be a mama. It's a super personal decision, and not right for everyone.

The important thing to remember is that we need to support women and mothers through their entire journey, no matter what decisions they make about themselves and their families—whether Kardashian or the rest of us.

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