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Five Tips for a Sleepover at a Grandparent's House

“What are you looking forward to the most?”

This question happens to be one of the first things I ask parents when I start working with them. It helps them to think about what life will be like in a few weeks’ time when they are getting better sleep.

I would say 99% of parents respond with that they are most looking forward to their child getting better sleep but also getting some of their time back. The time they spent battling naps, bedtime and night take wake ups.

Once we have finished our sleep program and their child is now sleeping soundly through the night as well as taking glorious naps, parents get apprehensive about that ‘’free time’’ as they are now worried that if they allow grandparents into the routine, things will go awry.

Sleepovers are wonderful, spending the night somewhere outside of your home is very exciting. Whether its a young child spending the night at their best friend’s house, sleeping in the same bed as your partner for the first ever time or the first time you stay in a hotel, sleeping somewhere has an emotional response, and for grandparents, having their grandchild sleep in their home is beyond magical and meaningful for them. It’s a reminder of their days when their children were young and a chance to just enjoy the joy of having their grandchild with them in their house surrounded by all of the love that comes with.

For mum and dad, this is an opportunity to go and enjoy some time being something other than mum and dad. The majority of parents I work with haven’t had a break really since the day they brought baby home from the hospital, whether that was 3 months ago or 3 years, so taking advantage of a reliable, enthusiastic, overnight babysitter provides them an irresistible opportunity to get some free time but as I mentioned previously, they are apprehensive on how they can balance the two.

I always say this as a response…

‘’You’ve completed stage one, coach your baby, so now it’s time for stage two. Coach your parents….”

Some grandparents are going to be completely onboard and replicate whatever you do at home without a second thought…

But not all of them.

Some grandparents have a different view on parenting all together, they might not agree with some of the choices you make and vice versa.

So, it is sometimes a balancing act to insist that your parents respect your Little Darling’s schedule while still respecting their role as experienced and amazing grandparents.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the sometimes tricky balancing act..

1. Respect them

It is important that you remember that this is not their first time at the rodeo. They raised you so even though you may need to establish some ground rules, don’t approach it the same way you would a teenage babysitter. If you show confidence in their abilities, they are much more likely to follow your ground rules. If you go into this like a bull in a China shop, laying down the law, they are much less likely to comply.

2. Be Genuine

It is so common for parents to play down parenthood and the struggles that come along with it. If anyone knows how tough raising a child is, it’s grandparents, so don’t hold back in letting them know how difficult things are when your baby is waking up every hour at night and how hard you’ve worked to fix this. If they understand the emotional and physical burden the ‘’old way’’ was having on you, they are far more likely to stick to the ‘’new way’’ which is making your lives better all round.

3. Explain the Benefits

Grandparents love interaction with their grandchildren. However, they do tend to want to keep baby awake for longer than recommended. (This is especially true in the case of newborns, who can typically only handle about 45 minutes to 1 hour of awake time before they need to go back down for a nap). The best way to approach this situation is to explain the incentive of keeping baby on their schedule. If every time you collect your child from their house, they are overtired, you’re going to be reluctant to leave them overnight. If, on the other hand, they are well rested every time you pick them, you are much more likely to want the baby to spend more time with their grandparents.

4. Share Knowledge

If you’ve already got your baby sleeping well at night and napping well during the day, then you know what a difference it makes to their moods. I could not quite believe the difference in my baby’s mood once we had gotten the whole sleep situation sorted with him. Parenting just became so much more enjoyable once we were all getting better sleep. He was happier, well rested and so was I. It is a good tactic to ‘sell’ the idea of how much more they will enjoy quality time with their grandchild when the child is happier and well rested. You will find that them laying down the law and making ultimatums around bedtime and nap schedules is much less effective than appealing to their caring, nurturing tendencies.

5. Make Sleeping as Important as Feeding

If there’s one thing a grandmother can’t handle that is a hungry baby. The average grandmother won’t abide a hungry anything, come to think of it, but when it comes to babies, they’ll move heaven and earth to make sure that little one’s properly fed. Putting sleep on par with feeding priority-wise can help ensure that the same level of dedication gets devoted to getting baby down for naps and into bed on time.

I think it is important to mention here that there’s a good chance your parents might end up being guilty of a tiny bit sabotage. If baby wakes up at night and cries, for example, they might respond immediately and feed them back to sleep. Or they might allow your toddler to sleep in their bed with them. They may hold them and rock them to sleep at bedtime.

That can cause some serious anxiety for a parent who’s invested a whole lot of time, effort, and emotional capital into breaking those sleep associations. However, I want to reassure you that there’s typically no need to panic and call off any future sleepovers. Babies, even newborns, are surprisingly adept at adapting to different sleeping environments and understanding the rules in them, so just because they get rocked to sleep at grandma’s place doesn’t mean that they’re going to revert back to that expectation when you get them home.

If they’ve developed some strong independent sleep skills, they’ll be back to normal pretty much immediately.

So don’t lose your mind if your mum tells you she let baby fall asleep on her chest. A gentle suggestion that she not do it all the time, combined with the concession that you know how hard it is to resist a baby falling asleep on you, should be all that’s needed.

Did you know that I offer a free 15 minute sleep evaluation call to discuss what is showing up for you and your Little Darling as well as discussing how I can help...?

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