Baby Sleep Tips for Grandpa and Grandma
Updated: Mar 30
Baby Sleeping at Grandma and Grandpa's
After working working with parents who realize that their baby has slept through the night, and is still sleeping, they start to discover that a well-rested baby brings many unexpected benefits.
Having the ability and comfort to leave baby overnight with the grandparents is a top contender.
For grandparents, having their grandchild sleep in their home is beyond special. It’s a reminder of their days as new parents, a living, breathing testament to the family they’ve built together, and a chance to just saturate in all of that family love when there’s a baby in the house.
For mom and dad, this is an opportunity to go out on a well-deserved date night! The majority of parents I work with haven’t enjoyed that luxury since the day they brought baby home from the hospital, whether that was 3 months ago or 3 years. Taking advantage of a reliable, enthusiastic, (and usually free!) overnight babysitter provides parents with a chance to reconnect in a way they haven’t enjoyed for far too long.
Prepping for Baby Sleeping Over at Grandma and Grandpa's
Putting the sentiment aside for now, there is some groundwork to be done before you drop your little one off at your grandparent's place. You’ve completed stage one, coach your baby, so now it’s time for stage two: coach your parents.
Now obviously, some grandparents are going to be completely awesome, wonderful, and fully compliant with whatever you tell them to do vis-a-vis their grandchild.
But not all of them.
Some grandparents have very, shall we say, entrenched views on parenting. After all, you’re living proof of their expertise and experience.
It can be a bit of a balancing act to insist that your parents respect your little one’s schedule and sleeping arrangements while still respecting their role as experienced and awesome caregivers. So today, I’d like to give you a few tips on how to do exactly that so your whole family, including those beloved members outside of your home, can benefit.
Respect Your Elders
Even though you may need to establish some ground rules, don't forget grandparents are seasoned veterans who have been through everything you’re going through now. Demonstrating confidence in their abilities will help ensure that, whatever rules you do lay down, they’ll be adhered to.
Be Authentic, Open Communication
I see so many parents trying to play parenthood off as if they’ve got everything under control at all times, even with their own parents. I mean, if anyone knows how tough raising a child is, it’s grandparents, so don’t be shy to let them know how difficult it was to function when your baby was waking up every hour at night and how hard you’ve worked to remedy the situation. Understanding the emotional investment you’ve put into solving your little one’s sleep issues will help them feel a personal commitment to the routine.
Explain the Incentives to the Grandparents
Grandparents crave interaction with their grandkids. As such, they 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.) My favorite approach to this situation is to explain the “long game” incentive of keeping baby on their schedule. In short, if every time you find baby is cranky and overtired after a sleepover at grandparent's, you’re going to be reluctant to leave them overnight. If, on the other hand, she’s happy and rested every time you pick her up, you’re going to hand baby over more readily, resulting in much more time spent with her overall.
Share Your Experience with the Grandparents
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 personality. Parenting was exponentially more enjoyable when my little one was basically always in a good mood. Let your parents know how much more enjoyable their whole day and night with their grandchild will be if they just adhere to the schedule. Appeal to your parent's caring, nurturing tendencies for better compliance.
Equate Sleeping With Feeding
Grandparents will move heaven and earth to make sure that their grandchild is 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. So when you’re going over the babysitting guidelines, try to avoid getting into the minutiae and just stress how important those two things are when they’re taking care of their grandchild.
Expectations Versus Reality of Baby Sleeping Over at Grandparent's
Despite your well intentions to prepare your parents as much as possible, there’s a good chance the grandparents might end up being guilty of a wee bit of sabotage. If baby wakes up at night, they may hold them and rock them back to sleep. Or they might allow your toddler to sleep in their bed with them. 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 at grandpa and grandma's. Babies, even newborns, are surprisingly adept at recognizing 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 mom 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.
What If Baby Sleeps Poorly After Sleepover at Grandparent's
Sleep disturbances caused by more than just a one-off sleepover at the grandparents can cause quite the upset for families who have once relished in the predictability of a baby who sleeps through the night. Sometimes it takes an expert perspective to put things back in order and I'm happy to create that strategy for you. Chat with me on how I work 1-1 with cliemts and can help your family get back to sleeping through the night as quickly as can be!