Baby Sleep and Fireworks: Tips for a Restful Fourth

I love the Fourth of July. Pool time, parades, cookouts, and, of course, fireworks. As much as I love the 4th, those startling booms and schedule distributions can cause sleep disturbances. Baby sleep and fireworks can cause parents to fear the worst.

Parents frequently ask me for ways to help their baby sleep through fireworks and even, for ways to adjust sleep so their child can see the fireworks. So, here are a few tips to help you navigate baby sleep and fireworks this 4th of July. 

How to help your baby sleep through fireworks?

1. Plan for Deep Sleep. The best way to help your baby sleep through fireworks noises is to make sure they are already in a deep sleep prior to the firework noise. Since most firework displays happen after dark, put your baby or child down for sleep early. To help ensure your child is in a deeper sleep, put them down so that they have been sleeping for at least 40 min prior to the firework booms.

2. Muffle the Sounds. If you don’t have a white noise machine playing during sleep, I would recommend adding one. Sound machines provide gentle noise that can be soothing and do a great job muffling external noises that you can’t control such as fireworks. Ideally, play the white noise during the duration of sleep. Here are some of my favorites sound machines ➡️ 

Position the white noise machine so it is between your child’s sleep space and the window or the outside wall where the firework noise may be loudest. This can help dull the loud noises that can startle your child during sleep. Turn up the volume slightly or add a fan or humidifier to the room for some additional white noise. One more option is to add a sound machine outside their bedroom door to help with unexpected noises.

Regardless of what you choose, keep the level of the sound under 50 decibels. Sounds too loud can damage your child’s hearing.

Test the sound level to be safe:

  • Download a decibel reader app like Decibel X, for free to help measure the noise volume. 
  • When your child isn’t in their sleep space, turn on the sound machine, open the app and place your device in your child’s sleep space to get a reading. 
  • Safely adjust the sound level while watching the decibel reader.  

3. Provide Comfort. Loud noises are startling. If your child wakes upset, go to them. Offer a bit of comfort and reassurance. If you are frustrated or flustered, they will feel those emotions, too. Try to stay calm, relaxed and confident so your baby or child can feel those feelings instead. 

For toddlers and preschoolers, talk about the noises they may hear during the day, well before bed. Explain to them that this time of the year, people sometimes celebrate with fireworks just like we may celebrate our birthday by signing a Happy Birthday song and eating cake.

You can show them a photo of fireworks or even a short video. Point out the boom sound. 

Fireworks make loud booms like thunder. Sometimes we hear noises when we are sleeping. If you hear a boom, now you know what it is. You can hug your body and go back to sleep. 

By giving your child something to do if they hear an unexpected noise, they can feel more prepared and empowered. Don’t worry! They will still call for you if they are truly scared and need you. 

4. Be Patient. If your child startles, pause. Listen to your child. It is okay to give them 1-5 minutes to see if they are truly waking or just making a noise and self-soothing. You know them best so trust your instincts. Although disruptions in sleep can cause a challenging night, your child will most likely resume their normal sleep after the noises stop.

And remember, the 4th of July only happens once a year. This too, shall pass. If your child has a solid sleep foundation, they may sleep sound so soundly that they do not even notice the noises and sleep may never be interrupted. Even though you may be staring at the monitor waiting for them to wake with every boom and bang!

Choosing Between Baby Sleep and Fireworks Displays

As little ones get older, sometimes parents want to allow them to experience fireworks. Because firework displays don’t start until after dark and after bedtime, you will need to choose between baby sleep and fireworks. And that is ok! Well-rested babies and children can be flexible and enjoy a later bedtime, occasionally. However, if your baby or child has been struggling with sleep, you might want to ask yourself these questions to help in weighing your options between your baby’s sleep and firework displays. 

Thinking about keeping your baby awake for the fireworks? 

Ask yourself these questions…

  • Is my baby already tired? 
  • Is my baby sensitive to loud noises? 
  • Does my baby struggle if they get overstimulated or overtired? 
  • Is sleeping on the go a challenge for my little one?
  • Are schedule adjustments hard for my little one (i.e. result in night wakings or early morning wakings?)

Fireworks are loud, stimulating and won’t start until after dark and after your child’s bedtime. If your little one is already struggling with sleep, gets upset by loud noises, is sensitive to overstimulation or over-tiredness, struggles to sleep on the go or doesn’t handle changes to their schedule well, it may not be worth missing the sleep. You know your baby or child the best so use your judgment. You can always show a replay or video and re-evaluate next year. 

How to help your baby or child stay up for Fireworks?

If you want to keep your child up for a Fireworks display, plan ahead. Fireworks don’t start until after your child’s normal bedtime. To help prepare for a late night, try to get them the sleep they need that day. Stick to their normal schedule but allow them to sleep a bit longer (i.e. for babies up to 2 hrs with each nap and for toddlers and preschoolers up to 3 hrs for their one nap). Encourage a cat nap in the later evening. 

For example, if your little one typically goes to bed at 7pm, offer a short nap (30 minutes) around this time to help them stay awake for the fireworks show. 

The Day After the Fireworks

Unfortunately, a later bedtime doesn’t mean they will sleep in! Expect them to be up at their normal time so plan for a slower day and earlier bedtime on the day after. 

If they do try to sleep in, let them (just a bit)! 

Baby

If your child is napping 2 or more times during the day, let them sleep in up to 30 minutes past their normal wake up in the morning. This allows them to get a little more sleep will help them get back on their schedule for the rest of the day. 

Toddler or Preschooler

If your child is on a 1 nap schedule or no longer napping, you can allow them to get an extra hour of sleep in the morning. Are you jumping up and down with excitement?! I love more sleep too! But remember, just because we are offering it, that they may not take it or need it if they are well-rested. For their nap, they can sleep a bit longer too. Just wake them by 3pm so nap doesn’t interfere with bedtime. 

Big Kid

Do you have a big kid that is no longer napping? Offer a screen free rest time to help them recharge. Ideally, allow them to do a quiet activity like read a few books in their bed by the light of a small lamp. 

baby sleep and fireworks

How to help prepare your child for Firework displays? 

It is no surprise that most fireworks-related injuries occur around the 4th of July. To help keep your family safe, avoid setting off your own fireworks and never allow your child to play with fireworks. Even sparklers can cause serious injury. Did you know that some sparklers can burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit?!  That is so hot it can melt some metals and cause serious burns to little hands. Instead, consider attending a public display organized by trained professionals. 

Here are a few tips to help your prepare to take your child to a Fireworks display:

1. Bring Noise Protection. Fireworks are loud, over 150 decibels. Protect your child’s hearing. Stay at least 200 feet from the fireworks display and use quality ear protection such as noise-canceling headphones or earplugs. For older babies or toddlers, you can consider using noise-canceling headphones or earplugs specifically designed for infants. These can help reduce the intensity of the fireworks’ noise and create a more peaceful environment for your little one. Ensure that the headphones or earplugs are properly fitted and comfortable for your baby’s age and size. Consult with your child’s pediatrician prior to use. 

2. Have a Back up Plan. The crowds, lights and noises may be too much for your baby or child. Before you go, think about your exit plan. Can you exit if needed or go to a quiet place? Consider staying close to the car in case you need to leave. Even watching the display from the darker, quieter, familiar family car can create a more comforting setting for your child.

3. Dress for Sleep. Your little one will be tired and may even fall asleep on the way home. Be ready! Do a mini routine. Make sure they are well fed. Change their diapers and put them in their pajamas. If they fall asleep on the way home, arouse them a bit before transferring them to their crib so they are aware of their surroundings. You can even do a brief bedtime routine when you get home.

4. Communicate the Plan. Talk to your toddler or preschooler about what you will be doing. Tell them about the event including the familiar people they will be seeing and what they will be doing. Also mention the crowds, noises, and lights to help them prepare. Knowing a bit about what is planned will help them know what to expect. 

We are going to watch fireworks with Grandma and Grandpa. We are going to watch the fireworks in our car. You will be in your seat and I will sit beside you. There will be a lot of other people there too but only our family in our car. Fireworks are bright and also pretty loud. You will see them in the sky and hear their loud booms. It will be dark out when we come home so we will get ready for bed before we leave so we are all ready for bed when we get home. 

Finally, try to enjoy yourselves this Fourth. Whether you stay at home to sleep or go out and stay up late, the evening may not go as planned. Try to give yourself, and little one, some grace. You can get back on track! And if you are struggling with sleep, you are not alone. I am here to help you get on track and stay on track. 

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Pediatric Sleep consultant, Kristi Roberts

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