By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns
Vacations can be so much fun for your family and are great memory-making experiences. However, when you travel with your little one, daily routines are usually disrupted which can lead to a fussy, tired baby. You can have a more relaxed trip if you are proactive in making your trip decisions in regards to sleep-related issues. Review the following questions to help make good sleep a reality during your trip:
How you can help your baby sleep away from home
Does your baby sleep well in the car? If yes, plan your travel time to coincide with a nap or bedtime so your child can sleep through part of the journey. If not, plan to leave immediately after a nap or upon waking in the morning. Don’t fool yourself into thinking your baby will behave differently than usual. Dress him comfortably and give him a blanket, pacifier or lovey to help him fall asleep to the hum and vibration of the ride. If you have a finicky sleeper, plan your trip during the daytime hours and bring along plenty of toys to keep your baby happy.
- Is it necessary to make the trip all at once, or can you break it up with stops along the way? The longer your baby is strapped in her seat, the more likely she’ll become fussy, and the less likely she’ll sleep when you need her to. Planning a few breaks can be good for all of you. If you’re on a long airplane or train voyage use the hallways for walks when possible.
- Do you have everything you need to make sleep during the trip possible? Items like:
-Window shades to create a darker, nap-inducing atmosphere.
-A cooler for cold drinks; a bottle warmer if needed.
-Your baby’s favorite blanket, lovies, and pajamas.
-Music, lullabies or white noise on tape or CD.
-A rear-view car mirror to keep an on eye on your child (unless a second person will be sitting with your little one.)
-Books to read to your child.
-Adult books on tape or quiet music to use during the times when your baby is sleeping.
-A battery-operated nightlight or flashlight if you’ll be traveling in the dark.
Once you arrive: Sleeping in an unfamiliar place
Preparation is the key to the tricky issue of getting your baby to sleep in an unfamiliar place. Obviously, you can’t use the exact routines that work for you at home, but you can follow much of your usual routine and create a similar sleep setting for your child. If your little one sleeps in a crib, for example, rent a crib from a local rental business, have your host borrow one from a friend, or bring along a portable folding crib. (Let your child sleep in it at home in advance, so that it’s familiar.) Bring along your child’s blanket, crib sheets, stuffed animals, lullaby tape or white noise clock. Pack a nightlight to make middle-of-the-night diaper changes easier, and so that you can avoid turning on bring lights at night and disrupting sleep cycles.
If you bed-share, your first order of business is to create a safe sleeping place for your baby. Check out the room where you will be sleeping. If you know that pushing the bed against the wall or replacing a fluffy comforter with a thinner blanket would make the situation safer, then politely explain to your host. Let her know that you’ll move things back before you leave (and then remember to do so). If you’re staying in a hotel, the housekeeping staff will often help with this if you ask.
Remember that many daily cues help keep sleep consistent. Feeding at regular times, exposing your child to daylight in the morning and keeping things dimly lit at night, and avoiding pre-bed hustle and bustle can all help to keep bedtime and sleep time more natural.
It helps to organize as much as possible in advance, but then loosen up! Try to stay relaxed, accept changes, and go with the flow. You can get back to your normal routine once you return home, but for now, enjoy your travels!
Elizabeth Pantley is a mother of four, grandmother, and author of the bestselling book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns plus 8 other books in the No-Cry Solution Series, which helps Moms and Dads through all key stages of parenting. Visit her at nocrysolution.com