If your child sleeps pretty well at home, it’s more than normal to be concerned when it comes to disrupting their sleep while on vacation.
The trick is to minimize changes in their schedule and environment as much as possible, working on preventing and avoiding bad sleep associations while you are away from home. Then, once back home, resuming your routine straight away to avoid any headaches.
Here are my suggestions to keep you and baby on track sleep wise while on vacation:
WHAT TO PACK?
First thing to think about is “How to recreate their sleep environment” as much as you can so they feel comfortable in the new but temporary place.
White Noise Machine: This is essential to block out noises from the street, the hallway, even from other rooms where you for example might be enjoying a glass of wine or some adult time with your loved one.
Lovey: Don’t forget your child’s favorite lovey! Be sure to pack it to avoid a frantic store dash on vacation. Put it in your hand luggage so it won’t be missed if your luggage is temporary lost. Also, remember to bring her favorite books to help recreate the same bedtime routine.
Nightlight: This can save you a ton! You might be going to sleep later than your little one and it will be helpful in a new place, knowing where you are going and moving around without making much noise and turning on lights. It’s also very helpful for breastfeeding moms with small babies who still nurse at night.
Portable Crib: Make sure you are getting a crib at your destination. If this is not an option, bring your own portable one. There are a few models and most of them are free to fly. If you chose to buy your own, remember to get it a few days before your vacation so you can allow your child to play in it (even try a few sleeps) so she’ll get used to it. Another handy tip is to bring the bedsheets your child has slept in for a few nights already. Children are very sensitive to smells and this little tip might help them feel more at home.
Camera: or baby monitor. Cameras work great as they are also infrared, so you can see your child even if it is pitch black. This can allow you enjoy your time even more as you are not constantly tending your ear to it.
HOW TO DEAL WITH CHANGES
As soon as you arrive at your destination, make your child feels comfortable in the new environment. Show her around and if you are getting the crib there, pop your child in it to play and get familiar with it. Make it fun!
Try to follow her nap time and bedtime schedule as much as possible and respect her need for sleep. A well rested baby is much easier to enjoy than an overtired one. Who wants to spend their vacation with a cranky baby anyways? Try to focus on quality time you spend when the child is awake and happy.
If the room is not dark enough, installing blackouts might seem a little overkill! Buying black garbage bags and taping them over the windows might do the trick. And it’s also super cheap. Darkness is essential for sleep at any age.
Follow the exact same steps of your typical bedtime routine. Consistency and predictability help your child feel secure even when away from home.
Try not to create bad habits or sleep associations while away. Work on limiting them as much as you can.
Have your child sleep in the same place for naps and during the night. Although, if you really can’t avoid being out during the day for your favorite activity or that one-time-in-life experience, have your child nap in a carseat or in the stroller, just ensure she doesn’t skip her nap. Count the “on the go” nap as half of a regular one and note that she might be ready to go down earlier rather than usual for the successive sleep (nap or bedtime). Adjust the schedule a bit if necessary and respect the awake windows.
WHAT TO DO ONCE BACK HOME
Once you are back home, go back to your routines and rules right away. It might take a few days to adjust, but if you are consistent she’ll get back on track easily and quickly. Don’t linger or it’ll take longer.
HOW TO DO WITH JETLAG
If you are travelling to a different time zone, adjust the schedule according to the new time. If the difference is significant, the child might wake up and stay up in the middle of the night and sleep longer during the day. Make sure you wake her up when she is supposed to for naps and morning wake up. Don’t let her sleep in or it’ll take weeks to resolve. Be patient and consistent and it’ll pass.
If the difference is just a few hours, shift the schedule earlier or later (depending on the time) by half an hour everyday.
My biggest suggestion is to take it easy and enjoy your vacation. Usually children who sleep fairly well at home sleep well while away too, and, if they piggy back, they also get back on track pretty easily as they love their routine. Try not to create bad habits while you travel and especially avoid all the crutches you have worked hard to eliminate (nursing to sleep, bringing the child into your bed…).
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