Travel, holiday and sleep
It’s taken you a few weeks to get your baby into a good routine and sleeping well. Now that you’ve put in the time, effort, and energy to make this big change in your family’s life, that trip you have planned is starting to leave you feeling nervous!
Whether it’s a holiday abroad, a camping holiday, sleepover or staycation, you will likely be wondering how best to manage your baby’s sleep.
If, like most parents, your biggest fear is that a trip is going to derail all the progress you and your baby have made, then sometimes the mere thought of it frightens parents so much that they even go to such extremes as cancelling trips!
The good news is that you do not have to cancel all travel plans and confine yourself to your house for the rest of your child’s life!
It is possible to have children who travel really well, if you keep a few things in mind:
The biggest mistake parents often make is that they over-schedule themselves. They try to cram in all the fun and adventure they might normally have had prior to having a child and find that there is simply not that time anymore (guilty!) Consider usual nap timings and set realistic goals when on holiday as a family.
– A nap in the car or a slightly later bedtime isn’t going to do too much harm. However, if your baby spends a couple of days taking more naps in the car here and there and having late bedtimes, then they may become so over tired that by the time bedtime rolls around a few days later, they have a complete meltdown and seem to “forget” all their sleep skills, resulting in crying the house down.
If this happens, you might start to get very anxious because your baby, who has been happily managing to get themselves to sleep for weeks, is now out of sorts and crying and unsettled when trying to get to sleep.
– It’s very normal for babies and toddlers to test the boundaries around sleep when they are somewhere different. Just because the rule is set at home, that does not necessarily mean the rule is the same at Grandma’s house etc.
Try to stay calm, be consistent with your approach and be mindful to keep to the same bedtime routine as well as offering some of their home comforts (eg a comforter, sleeping bag, white noise) so that your child feels safe and secure when away.
My top tips for good sleep on holiday
- Try and keep the same bedtime routine which may include the following: milk, bath, favourite book and then bed.
- Keep the environment as similar as possible eg white noise, blacked out rooms, red dim night light, comforter
- If you are going to be out and about, then try to time a car/pram journey around nap times if possible. You can use a snooze shade to help keep the napping-on -the-go environment dark and cool.
- Bring some unwashed sheets/sleeping bags to provide that familiar smell
- If your child is eight months or older, my advice is to try to make some sort of a separate space for your baby to sleep. Anywhere that you can build some sort of a partition between you and your baby, so that if they wake up in the middle of the night they are not so excited to see their favourite people that they end up wide awake thinking it’s play time! Of course, getting an extra bedroom for your child is great if that’s an option for you.
- If you are in a different time zone by an hour or two then does this new time zone support your child’s sleep whilst you are away ? For example, would an 8pm-8am schedule work better for you when on holiday? If so, stick to this new time zone whilst away as this will be easier to transition back to on return to the UK.
- If the time zone is vastly different then try to adapt to the new time zone as quickly as possible. Get as much daylight in the middle of the day to help set your child’s circadian rhythm (body clock).
- If you really feel that an extra nap is needed to catch up on some lost sleep, then limit this to 45 minutes and try to avoid it too close to bedtime. If it’s a choice between a strangely timed nap or a slightly earlier bedtime then I would always suggest the earlier bedtime.
Time changes and jet lag
When it comes to surviving the plane ride, the best piece of advice I ever received about travelling with kids is just to ACCEPT the fact that you’re travelling with kids!
So plan ahead. Bring as many things that you can think of to keep your child occupied and comfortable during the journey; tablet devices, headphones, snacks, magazines, colouring, age appropriate toys, milk, teething toys – especially for take off and landing.
Its proven that well-rested children can handle jet lag much better than sleep-deprived adults. If your baby has had a great routine leading up to the trip, they should easily slip into the new time zone without too much trouble.
It is best to adjust to the new time zone as quickly as you can (unless you decide the new time zone is better suited (eg 8pm bedtime instead of a 7pm bedtime).
Sunlight is also a useful tool in helping both you and your baby adjust to the new time zone, since light is the most powerful time cue our bodies have.
Try to plan meals and socialising around the new time zone as well, and get an hour or two of fresh air in the early afternoon.
However, make sure you do just the opposite when evening rolls around. Use blackout blinds and keep light to a minimum a couple of hours before you want your baby to go to bed. This will help stimulate melatonin production, making them sleepier and hopefully giving them a restful night.
Have a safe trip!
Do get in touch if I can help you further for any sleep questions – you can check out my profile here on bloss.