Dreamland Baby

How to Help Your Baby Sleep While Traveling

How to Help Your Baby Sleep While Traveling

Who doesn't love to get away?! Visiting out-of-town family, basking lazily poolside, taking in a day of sights, or curling up to relax with nowhere to be. Vacation is great, am I right?! Except if you're a parent of a little one, you're probably thinking that type of trip is more in line with your pre-baby self. Traveling with a baby, “vacation” can sometimes feel like more “work” than staying home. As a mom myself, who's had plenty of travel with babes in tow, I would have to agree with you. But guess what? That doesn't mean you can't have an amazing vacation...it just might look a little different. And I'd say that starts with sleep. If everyone can get a good night's rest while traveling, that's definitely a huge win. Want to know how to help your baby sleep while traveling?

We have you covered with these steps you can take - starting from the very second you start planning your trip.

Step 1: Choose Accommodations Wisely

With a baby, where you stay matters. And no I'm not talking about the cushiest hotel room you can get. In fact, I would recommend forgoing some of the extra amenities just to find a place where your baby can have her own room (or sleeping space- a bathroom or large closet works too!) - at least if she's been sleeping separately from you for any length of time.

Why does your BABY need their own space? I realize this may come at an extra expense and isn't always realistic. But with suites and Airbnb's pretty widely available these days, it's possible to get your baby their own space to sleep. The reason this matters is because your baby has finally learned to fall asleep on their own. By allowing them to sleep in a space away from you, it will mimic the comfort of home. Otherwise, I guarantee you they won't be wanting to do anything else but be with you if you try to set them up next to you when they're not used to that. 

If you either cannot find a hotel with a separate room or will be staying at someone's house (which happens a lot around the holidays), it's best to try to somehow create space for your baby away from you. Even if that means having to set your baby's pack 'n' play up in the bathroom or a large closet. It sounds weird, but it can work. It is completely safe and your baby doesn't care, and I promise you will all be a lot more rested.

We asked the experts:

Q: Will my baby sleeping out of their crib and in a pack and play ruin the sleep we have established? 
A: Assuming you have established good sleep habits, a baby should not have a problem transitioning from crib to pack and play. However, if your baby has never slept in a pack and play before, I would consider doing some naps in there in their room before you go. You do not need to do a full night. Just getting your baby familiar with the new bed is typically good enough. Additionally, if you’d like to make it more comfortable, you can purchase a foldable pack and play mattress to bring along with you. -Bethany Allen, Sleep Consultant

We asked the experts:

Q: Should I splurge for another room for my baby or is it OK if they sleep in the same room as me?

A: If you have a baby who is currently an independent sleeper (can fall asleep, go back to sleep, and stay asleep without assistance) sharing a room shouldn’t be a problem at all. Note that it may take your baby a day or so to get use to the new environment which is normal. For a baby who is still needs assistance to sleep, room sharing a small space could add some hiccups for your night. Work with your room the best you can to create a “separate” area for your baby so she cannot see you.  -Bethany Allen, Sleep Consultant

Step 2: Set Realistic Expectations Before the Trip Begins

As your trip nears, keep your baby's sleep time sacred. Even as you are trying to tie up last-minute details before the vacation begins, don't let it get in the way of your baby's naps and normal bedtime. 

And when it's time to leave with your beauty-rested little one in tow, start your trip with a smile and the reality that your baby is going to end up off their schedule some. If you head off on your trip with the unrealistic expectation that your baby's sleep routine is going to be perfect and nothing will mess it up no matter what, you're just going to end up stressed out and frazzled when you see that that's not the way it's going. So, leave with a plan - and your baby's most important sleep items (as we'll discuss below) - and just do the best you can. Allowing yourself to be flexible and knowing that a new environment is an adjustment for your baby will enable everyone to be much happier while you are away.

Step 3: Bring Your Baby's Comforts Along for the Ride

Whatever your baby relies on to help calm and relax them needs to come along with you on your trip. This can include:

  • Sleep Sack or Swaddle 
  • Pacifier
  • Lovey or Favorite Stuffed Animal
  • Cuddle Blanket
  • A warm bottle (or boobs)

Even if you have gotten away from utilizing these "sleep props" at home, you'll want to have them at the ready while on vacation. Just because you have the best sleeper in the world at home doesn't mean the new surroundings and different schedule won't give way to new sleep behavior. And this goes for the plane ride, as well. Swaddling and feeding your baby to help calm and relax can make for a much easier time in the air.

All of these comforts of home should be at your fingertips to help calm your baby to help them fall asleep faster.

We asked the experts:

Q: What sleep things from home should I bring? What can I leave behind? 

A: You want to mimic your environment as much as you are able. Some things you don’t want to leave behind would be lovies, sound machine, and some sort of darkening shade or curtain. -Bethany Allen, Sleep Consultant

Step 4: Maintain Your Baby's Sleep Routine

You may be traveling somewhere entirely different, but that doesn't mean you can't follow the same step-by-step sleep routine you do at home.

We recently wrote about what a solid bedtime routine looks like to set your baby up for successful sleep in our article, "How to Get Your Baby to Sleep in a Crib."

There really shouldn't be much need to stray from these steps just because you're on vacation.

These may include:

  • a calming bath
  • infant massage
  • clean diaper, jammies, swaddle or weighted sleep sack
  • dim lights and turn on calming music (whatever you use at home should be brought with you)
  • nurse or feed
  • rock and snuggle your baby
  • Lay them down awake

Now for that last part - you may need to adjust. Since it's a new place your baby may have some anxiety. If your baby has trouble falling asleep on their own, it's completely OK to be there to help them fall asleep. You can always get back on track when you return home.

We asked the experts:

Q: Do I need to maintain my baby’s night time sleep routine while traveling? 

A: Yes, absolutely! Maintaining this routine keeps things balanced when daytime schedule can be a little off. It’s ok if on a random night, like Christmas Eve your child stays up a little late (so long as they can handle it). However, it’s important to note that just because they stay up late doesn’t mean they will sleep in for you (who sleeps in on Christmas morning anyway?).  -Bethany Allen, Sleep Consultant

Step 5: Get in a Good Nap

Even if your baby still takes two full naps at home, the likelihood of that happening on vacation is small. And honestly, who wants to spend their entire vacation chained to a hotel room anyway? You've worked hard as parents and you deserve to have some fun. So you're going to have to let the schedule go a bit.

However, skipping naps altogether isn't the best choice either. Otherwise, you'll just have a very fussy baby where he gets progressively more tired as each day comes. And that doesn't make for a fun trip for anyone. 

Decide ahead of time when you think you can get in one solid nap for your baby. My family all personally tires on vacation around 1 or 2 anyway, so this is the perfect time for everyone to relax and snooze before evening activities. (And if your baby has their own space has mentioned before, it will go much more smoothly!)

We asked the experts:

Q: Do I need to maintain my baby’s nap schedule while traveling? 

A: If you want to maintain consistency and predictability, then yes. Think of it this way: the more you veer off from their regular schedule during traveling, the more work you may need to put forth to fix it when you return home. There is some flexibility with naps, but it changes based on age and circumstances. In general, I wouldn’t veer more than 30 minutes from your regular nap-times if you’d like to maintain a balance during your travel times. -Bethany Allen, Sleep Consultant

We asked the experts:

Q: If my baby is normally taking two naps but thats not realistic while traveling what do you advise? 

A: One of my top rules for good sleep is to never skip a nap. A baby on two naps needs two naps (unless they are at an age appropriate window to transition to 1 nap and just haven’t yet). Each nap does something: one restores the body and the other restores the brain and sets the child up for good nighttime sleep. If you cannot do two naps at home, do one on the go and be home for the other (the car, strollers, and wearing a baby are your friend during traveling). This will really help the child maintain balance and consistency so you are not undoing things when you return home.  -Bethany Allen, Sleep Consultant

 

Step 6: Leave any sleep changes on the vacation

You baby's sleep patterns may change and fall off a little. This is normal and it is OK. As soon as you return home continue to be consistent with the sleep patterns and behaviors you have worked hard to help your baby develop. Don't allow this transition home to be an excuse to slide back into poor sleep habits. Your baby can quickly recover from an exciting (but exhausting) vacation.

We asked the experts:

Q: What are the top three tips to maintain your baby’s sleep routine while traveling? 

A: 1. Maintain naps, bedtime, and sleep environment as close as possible to your          schedule at home

2. Do not skip naps! It’s better to have a shorter nap “on the go” then to totally skip a morning or afternoon nap.

3) BALANCE each day. DO not overdue it day after day. If you do a “nap on the go” one day, make sure to maintain the normal bedtime. If you have solid naps at home another, a later night is ok. If you BALANCE each day out you find you don’t need to “undo” anything when you get home.  -Bethany Allen, Sleep Consultant

Following these 6 steps will help your baby (and you!) sleep much better while traveling so that everyone can have a great time. 

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