Traveling can be strenuous enough without a baby – add a little one to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster! Trying to get from one place to the next can wreak havoc on your baby’s sleep schedule which can lead to less sleep for everyone in the family.
But, have no fear, your baby sleep travel tips are here! Read on to learn how to tackle the most common travel-related infant sleep issues including plane rides, road trips, time zones changes, family sleepovers, and hotel stays.
1) Plane Travel
Plane travel is DEFCON 1 when traveling with children. Hold nothing back when it comes to helping your little one fall asleep on a plane. Keep in mind that baby may not be interested in sleeping at their normal sleep times when on a plane. In this case, revert to plan B and worry more about keeping your baby happy, than about getting baby to fall asleep. If you are able to help lull your little one to sleep, congrats! Here are a few methods used to soothe baby to sleep: Nursing or bottle feeding upon take-off can do the trick. You can also strap baby into an infant car seat with a paci or bottle while covering the carseat with a blanket to create a dark environment. Remember to leave a small crack for ventilation. Now go ahead and watch that movie you’ve been wanting to see since before you were pregnant! Once the plane lands and you make it to your destination with baby, you may find he slept most the plane ride – but now it’s bedtime and he’s wide awake when you arrive at your hotel. If you were lucky enough to have your babe slumber his way through the whole flight, fear not! As long as you give baby about 2-4 hours of wake time between landing and bedtime (depending on age – the older the baby, the longer the wake time), he should be able to go down for the night just fine. A late bedtime is perfectly okay after a long day of travel, provided the baby has had a substantial amount of sleep on the flight. Just be sure to follow the time zone tips below as you transition at your new destination.
2) Road Trips
Car trips are another challenging situation when it comes to babies and sleep. While it’s always best to have your little one sleep at home in their crib when at all possible, entertaining kiddos in a rear facing car seat can be extremely challenging. For that reason, it’s best to time your car trips over a nap period. In particular you may want to leave right around nap time and then have your child spend the latter half of your road trip awake. That way they are more likely to be rested and happy for the remainder of your car ride. If your baby does manage to take a snooze in the car, put her to bed about 2-4 hours after she wakes up (just like you do in the case of plane travel). If your road trip is seven hours or longer, consider leaving at baby’s bedtime and driving straight through the night. Your baby might not fall asleep right away, but the darkness and road noise is sure to lull her to sleep soon after you start to drive. An added bonus: less traffic. Don’t forget to make a coffee stop!
3) Time Zone Changes
Time zone changes are not nearly as challenging to deal with as parents usually think they will be. The formula is actually quite easy. Regardless of if you are traveling east or west, keep your child on your home time zone until your kiddo starts waking close to 6am or 7 am local time to start their day. Once that happens, immediately switch their schedule so they are taking naps at their usual times. Going east expect your 7 pm to 7 am night time sleep baby to sleep from 10 pm to 10 am local time, but to start waking earlier and earlier in the morning such that by day 3 to 5 they are waking closer to 7 am. If you are traveling west, your 7am to 7pm baby will want an early bedtime well before dinner, but will then attempt to wake well before the sun rises. In this case, push your child’s bedtime later 30 minutes each night, and in a few days your baby should be waking later in the morning. In either case, keep moving their nap times commensurate with their morning wake up time. See, no need to fret about time zones and baby sleep. Now all you have to worry about is your own jet lag!
4) Family Sleepovers
It seemed like a good idea at the time to have 30 of your closest family members and in-laws all sharing the same cabin for your annual family ski trip. To make the most of your de facto family reunion be sure to pack baby’s Pack n’ Play, a loud white noise sound machine that stays on all night, and some painter’s tape and tinfoil to block out light from any windows. If possible, get dibs in advance on the master bedroom, or arrive early to snag a bedroom with an attached bathroom or closet that might be large enough to put the Pack n’ Play in. Another valuable tip: When crazy Aunt Sally criticizes you for not keeping baby up for late-night hang outs around the fireplace, remind her that she probably had a great time when she was raising her kiddos, and now you SO enjoy being a parent and making well-thought out choices for your own family.
5) Hotel Sleepovers
Just like family sleepovers, sharing a room with your kids sounds great until you encounter the realities of your children being able to see you all.night.long. Tip: When you book a hotel, ask for a handicap accessible room which might afford you some extra space to separate your child’s Pack n’ Play a bit from your bed. Remember to pack along that PNP as unfamiliar hotel cribs can sometimes give babies of all ages the heebie-geebies. Now, what’s the secret to getting baby to fall asleep in a hotel room? Put baby down and then leave the room and stand in the hallway for about 10-15 minutes until he finishes falling asleep on his own. By leaving the deadbolt lock in between the door and the door-jam, you can still have a direct line of sight and be within earshot of your babe. Final hotel stay sleep secret: Place pillows on the floor around the perimeter of the Pack n’ Play to prevent your infant from seeing you as soon as he wakes. Now get some sleep!
Don’t forget that sleep should be a priority for everyone! Remember to plan ahead and think about these two very important things before you depart for a trip:
1) Where exactly your baby will sleep during your travel and stay.
2) What you can do to create an environment as conducive to sleep as possible.
So if what you’re really been hoping to achieve this New Year is quality sleep and energy to survive 2016, this may just be the greatest New Year resolution of all to get baby, mommy, daddy and the entire family the sleep you all so desperately need. Now, with all the refreshing sleep you have, there’s time to accomplish your next New Year resolution – going to the gym! Or, simply enjoying the peace and quiet when your little one sleeps like an angel… 🙂
(Photo Credit: Tiffany J Photography)