NOCTURNAL GROANS ON VACATION
You’ve had your baby, you’re on mat leave and don’t have to ask your boss for vacation, so you start looking for destinations. Your husband is on board and excited - so you book a holiday… YAY!! Until the closer it gets, the more anxiety you have about the baby’s sleep while you’re there… You run in cycles of being excited to get away with your new little fam jam and cancelling the trip all together because you’re so worried about what it will do to your precious baby’s sleep. Keep reading, you can have a great vacation AND a baby who sleeps! It’s true!!
It’s important to remember that the trip will be much more enjoyable if you organize your vacation in a way that allows for minimal disruption to your little one’s sleep schedule. This will help ensure she gets the rest she needs to be happy, healthy, and alert during your trip, which will definitely make your holiday more enjoyable for everyone!
Tip 1: Don’t over-schedule
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to try to pack in all the fun and adventure they might have had back before they had a baby to haul around and keep alive. The fact is, when you travel with a baby you can’t plan to go bungee-jumping in the morning, swim with dolphins in the early afternoon, go parasailing in the late afternoon, and go on a dinner cruise in the evening. (That was exhausting just thinking about that busy day!!)
It’s better to slow the pace and make sure you plan regular naps and early bedtimes, just like you would at home. This isn’t to say “no fun allowed” but be conscious of your baby and their sleep needs… We all know the feeling of coming home from a trip and needing a vacation post vacation.
Tip 2: Be consistent with naps and bedtime
An occasional nap in the car seat or a later-than-usual bedtime probably won’t do too much harm, but if your baby’s naps are all over the place and she goes to bed much later than usual several days in a row, your baby will become so overtired and cranky that a complete meltdown will be inevitable… A trip with an overtired, screaming child is much less enjoyable in the long run.
Tip 3: Be patient as your baby acclimatizes to the new environment
Even if your baby is the best little sleeper in the world at home, when you’re in a strange environment things might be different. It’s normal for babies and toddlers to test boundaries around sleep when they’re somewhere new.
Just because you have certain rules at home, they won’t automatically understand that the same rules apply at Grandma’s house. You have to teach them that the same rules apply.
In a strange place, your baby might cry for a while at bedtime or wake up at odd times during the night. The best way to handle this kind of behavior is to react the exact same way you would at home. Go into the room every five minutes or so to offer a bit of reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules. If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first night or two, your child will be used to the new environment and will be sleeping well again.
Tip 4. Make sure you bring your child’s lovey and/or blanket
If your child has a treasured comfort item, it will go a long way to helping him feel safe and secure enough to fall asleep in a strange environment. Forget it once and you’ll never forget again!
Tip 5. If you’re not a co-sleeping family, don’t start now
Another big mistake parents make is to start sharing a bed with their baby or toddler while traveling. Even if it’s only for a few nights, if your baby decides this is her new preferred way to sleep, you could find yourself dealing with a big problem when you get home and try to put her back in her crib.
The good news is, most hotels have a crib you can use or rent. You could also take your portable playpen or travel crib along and use that (I LOVE the Baby Bjorn travel crib!).
Tip 6. Dive in
When travelling to another time zone, I usually suggest that you just jump right in and add extra naps and follow your child’s tired cues to get your little one from time zone A to time zone B. It may be yucky for a day or two, but so are time changes for us too. This way its tough, but you don’t waste several days at the beginning and end of your vacation trying to ease your baby into the current time zone. Easier said than done, but don’t stress that it’ll be a bit messy temporarily.
Photo Credit: Modern Nest Photography