By Heidi Christianson
As parents start feeling more comfortable getting out and about with baby, it may be stressful to think about travel, especially when it comes to keeping little ones on their nap and sleep schedules. Don’t let the prospect of baby getting off schedule worry you, though; here are our Top 5 tips to keep the little ones happy and calm when away from home:
Practice at home. Babies are often not used to sleeping in a travel bed or pack-n-play. So put baby in a travel bed or pack-n-play for naptime at home in weeks leading up to the trip.
Keep a sleep routine as close to home as possible to help baby feel safe and secure. If weather permits, dress baby in pajamas/sleepsack/swaddle blanket that they are accustomed to. If renting a full-sized travel crib from a hotel, bring bedsheets and a breathable bumper from baby’s crib at home to recreate a familiar sleep environment. Sing the same bedtime songs you sing at home and read favorite books.
Try to stay on baby’s time. If possible, try to keep naptimes and bedtimes close to the same schedule as at home. When traveling across time zones, gradually adjust baby’s bedtime. Some parents like to travel at night so baby can sleep and wake up in the new destination refreshed. But this can lead to the parents’ exhausting first day of the trip. Traveling at night could be possible if you can “tag-team” with your partner by alternating napping and caring for baby during the first day.
Once at the destination, do not rely on car seats for safe sleep. While it is tempting to let a sleeping baby spend the night in a car seat or stroller, car seats can sometimes cause breathing problems in babies. Instead, follow the recommendations of the American Association of Pediatrics and the “Back to Sleep” campaign by creating a safe sleep environment and putting baby on their back to sleep.
Slow it down – you’re on baby’s time. Don’t expect to have a jam-packed sightseeing schedule. All the new sights, sounds, and experiences are stimulating and exciting for baby. However, baby could get fussy if overstimulated and too exhausted. Remember that sleep begets sleep. Keeping baby awake longer than their bodies may need may work for one night or one nap, but fighting against baby’s natural rhythms leads to a meltdown. While it is nice to have alone time with your partner, caring for a baby can be even more exhausting than usual when traveling. We like to remind parents not to stay up too late too!
Heidi Christianson, RRT, NPS, is a respiratory therapist, mom, and owner of Let Mommy Sleep of Idaho. If you’d like to connect with Heidi, visit her website, letmommysleep.com, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.