Summer is Here!
And this is the time of year when parents have LOTS of questions about how to sleep well while on the road. In this two part series, I'll talk about some of the major challenges and best tips for keeping your baby's sleep on track while you're out of town and away from your own beds and routines.
How do you maintain great sleep during summer travel?
The reality is, when you're away from your child's familiar routine and setting (their own home, bed, and usual daily activities), sleep is going to be different. Sometimes, having realistic expectations about this fact alone can make a trip more enjoyable for everyone. Don't expect every night to be perfect or every nap to be as long as they are at home. And realize that the farther you are from your normal sleeping arrangements (sleeping in the same room on a trip when you sleep in separate rooms at home, for example), the more challenging it may be for your child to sleep as they usually do. But there are ways to get at least GOOD sleep while vacationing at the beach or visiting family!
#1: Stick to the Schedule
Is it realistic to think that you will be able to stay exactly on the schedule of naps and bedtimes you use at home while visiting grandparents across the country? NO! But do your best to keep the rhythm of your child's day the same and their sleep will follow. How?
Give family and friends an idea of how you'd like your day to unfold so THEIR expectations are reasonable. If your child always naps at 1, let them know you're excited to have a fun morning activity and that "Sally" will probably need a rest in the middle of the day. Then they are primed for a more specific suggestion when you arrive.
Bring your sound machine, favorite lovies or swaddle, and even blackout curtains with you! Black garbage bags and duct tape work or, if you travel a lot, invest in travel black out blinds from Gro Company.
Travelling to different time zones can make any parent panicky. Do you stick to their schedule in their home time zone or the new one? I suggest getting into your new time zone as quickly as possible and food is a simple cue to your child's body about what time it is. Use a snack to help get past their usual mealtimes and feed them according to their new location's clock.
Remember, sleep begets sleep, especially in babies under 1 year. Keep your child's nap schedule as normal as possible while traveling. Maybe this means one parent takes "Sally" back to the hotel room for a morning nap while the other goes for a hike with friends. At least try to get your child the same number of naps they usually get during the day, even if one has to be on the go in the stroller or carseat.
Bring some of your favorite bedtime books with you and make sure you have some of your child's familiar bed things with you. Then just pause your evening and try to recreate your routine from home to help your baby transition to sleep. I also suggest spending some time, the first time you put your child to sleep in a new place, looking at and talking about the room. "This is where you will sleep tonight. The curtains are red here". Be sure to look at and talk positively about any new or strange objects or art in the room!
Ready? Set? Hit the road and have fun!