As the warm weather is upon us and life slowly returns to normal (at least in some areas of the world), we wanted to share with you 10 strategies we love for sleep and travelling with our little ones. Depending on if you’re road tripping or flying, living the cottage relaxation life or have a jam packed itinerary, these tips might all look a little bit differently for you. Regardless of what excitement you have planned, we think they will be a great starting point for you and will hopefully provide you with some inspiration for planning your getaway with your child’s sleep in mind.
Chances are you currently have sleep associations in place right now that you enjoy and are working for you. Will those work while you’re away from home? Or could it be helpful to start building in some new ones to fall back on while traveling? For example if you are staying at a cottage without a rocking chair or you’re going to need to try to make airplane sleep happen, and rocking is the one of sleep associations you have in place that works for you, you might run into some tricky times. If instead, you’ve added sleep associations such as bum pats or back rub WHILE rocking baby at home, you have a way to support your little one to sleep established before you arrive at your destination.
2. Replicate and Bring What You Can From Home for Sleep Environment
You’ve probably created an environment at home that is conducive to sleep for your baby. This sleep environment is also likely both familiar and comfortable to them. Obviously you can’t pack up the entire room to bring with you (if only!) but anything you can bring with you can be very helpful. Maybe they have a sound machine you bring along (or a portable one that has similar effect?). Bringing along their crib sheets for a familiar scent might help them feel secure when sleeping in a pack and play somewhere else. Anything you can think of with this one can help them settle into their sleep space while away from home!
3. Try a Carrier Nap or Motion Naps
Motion naps while you’re away from home are an excellent way to help your little one get their nap in. They may not be as willing to surrender to sleep when they’re in a brand new place. Despite what you may have heard, motion naps are also restorative and it will help keep your little one on track while you’re away. You may want to try this a couple times before you leave home and make sure you have a carrier they find comfortable enough to sleep in. This specific tip can be great for when you’re on a day trip or it just doesn’t fit in your itinerary to have to head back to your room for naps every single time.
4. Experiment with Building a Connection with a Lovey
Try to establish a lovely connection in advance if possible so that you can use the lovey for comfort if you are stuck in the car an extended period of time, or in a similar situation where you can’t necessarily comfort baby in the typical way. One way to do this is every time you are feeding your baby - breast or bottle - try to place the lovey between you and babe. Not only will it smell like you but also it established that feeling of connection for your little one.
5. Plan for Downtime
Depending on your travel plans, penciling in some days that are slower can help make sure you are making it possible to get some quality sleep in for baby along the way. You may want to schedule full days that are free of plans between busier days, or maybe it works better to dedicate one nap a day to a solid nap in an environment conducive to sleep to help avoid tired cycles. A good contact nap is a great tool for most babies for getting things back on track and ensuring a quality stretch of sleep.
6. Check In with YOU
As we know, babies co-regulate. So if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious about their sleep away from home, that certainly won’t make it any easier for them to sleep on the go in the new environment. Make sure you’ve accounted for things that will help you stay regulated and calm so baby can also feel calm and regulated in the new environment while away. Are there plans you can make in advance so you feel more prepared? What boundaries or limits might you have to set that will help you to feel regulated? You know what works for you and what makes you feel overwhelmed, so take that into account as baby will most definitely be looking to you for cues on how to feel and they will mirror that back! Consider who you could ask for help and what help you could ask them to help with to make it all more manageable and enjoyable.
7. Take into Account Time Change & Jet Lag
If your travels are taking you across time zones this is something to consider. Depending on your baby’s temperament you may want to start shifting their daily rhythm before you leave (try by 15 minutes each day) or you may decide that they are okay to adjust when you get there. A general rule for adjusting to jet lag is that it can take one day for every hour of time change to adjust. We suggest that you take this into account and decide how much of a factor it will be based on how far you are travelling. Ps. You might feel jet lag too - so take that into account when planning! Jet lag is often worse when travelling East rather versus West as you are losing time when travelling East.
8. Play in the New Sleep Space Before You Ask Them to Sleep In It
When you arrive at your destination keep in mind that this is a whole new world for your little one! This is a great strategy to help them feel safe and secure in their new sleep space. Playing with them can help them to release endorphins in the sleep space and helps to create a positive emotional association with the space they will now be sleeping in for the duration of your trip. Children also learn through play so you can never go wrong with this one!
9. Don’t Be Afraid of Creating Bad Habits
Don’t stress about creating bad habits or patterns or “sleep crutches”. Remember that dependence fosters independence. When in a new environment with a new rhythm and possibly lots of new people and sights, it’s perfectly normal to expect that your baby may need you a little extra! Welcome the dependence and understand that this is perfectly normal. Allowing them to depend on you while in this new experience will only build your connection and attachment which will help them to rest in your relationship again when you return home!
10. Lower Expectations & Have Some Fun!
Despite how much you plan and prepare, sometimes things still won’t work out as exactly as you had planned. We also can’t live life around our little one’s sleep though - at least not all the time! Do the best you can, trust your instincts to know when you need to make sleep a priority but also know that it’s okay to enjoy your time away and be flexible too! You are going to create lots of amazing memories while on your adventure with your little one - focus on that, not a missed nap or a thrown off schedule. You’ll get back on track but you’ll never get back the moments and memories! ❤️
Where ever your adventures take you, we hope you have an amazing time, mama! You deserve it!