Travel and Sleep
The holidays are upon us. According to the US Bureau of transportation and Statistics, “the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holiday periods are among the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year”. If you are among the thousands of families traveling this holiday season, here are some ways to maintain healthy sleep habits for your young baby or toddler.
When a child’s sleep environment changes, you can expect more wake-ups. These wake-ups are nature’s way of keeping your baby safe. We are supposed to wake fully if something in our sleep environment feels “wrong”. It will be helpful to respond to your child exactly as you would if you were in your home environment. The consistency in your response will assure your child that everything is normal and they can safely fall back to sleep. Your baby’s temperament will also dictate how easily they adjust to falling asleep and staying asleep in an unfamiliar environment.
You can create a sleep inducing environment even while staying at someone’s home or in a hotel. We know you may be thinking, “My entire family is sleeping in the same room. There is nothing sleep inducing about that!” Well, it certainly will not be the same as home, but there are some things you can do to put the odds of a good night’s sleep in your favor.
Make the room dark. Most hotels have black-out curtains, but if you are staying at someone’s home and the room does not have black out drapes, you can darken the windows yourself. Hang large black garbage bags over the window secured with painters tape so that you will not do any damage. Large beach towels, or sheets hung over windows can also darken a room sufficiently.
Plan ahead what type of bed your baby or child will be sleeping in and check that it is safe and age appropriate. A portable “pack and play” style crib may be appropriate for an infant or young toddler, while a child-size air mattress can be a great option for a preschooler. Most hotels have cribs and cots available for use, but always call ahead to make sure the cribs are safe and make arrangements in advance.
Place your child’s bed as far away from your sleep space as possible. As long as it’s safe, walk-in closets and bathrooms are fair game.
Create a white noise barrier between your bed and your child’s. A small stationary fan, white noise machine or white noise app placed between the beds will help with disturbances from each other throughout the night.
If possible, give your child some time to explore their sleep environment before it’s actually time to sleep. Giving them time to look around while you are there, will help to create positive associations with the sleep space. This will help every child, even babies as young as 5 months.
Maintain a predictable bedtime routine during your travels. Keeping the bedtime routine similar to home, will indicate to your child, that even though this is a different place, the routines and expectations are the same. Remember to bring along familiar blankets, age appropriate lovies, pacifiers or books. The familiarity of these objects will be very comforting to your child while she is learning to fall
If your baby is having a difficult time falling asleep, simply repeat the bedtime routine. Repeating the routine over is better than responding in a way you wouldn’t normally do at home such as rocking a young baby to sleep or sleeping in the same bed with a toddler. A response like this can elicit bedtime maintinaining pre-sleep routines may be possible, but sticking to regular timing of sleep may prove to be more difficult while away for the holidays. If keeping to your baby’s nap schedule is too difficult, try baby wearing, strolling or car rides to ensure your child naps at her regular time, even if it’s not in an ideal location. Letting your child sleep at times when you know her body is ready for sleep will make for a happier baby hence a happier mommy.
If traveling creates new sleep challenges that linger when you come back home and you need help getting your child’s sleep back on track, please contact us at www.earlyparentingpartners.com to schedule an individualized sleep consultation.
Kristen relies on her many years of experience, as well as her education and background, to create individualized sleep or specified parenting support for every family she works with. She enjoys living in a small town north of Boston with her husband, son and daughter.
Joanna is an educator, holistic health counselor and mother of two young children. She has 15 years of teaching experience with children from infancy to 18 yrs of age, focusing the last 4 years consulting schools and young families.
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