There’s so much to think about when you take a trip with your little one. Whether it’s just an overnight stay or a longer holiday, you may be worried about disrupting their routine, especially when it comes to sleeping.
But the good news is that travelling can actually help baby to sleep better. A change of scene can help break bad sleeping habits. Extra time outdoors, doing new things with mum, dad and family can make babies feel more tired than usual so they sleep more easily.
Tips to help your baby sleep on holiday:
Most babies tend to be lulled to sleep when they travel in a car, train or plane. They may nod off regularly on a long journey and sleep more than usual. That might mean they’re not as sleepy at their usual bedtime and you may struggle to get them to sleep. A different environment from what they’re used to at home may also be unsettling.
To avoid too much sleep disruption, consider making the most of your journey at night, or setting off early in the morning.
If your baby has slept a lot on your holiday journey, this is one time when you can think about putting them to bed later than usual, and only then when they show signs of tiredness. Your little one is much more likely to settle if you encourage them to sleep when they’re tired.
Travelling by plane
If you’re travelling by plane or changing time zones significantly, here are a few tips to help you minimise sleep disruption for you and your baby…
- Reserve a bassinet for your baby to sleep in during the journey or find out if you can take your baby car seat onboard.
- Encourage your little one to suck, chew or swallow when the plane is taking off or landing. The change in air pressure can give them earache. Use a soother or bottle, or if your baby is old enough, give them a dried apple ring to chew on.
- Make sure your baby is wearing something comfortable such as a soft one-piece suit with popper fastenings. And have a change of clothes ready in case of any accidents. Check in your pram or pushchair as late as possible before boarding so that your baby can use it for napping in while you wait.
- Check in for your flight as early as you can and don’t be afraid to ask if there are any spare seats. Airline staff will want to make sure you and your baby are as comfortable as possible. It makes it better for everyone onboard if you have a good flight.
- Make sure you give your baby plenty to drink. Not only will this prevent them from becoming dehydrated, but it will also help ease any pressure on their ears.
- Let your baby sleep as much as they like on the plane. You may find the motion makes them sleep longer than normal.
- Try to feed your little one at their usual times or on demand, no matter what the time difference. If you need a bottle warming up, let the cabin crew know well in advance as they are often very busy. They also may make the bottle too hot, and you’ll have to allow time for it to cool.
- Entertain your baby by walking up and down, watching the in-flight movie and playing with a few toys. You don’t have to take the whole toy box, just a couple of things that will help distract and amuse them.
When you’re on holiday, you may find it less stressful if you can be a bit flexible with baby’s bedtime. They may sleep more during the day, especially if you’re outdoors and they’re in their pram or being carried around. So, if they want to stay up and have dinner, then that’s okay.
When you do put them to bed for the night, try to make the experience as familiar as it would be at home. You might not be able to bath your little one every night before bed, but you can give them similar bedtime cues as you wash them, clean their teeth and settle them down. Sing the same lullabies, read the same nighttime story and use the same comforter or sleep bag.
Place your baby on their back in a cot close to your bed. It’s better to settle them in their own sleeping space than in bed with you as they’re less likely to resist going into their cot when you go home, and you get a good night’s sleep too. You may need to stay with them a little longer to help them settle, to offer a bit of comfort and reassurance, but try to let them go to sleep on their own.
If baby’s nursery at home is a very dark room, they may have trouble adapting to sleeping in a brighter, lighter environment on holiday, especially if you’ve changed time zones too. Think about what you can do to keep their sleeping environment cool and dark, by using a fan or investing in a portable blackout blind.
We all relax the rules a bit on holiday, and that goes for babies and toddlers too. If sleep and nap times have been all over the place, try not to worry too much, but aim to get back into your usual routine as soon as you’re home. You may find that familiar sights, sounds and surroundings help. Don’t be tempted to carry on the holiday habits for a little longer though as you may find you’re stuck with them.
Wherever you travel, no matter how long or short the journey, enjoy the time with your little one sharing new experiences and showing them new parts of their world.