Monday, November 24, 2014

Traveling and Surviving the Holiday's with Sleep

The holiday season is fast approaching and I know many of you will be traveling for the holidays.  To help you navigate this busy time of year and hopefully without too much disruption to everyone's sleep I am sharing my best tips for traveling with your lil one.

Planning ahead regarding your child's sleep while traveling can go a long way to helping your whole family have a more enjoyable vacation, here are a few tips to consider when planning your vacation.

Packing List

For your packing check list, here are a few items you should not leave home without:
  • Travel crib, sheets, pillowcases                                        
  • Crib blankie, sleep sack, security object
  • Sound machine and/or white noise app on your phone
  • Bedtime books
  • Night light  with a small 4 watt bulb                                            
  • Garbage bags or black flat sheets (from Wal-Mart) to cover windows             
  • Pushpins, electrical tape and/or binder clips

MSD Baby Sleep Coach Tip: Wal-Mart sells flat sheets very inexpensively in black.  I never traveled with my girls without our black sheets and binder clips (to hang them), just in case the room wasn't dark enough for naps or nighttime.

Sleeping Environment

Young children thrive off routines and predictability. Set up your child's sleeping environment to mimic the home environment as much as possible.

  • Bring familiar objects from home and set them up around the room.
  • Bring bedding from home that your child has already slept on rather than a freshly washed sheets. The familiar smell will help your child feel more at home.
  • If your child will be sleeping in a travel bed from home, have him get used to the bed by sleeping in it at home for a few days ahead of time.

    Adjusting to the New Place

    While you set up your child's sleeping room, have them in the room with you.  This will help your child get accustomed to the new sleeping environment.  Give him some play time in the playpen or crib when you arrive at your new destination, before you actually put him down for sleep. 

    MSD Baby Sleep Coach Tip:  Crib or room acclimation activities before sleep are great ways to help your child create a positive association with this new place.  While he is in the new crib, play games with him like peek-a-boo, read books or toss a soft toy back and forth. You can also both get down on the floor and allow him to explore the space together.

    Sleep Routines

    When possible keep your bedtime routine the same as it is at home. E.g. If your child always has a bath then reads a book before bed, try to do this while on vacation as much as possible.  Respect your child's need to sleep while on vacation.  Avoid keeping your children up past their bedtime or skipping naps. Try to stick to your at-home daily sleep schedule if you can. 

    Depending on what type of vacation you are on, here are a few tips for preserving your child's sleep routine:
    • Plan out your days so that you are able to get back to your "home base" for nap times.
    • Bring a playpen and set it up in a dark quiet room at guest's houses.
    • Time car trips so that your child can have their nap in the car.
    • Have your child nap in the stroller by finding a quiet location to go for a walk.
    Sleeping in the car or stroller is not as restorative as sleeping in a bed and should not become a regular routine, but it is much better than skipping naps altogether.

    Your child may need a little bit of extra comforting the first few nights while he/she adjusts to the new sleeping arrangements. It is ok to provide some extra soothing if needed, just avoid reverting to old sleep crutches. E.g. If you have eliminated nursing to sleep at home don't start this again while away.

    MSD Baby Sleep Coach Tip: If you have a method of sleep training that you used successful at home, you can re-visit this method to help your child settle in their new sleeping space without starting new habits that you don't want to keep when you get home.

    Time Zones

    Changing time zones can be difficult for both adults and children. Here are a few tips to help your child (and yourself) adjust to the time change.
    • Try to switch your child's eating and sleeping schedule onto the real time of the location you are in as quickly as possible.  Ideally within 24 hours from when you arrive. This may mean getting your child up from naps early so he doesn't nap too late in the day or waking him up in the morning even if he went to bed late the night before.
    • Exposure to daylight during proper wake times will help your child's body adjust to the time change more quickly.
    • Flights that land in the afternoon at the destination and time changes of less than three hours usually make for an easier adjustment.

    Be Flexible

    Have realistic expectations and be flexible.  Planning ahead is essential, however, even the best laid out plans will always have snags!  Even if things get thrown off for your child, don't let yourself become so stressed that you don't enjoy your vacation. Once you are home you should get back to your 'normal' routine within 1-2 days so you can get your child's sleep back on track asap.

    Don't forget to enjoy yourself!!!!! It is easy to get so caught up in managing our child's sleep and routines that we forget the reason we took a vacation! So go ahead, relax and have fun!

    Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy