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Everything You Need to Know About Your Little One's Sleep When Travelling

Updated: May 12

As a holistic sleep coach who loves travel, I know how much we all want a good night sleep so we're able to enjoy being away. But for some of us traveling with little ones, sleep can become a source of stress and anxiety. But don't worry - I've got you. With a few tips and tricks, you can help ensure your baby, toddler, or child gets the rest they need while on the road.

Letting Go of Expectations and Enjoying the Adventure

First and foremost, it's essential to let go of any rigid expectations you may have about your child's sleep while traveling. The truth is, sleep will probably look different when you're away from home, and that's okay! Embrace the adventure and focus on making memories rather than stressing over nap schedules and bedtime routines.

One of the keys to successful travel with young children is flexibility. While it's nice to stick to your child's usual nap schedule when possible, sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. Embrace the concept of "naps on the go" by allowing your child to nap in the pushchair, car seat, or carrier while you explore your destination. Keep an eye on their sleep cues and provide a comfortable and safe sleep environment wherever you are.

Setting Up the Sleep Environment

Creating a sleep-friendly environment for your child while travelling can make a world of difference in their ability to rest well.

  1. Consider bringing along portable blackout blinds to block out any unwanted light if your child is used to sleeping in a dark room at home.

  2. White noise can also be helpful to use, even when you don't use it at home, depending on the noise levels of where you're staying.

  3. Familiar scents can be helpful too, so sometimes bringing their bedsheets from home can ease this change.

  4. Consider the temperature - particularly if you will be bedsharing, and prevent your little one overheating.

  5. Additionally, don't forget to pack familiar items from home, such as their favourite blanket or stuffed animal, to help your child feel more comfortable in their new sleep environment.

Managing in a Different Time Zone

Traveling across time zones can throw a wrench into even the most well-established sleep routines. But fear not, there are strategies you can use to help your child adjust more smoothly to their new schedule.

If you're only crossing one or two time zones, consider keeping your child up a bit later than usual and going out for dinner together as a family. This can help them adjust to the new time zone without having to worry about shifting their circadian rhythm again when they return home.

If you're crossing multiple time zones, try gradually shifting your child's bedtime and wake-up time in the days leading up to your trip. Once you arrive at your destination, expose your child to natural light during the day and keep their sleep environment dark and quiet at night to help reset their internal clock.

Making Bedsharing Safer When Away from Home

If you're a bedsharing family, safety is paramount, especially when travelling.

  1. Use a Safe Sleep Surface: Whenever possible, choose a firm mattress for bedsharing. The mattress should be firm and flat and it may be safest to move it onto the floor. Avoid using soft or sagging mattresses, as they can increase the risk of suffocation and overheating. If you're staying in a hotel or rental property, assess the mattress for safety before bedsharing.

  2. Create a Safe Sleep Environment: Remove any loose bedding, pillows, or other soft items from the bed to reduce the risk of suffocation. Keep the sleep surface clear and free of obstructions, and ensure that there are no gaps between the mattress and the headboard or footboard where your baby could become trapped.

  3. Avoid Overheating: Dress your baby in lightweight, breathable clothing and keep the room temperature comfortable to prevent overheating.

  4. Position Your Baby Safely: Always place your baby on their back to sleep, both at home and while traveling. Make sure you follow the safe sleep practices as you would at home and read more about this here.

  5. Stay Sober: Avoid bedsharing if you have been drinking alcohol or taking medication that makes you drowsy.

  6. Use a Bedside Sleeper: You could consider using a portable bedside sleeper or co-sleeper that attaches securely to your bed, providing a separate sleep surface for your baby while still keeping them close.

Getting Them Familiar with Their New Sleep Environment

If they're a little older and can understand, talk to them about the new sleep setup where they will be. For example, if they don't normally room share but they will when you're away, let them know beforehand!

Once you arrive at your destination, take some time to explore the room with your child and let them become comfortable with their new surroundings. Stick to your usual bedtime routine when settling them for sleep (as much as you're able to), and be patient as your child adjusts to their new sleep environment.

Mostly, have fun!

Traveling with young children can be both exciting and challenging, especially when it comes to managing sleep. But with a little planning and flexibility, you can help ensure your little one gets the rest they need while on the road.

Remember to let go of expectations and embrace the adventure, create a sleep-friendly environment wherever you go, and be patient as your child adjusts to their new routine. And most importantly, don't forget to savour the moments and make some memories along the way.

Safe travels!

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