How to manage your child’s sleep while traveling
Have you ever had even just a little anxiety around traveling somewhere and what it might do to your child’s sleep?... I think we all have!! Unless your child is a unicorn sleeper, sleeps well anywhere and no amount of traveling disrupts their sleep. In that case… good for you!!
But for most of us travel and sleep do not seem to go hand in hand, but I’d like to offer that they could!!
Travel always seems to be a tricky endeavor where naps and nighttime sleep can get a little (or a lot) wonky. here’s always something exciting going on… maybe friends and relatives who are anxious to see the baby, or maybe once you arrive at your destination there’s too much to do/see, or maybe you’re just throwing caution to the wind with no sleep plan during your travel/vacation times. But you might find that your child’s sleep never really returns back to what it was pre-travel.
So here are some sleep tips you can take with you in planning for your trip, once you are at your destination and once you have returned home that will help ease the sleep hiccup that is travel:
Building up to travel:
1. Don’t over-pack, but don’t under-pack either
Bring along baby’s blanket, lovie and sleeping clothes. Anything that smells familiar and reminds them of their home sleeping environment will help them get to sleep in their new surroundings.
And if you can, even bring a Pack&Play, your own white noise machine (or free app), and monitor. Ok, so this might feel like overpacking, but you’ll thank me later… I promise! And having the monitor might allow you to grab some dinner down the hall if you’re staying at a hotel. My husband and I have done this MANY times, which was great because we didn’t feel stuck in the room once our boys were laid down.
Travel day has arrived!:
2. Plan to start driving around a nap
This will depend on age, because at some point you need to just get in the car and get going, but for younger babes taking multiple naps… hop in the car right when they would normally go down for a nap. Often-times babes will sleep better from the motion in the car, but this might buy you a couple hours of quiet before babe wakes up and wants to play, or eat, or the worst kind… wants to get out because they decided they hate the car seat!
Once you’re there:
3. Try to maintain your home schedule as best you can
Changes in the routine are the quickest way to end up with an overtired child. And if you had a great sleeper before, overtiredness will almost undoubtedly cause a reemergence of any bad sleep habits you’ve worked so hard to prevent.
If your child is tired and cranky, you’re going to have a lousy time. Sticking to the schedule and keeping babe well-rested will assure that the time you do get to spend with friends and family is fun, happy and relaxed.
4. Don’t skip naps, or push bedtime to later
As tempting as it may be to let your child skip a nap (if he/she is still taking them), or let bedtime fall back an hour or two, so that you can fit extra activities in, I highly recommend you resist the temptation and stick to the schedule you’ve kept at home. Overtired could definitely rear its ugly head here, too.
5. Create your child’s own space within yours
If you must share a room with your little one, try to create babe’s own space within yours. So, use furniture to your advantage, a partition in the room, get creative… whatever it takes so that babe can’t see you from their crib.
And don’t bring them into bed with you if you can avoid it. It will be much harder to return to independent sleep once home, if you weren’t doing this before you left.
Once you’re back home:
6. Right back to the same routine before you left
Bounce back into your old routine like you never left. If babe knew a good solid routine and schedule before-hand, there’s comfort in the familiar and it will make returning home that much easier.
Some might argue… we’re on vacation and we’re going to have fun! TOTALLY! DO IT!! But if the wheels fall off too much while you are away, this is often where I hear problems occurring. Families get back from travel and they just can’t get back to the way sleep was before they left and they just end up dealing with the night wakings, or co-sleeping (where they didn’t do that before). So just know that you can absolutely get back into some good solid sleep habits,even if your child wasn’t the greatest sleeper before you left.
How your child’s lack of sleep (and by default, your own)affects your relationships and/or your marriage
Was there ever a time when you thought to yourself… “There is a reason why sleep deprivation is a torture tactic?”
The above comes to mind for many of the families that I work with when their child isn’t sleeping well. I am a children’s Sleep Consultant at Happy Baby Sleep Consulting and I find my families wondering this and more. Some parents are so worn-down that blame quickly replaces the love they felt for one another, or there’s just no energy left for self care anymore, or there’s no desire to maintain the relationships and friendships that once fed you. One mom was so exhausted that she fell asleep while driving and crashed her car. Another was so frazzled that she didn’t realize the mistakes she was making in the kitchen and set part of it on fire. There are so many heartbreaking stories of individuals being unable to cope and/or relationships being deeply affected from ongoing sleep deprivation.
As we dive a little deeper into how lack of sleep affects your relationships, it is a sad fact that even just a few nights of broken sleep will affect your ability to cope and deal with others appropriately. The depth of lack of sleep affects more that you think. It’s definitely about your babe and his/her overall health, but also your own. It’s about the health of your partner and the health of the other children in your home (if you have any). It’s about the self-care you give yourself and about the relationships you have outside of your family that sustain you too.
But, you don’t go from fine to a complete and utter mom-bieovernight though. It usually creeps up slowly. For months you’re not noticing that you’re being grouchy, complaining a lot, or being nit-picky. You don’t necessarily see what you’re doing. But it trickles into the way you feel about yourself, the way you show up to the people in your life, to your friendships, your partner. Sleep deprivation has a terrible way of sneaking into everything you do.
So, I urge you to take a look at how the lack of sleep affects the entire family and the other relationships you have.
Adding a baby will absolutely cause some upheaval; this is also true. There will be some months at the beginning where it’s all about survival mode and that’s ok. But the problem can grow as the child does. Most people wait too long before they start looking for some help with sleep. From a partnership/marriage perspective, some families will be on the verge of divorce when they then consider reaching out for help. The partner has moved into the spare room, they’re not spending time together and they’re not being intimate. This is a difficult reality for some families and it needs to be acknowledged that it happens and it happens a lot more than you might think.
A 2006 study showed that people who were sleep deprived had an increased tendency to blame others for problems, had a reduced willingness to resolve conflict by accepting any blame, there was an increase in aggression level and they had a lower willingness to behave in a way that would facilitate social interactions. I feel like this would be a lot of moms these days!!... some of us are just done, burning the candle at both ends, with lack of sleep making life much worse.
But there is a light at the end of the exhausted tunnel!
One of the benefits of working closely with families to resolve their child’s sleep issues is to hear from families… “Solving mychild’s sleep problem saved my relationship with my partner.” This is a HUGE deal!!!
We know that sleep is one of the foundations of a happy and healthy life. So let’s stop trying to tone down the importance of it and start looking at how it impacts our own sense of well-being and our relationships with other people. It takes a lot to keep any relationship and/or a marriage healthy.
And once baby is sleeping better it’s life changing. You’ve gotten back an essential need. You start to feel better. You’re showing up to everything much better, you start to feel good about yourself, you’ve got more energy, there’s more “you” time and you might start feeling better about your partner (if you have one).
If you are still struggling with sleep, I just want to encourage you… just find something that does work. If that is talking with a friend about what they did to get their child to sleep well, do it! If that means hiring a Sleep Consultant because you need the one-on-one help, do it!! I’d be honored to chat with you about your sleep struggles and offer some suggestions. Sleep is so important that it needs to be solved however it can so you can be the best version of yourself possible!!
Happy Baby Sleep Consulting