Got a baby or toddler in tow as you travel this holiday season? It’s likely that you’re worried about making sure he naps and sleeps through the night.
Between flights and road trips, a new environment, and plenty of holiday excitement, all the changes can throw a wrench in his sleep schedule. Yet with a little planning, consistency and some flexibility, you can help your baby get the sleep he needs.
Here, experts weigh in with their best tips.
1. Have a plan.
Instead of shuttling your baby between family members’ homes, pick one place to sleep throughout the trip, said Kim West, a licensed clinical social worker known as The Sleep Lady®, and sleep expert for Bundoo.com. If family members get upset, stay at their place next year. If you’ll be staying at a hotel, see if they offer a suite option so your baby can be in a separate room but still close by. Find out before you arrive if they offer a crib or if you’ll need to bring a pack-n-play.
2. Get them ready.
With enough sleep, your baby will adapt well to the schedule change, late nights and new environment, so make your baby’s schedule a priority at least a week before you leave.
“Fill the sleep tank before you leave,” West said.
3. Time travel right.
One of the best ways to fit in a nap and also make the flight stress-free is to book a flight or hit the road during your baby’s regular naptime. If your flight lands during the day, stick to your baby’s schedule as much as possible. If you’ll be traveling more than three time zones east, put your baby to bed 30 minutes earlier each night a few days before you depart, said Dr. Robert S. Rosenberg author of “Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day: A Doctor’s Guide to Solving Your Sleep Problems.”
4. Set your baby’s internal clock.
Sunlight in the morning helps to set your baby’s circadian rhythms. It also produces melatonin so your baby will sleep better at night, Rosenberg said. Making the room as dark as possible at night will promote melatonin production as well.
5. Make time for naps.
You want to avoid multiple late nights without daytime naps because it could really throw a wrench in your holidays, West said. If your family’s tradition happens to fall at the time of your baby’s nap, try to put her down earlier. Or if you anticipate it’s going to be a late night, make naps a priority during the day. Don’t plan activities during nap times but if it’s unavoidable, make it up the next day.
6. Stick to the bedtime ritual.
If a bath, book, lullaby and snuggle time is what you do at home, that same consistent routine will comfort your baby while you’re away.
7. Pack some of his favorite things.
Bring something that’s familiar, like his favorite music, lovey, toy, swaddle, night light, or even a crib sheet. A white noise machine or a white noise app can muffle outside noise and help your baby sleep soundly too. If your baby will be napping while you’re out and about, bring the car seat canopy cover.
8. Ask for help.
Your intention might be to stick to her sleep schedule but it’s very easy to get off track when family members want to hold and play with your baby. What’s more, “an overtired and cranky baby is going to be much harder to put to sleep,” Rosenberg said. Instead, ask grandma and grandpa to help with the bedtime routine so everybody wins.
9. Pick up where you left off.
Once at home, get your baby right back on his normal routine. It might be a bit rocky at first, but he should be back to his schedule within a day or so.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.