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How to help your baby sleep on holiday

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

We all know babies thrive with routine and repetition, so it can be hard to imagine going on holiday - how will baby adjust? Read on for tips on helping your baby enjoy restful sleep in a new environment AND still having lots of fun bonding, and making memories together.

As a certified sleep consultant I work with families all around the world. One of the most common worries I hear is 'how will my baby sleep if we go away?'.

When I first meet families they are usually exhausted and at a complete loss on how to help their baby or toddler improve their sleep. We spend a great deal of time working out what the ideal food/sleep timings would be for that unique child, and implementing repetitive and familiar routines. Families are always astounded at the difference that can be made with some gentle changes followed by strict repetition. It's no wonder they are nervous to throw it all out of the window and head to a whole new environment and completely different routine!

Here are my top tips for the best chance of enjoying a family holiday, and have a well rested child!

"Why don’t kids understand their nap is not for them, but for us?” —Alyson Hannigan

The Routine

We all know the importance of a good routine. If you have a solid a routine that works for you at home try not to worry about 'damaging' that. Your child will quickly adjust back to their usual, familiar structure when they return home to their usually surroundings. If possible, return to your normal structure on the first full day following your holiday. It may take a day or two for things to slot back into place, but with consistency your child will quickly accept the familiar and comfortable pattern of their usual #sleeproutine.

If you're visiting a different time zone, try to accommodate the new timings as soon as you arrive. Traveling is tiring and it is likely your little one's sleep rhythm will already be thrown out by the long journey and sensory stimulation. Try get your little one down as close to their usual bedtime local time on the first night.

The space

Where your baby goes to sleep can have a big impact on not only how they fall asleep, but how well they stay asleep!

If staying in a separate room, (if this is the norm at home) is not an option, think creatively when setting up the sleeping space. Is there a way to partition the room or place the bed so you are not immediately visible on waking?

The golden tip!

If you're bringing your own travel cot from home, then introduce cot play in the week before the holiday. If you've worked with me as a sleep consultant you'll know what an effective tool cot/room play can be!

Cot play is a wonderful transitionary tool and the premise is very simple- build positive associations with their sleep space. Set the cot up and take a few minutes once or twice a day (away from sleep times) to play with your child in the cot, The more laughter the better! The idea is to help your child to release oxytocin (you'll recognise that word from your #antenatalclassses) within their sleep place.

Take comforters from home with you, a particular teddy they usually play with, or a particular blanket they have on their bed, within reason try to make the room and the cot / bed as familiar as possible.

As always the room should be as dark as possible, travel black out blinds are great for this. White noise, at the same volume as a vacuum cleaner will help drown out any unwanted noise and unfamiliar sounds that may disturb an otherwise peaceful sleep.

The Naps

If you're likely to be out be out exploring later than usual or just generally doing more than your little one is used to, you should expect them to need more sleep, this may mean a cat nap for a non-napper (cap this at 40 mins ideally stopping at least 5 hours before the intended bedtime).

On the go naps for those in pushchairs or the occasional late night won't throw out all your hard work building healthy sleep habits! Enjoy your family time and focus on the #wakewindows between sleep, trying whenever possible to encourage your child to sleep/rest within those windows, to avoid overstimulation.

Overall - relax - they may just surprise you!

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