The holiday season is a popular time to travel to see family and friends. During this time, many new parents who have recently gotten their babies sleeping on a schedule are worried that they might regress a bit and I can assure you, those fears could not be more well-founded. Between the travel, the excitement, the constant attention and then travel all over again, the holidays are the single easiest way to throw all of your hard work out the window. However, I’m happy to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way! With some strategic planning and an iron will, you can keep that carefully orchestrated routine running just the way you do at home. There are two major impediments to your little one’s sleep over the holidays; one is travel and the other is family and friends. So let’s tackle both of those topics individually.
If you’re thinking about starting sleep training your little one, but you’re planning on traveling in the next few weeks, my suggestion would be to hold off on any sleep training until you return. If you’ve already started, not to worry. Taking a trip typically won’t help your little one sleep better, but if you can maintain some semblance of normalcy until the end of your trip, you and baby should be ready to get back to business as soon as you get home.
If you’re driving to your destination, a clever trick is to schedule your driving time over baby’s naps. Car naps aren’t ideal, but compared to no naps at all, they’re the lesser of the two evils by a mile! Therefore, if at all possible, get on the road around the time baby would be taking her first nap. If you’re really committed, you can even look for some parks or tourist attractions that are on your route where you can stop when baby wakes. It’s a great opportunity to get out into the sunshine and fresh air, which will make that next nap much easier. I understand that you are almost always never going to plan your driving schedule around your child’s naps, especially if you’re traveling a far distance. But as always, just do your best!
If you’re flying, well, my heart goes out to you. It’s no secret that planes and babies just don’t seem to go together, so I suggest that you do whatever you need to do in order to get through the flight with a minimum amount of fuss. Bring lots of snacks, toys and don’t be afraid to let them have some screen time! The truth is, if they don’t want to sleep on the plane, they’re just not going to, so don’t try to force it. If you have a real little one, getting them to snooze on the plane might be a little easier.
Upon your arrival to your destination is another difficult part about traveling. After all, your family and friends will want to see and play with your little one, which results in a pretty overstimulated child; especially one who hasn’t napped well during their travel. So, I’m giving you permission to be the bad guy. Don’t negotiate, don’t make exceptions and don’t feel bad about it! Explain the importance of your little one’s sleep so that everyone can have an enjoyable time while you’re celebrating the holidays. Sleep during this time is even more important, perhaps, than it would be at home during a regularly scheduled day. You can even tell your loved ones in advance what your child’s sleeping routine will look like while you’re away so that everyone’s on the same page.
Once you’ve conquered the travel time and staying on top of your little one’s naps, the next feat is bedtime. But you might be in a situation where there is limited space and you’ll have to share a room with her. It will be very tempting to share a bed with your child because after all, it’s only a few nights, right? Not exactly. You want to make this as little of a deviation from the normal routine as possible, and babies and children alike can develop a real affinity for co-sleeping in as little as one night. If you’re sharing one room with your child, do your best to make it into “two rooms”. You can do this by hanging a blanket, a dressing screen or even putting baby in the closet or bathroom (if it’s big enough!). This option actually works out great because it’s usually very dark and quiet and allows you to be a little freer in the bedroom you’re sharing. The least of all, put as much distance between you and your child in that room. You still want to encourage independent sleep, even if you’re forced to share a sleeping space with your child.
Your child’s bedtime and bedtime routine should remain consistent as well. If you’re in a completely different time zone, do your best to split the difference and put your baby down for bed at that time. You’re not going to be in control of many things while away from home but do your best to keep to your child’s schedule so that she gets an efficient night’s rest each night. Keeping her routine as close to her routine at home as possible will help her familiarize herself with sleep while away and will result in little to no fuss at all! Bring your child’s book, loveys and anything else she usually uses during her routine. This might be the best advice of all!
Other temptations while traveling with your little one is wanting to use sleep props that you wouldn’t typically use at home, especially if you’ve already started sleep training. If your child is finding it difficult to sleep away from home, you may be tempted to rock her or offer her the pacifier so that she quiets down and falls asleep. Do your best to encourage independent sleeping habits while you’re away. Again, your goal is to make your child’s sleeping routine and environment as similar as possible to the way it is at home.
Lastly, it may be really difficult for you to go above and beyond to make sure your child sleeps well away from home; whether that be because of your limited resources or because your friends and family think you’re out of your mind. (I’ve been there quite a few times!) At the end of the day, these attempts go a long way for you, your child and anyone you’re staying with. You know that if you and your child can get an adequate night’s sleep, all is well. If all else fails, make sure to implement your healthy sleep skills and strategies with your little one when you get home and don’t ever look back!