23 December, 2020
How to get your baby to sleep on holidays
Approximate reading time: 4 minutes
The car is stuffed to the brim. Your excited to leave the city. But how will your little one go sleeping while away? It’s playing on your mind.
Let’s explore how to make it easier for the whole family.
7 Quick & Easy Tips to Help Kids Sleep on Holidays
Maintain the sleep routine
How do you let your little one know it’s time for sleep? You might read a book, sing a lullaby, have a cuddle or boob / bottle. This 5-10 minute routine should be consistent before each sleep.
This cues your bubba’s brain that it’s time to slow down and go to sleep. It can take a couple of weeks to set a routine so if you don’t already have a pre-bed routine, get started before heading away.
Consistent sleep environment
How do you feel sleeping in another bed? As an adult it's a challenge to sleep away, so no wonder kids also struggle.
Quiet background noise and dark room can make a massive difference.
You can use an old phone to play waves, white noise or gentle lullabies. If you do use an old phone or tablet, turn off the wifi to save battery life and reduce electromagnetic radiations in your child’s room. You can also buy machines that play sleep noises as well as a night light.
When travelling you can bring cut up cardboard boxes or garbage bags to stick on the windows or purchase portable blinds like this one.
If you use calming scents at home, bring these along as well as any nightlights with you too. Bring your own cot sheets from home to bring the homely scent with you. You’ll soon have an extra bag just for child’s sleep set up!
Plan ahead for temperature changes. Bring a variety of sleep suits, pjs and layering options. Overheating doesn’t only disrupt sleep but it can also be dangerous for young babies.
Pro Tip: If you use a streaming service, make sure you pre-download the songs for when you are out of range! Added bonus to have a few backup options too- an annoying wiggles song might come in handy.
Whilst there was natural waves in the background, there were people talking around us so we took out an old phone loaded with calming waves tracks. This Tulla Free to Grow also has a handy waist pocket where we could store the white noise.
You might flip and flop trying to get comfortable in a new bed. The same will be true for your bundle of joy.
Even if your child normally gets to sleep easily on their own at home, they may need some extra assistance while away. It's a new environment and they aren't used to the new smells, shadows, changed schedules, excess stimulation during the day, new people, the list goes on.
Use a watered-down version of any tactics you've previously used. If you used to sit next to the cot, you might instead sit at the door. If you used to rock until fast asleep, you might rock until drowsy. If your child was falling asleep independently prior to the holiday, you'll quickly get back into that again when you go home. It's ok to have a bit of a 'regression' - it's completely natural and normal!
We all feel exhausted after a big day of sightseeing. Allow some rest days and be flexible in your planning.
Time Zone Changes
This all depends how big the time difference is. And honestly, it's not an exact science so use these recommendations but do what works best for your family!
If it's 30 minutes, then for an older child, just adapt your schedule once you arrive in the new time zone like you would traveling across the globe.
If the time difference is one to three hours, then you’ll be able to slowly transition to the new time zone a week before leaving. This will save it being too dramatic and overwhelming (and exhausting) a change.
For example, if traveling from Melbourne to Auckland, there’s a 2 hour time difference. A week before leaving, bring the bedtime back 15 minutes every 1-2 nights, also try to push back naps and wake up times too. By the time you arrive in Auckland, you’ll have a quicker and easier transition to get on local time.
If a long haul trip is planned, the first day you should get on normal schedule and adjust an earlier bedtime if getting overtired. For example, for a usual 6:30am wake time at home, you’d wake the baby up at 6:30am local time on the first day.
Flights, tours and shows don’t always line up with your child’s sleep schedule. What do you do then?
Try to keep the awake windows the same as usual.
For example, for an 18 month old, they may be awake for 5.5-6 hours at a time. If you have to wake your child up for an early flight, to avoid being overtired, try get them to sleep 5.5-6 hours later. Yes their bedtime will be earlier but it’ll avoid overtired sleep battles. Overtired babies wake up frequently in the night and early in the morning.
Hiring a car and doing your own tours is a fun and convenient way to have sleeps on the go while still getting out all day. Plan it out so the longer stretches line up with nap times.
You can also try to have on the go naps in a carrier. This will mean you can do full day tours.
Do have rest days - you need rest as much as your child does.
Different shadows and noises in a hotel room. Cultural sculptures seen during the day. Overstimulation and over-tiredness. There’s many reasons why your little one may have some bad dreams.
Nightmares typically happen later in the night and are more likely when we go to sleep over hot. Dress your child appropriately to prevent on future nights as well as searching for any potential causative culprits.
Provide all the support your bubba needs when they wake up. Just don’t overstimulate your child and confuse them that it’s morning time.
Things will get back to normal quickly when you get home... if you stick to similar routines while away. It doesn’t need to be the same but similar enough.
Get back to normal routines and schedules straight away. We all like a bit of comfort routine.
- Be gentle on yourself and your bub. It's can be a challenge for everyone.
- Try to stick to usual awake periods and use home comforts like same white noise.
- Be flexible and enjoy your holiday by doing naps on the go: cars, prams or carriers.
About the Author
Dr Cassie Atkinson-Quinton - Paediatric-Trained Chiropractor & Paediatric Sleep Coach
Dr Cassie is a paediatric-trained chiropractor, sleep coach and, most importantly, mumma to Master H. She loves seeing newborns grow into inquisitive toddlers and busy school kids. She assesses for neurological development (primitive reflexes), posture, sleep health and movement patterns. She's an eager learning just like the kids she sees.
"It's better to grow healthy children than fix injured adults."