Travelling with kids can be a daunting experience, especially when thinking about how to manage their sleep. The good news is that it’s possible to have children who travel really well, if you keep a few things in mind.
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Try not to pack too many activities in every day
We all want to make the most of our holidays, we’re away for a limited period and want to do as much as we can. The thing is, if you schedule in too many activities, your little one can get overstimulated and overtired, and then no one ends up enjoying your days out. This is all about balance, try to plan for a mix of days out followed by quieter days to rest and catch up.
Recreate your baby’s sleep environment from home
Recreating your baby’s nursery at home can help them settle more easily in a new room on holiday. Take a blackout blind, their sleep sack, comforter, white noise machine if you use one, and a few books to use for the bedtime routine. Babies and toddlers thrive on familiarity and routine, so they’ll find this comforting as they wind down for sleep on holiday.
If your baby sleeps in a cot at home, check in advance that where you’re staying has a cot or travel cot available. If you can position the cot a bit of a distance from your bed, or even create a safe room divider with a clothes airer and a sheet for example, it will stop every cough or shuffle travelling from you to your baby and vice versa, so you’re all likely to sleep better.
Before you put them down to sleep for the first time, if you can let baby have some play time in the room they’ll be sleeping in, it will help them become familiar with their new sleep space and can make settling easier.
Try to maintain your baby’s routine
An occasional car nap or slightly later bedtime probably isn’t going to do too much harm. However, if your baby spends a couple of days taking naps on the go and having late bedtimes, they may become so overtired that, after a few days, they start to struggle during the day and are harder to settle to sleep. Try to resume your routine when you arrive at your destination, and if you can, aim for around 70-80% of naps in the cot at the usual time.
Following your baby’s usual bedtime routine will also help to cue them for sleep and help them to wind down in preparation for sleep.
Use daylight and darkness to your advantage
When travelling to a different time zone with kids, sunlight is a useful tool in helping us all adjust. Light is the most powerful time cue our bodies have. Try to plan meals and socialising around the new time zone as well and get an hour or two of natural light and fresh air in the early morning and late afternoon, away from the heat of the day.
Make sure you do just the opposite when evening rolls around. Use blackout blinds and keep light to a minimum a couple of hours before you want your baby to go to bed. This will help stimulate melatonin production, making them sleepier.
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Sleeping well in the heat
The other thing that can cause sleep disruption, both at home and on holiday, is managing your little one’s sleep in the heat. Here are some tips to try and make night times more comfortable for your little ones, when it’s just too hot!
Keep your child’s room dark during the day
Try and keep curtains or blinds drawn to stop rooms heating up during the course of the day. You can also open the windows to keep the air circulating which will mean the room is less stuffy and will be cooler at bedtime.
Use an electric fan
Many parents worry that a fan might keep their little ones awake at night. However, most will adjust fairly quickly and won’t be disturbed, and the fan helps to cool them by moving the air around their bodies. Try not to turn the fan directly on your child, as this may make them too cold and cause them to wake in the night or early in the morning.
Give them a cool bath
The Children’s Sleep Charity advises running a cool bath for your baby before bed. This will help bring their temperature down.
Monitor the temperature in your child’s room
Use a nursery thermometer to check the temperature of your child’s room. The NHS advises that the most comfortable room temperature for your baby while sleeping is between 16 and 20 degrees. So, remember to check the temperature of the cot at every bedtime and nap, before your little one goes to sleep.
Consider what they’re wearing to bed
In hot weather, reducing the amount of clothing your little one wears can help to keep them cooler. You can put your baby or toddler down in just their nappy when it’s really warm. Use a well-secured thin cotton sheet that won’t work loose and cover your baby’s face or get entangled during the night. A low tog cotton sleeping bag for younger babies can also work well, rather than nylon bedding. They will absorb sweat rather than leave the sleeper covered in a film of moisture.
Keep your child well hydrated
Like adults, babies and young children need to drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. The NHS advises that if you’re breastfeeding your baby, you don’t need to give them water as well as breast milk. However, they may want to breastfeed more than usual.
If you’re bottle feeding, as well as their usual milk feeds, you can give your baby cooled boiled water throughout the day. If your baby wakes at night, they’ll probably want milk but if they’ve had their usual milk feeds, try cooled boiled water as well. For older children, give them plenty of fruit and salad to help keep their fluid levels up.
So those are my best tips to help your baby sleep well when travelling and when it’s hot. If you need a few more tips to help with your little one’s sleep, you can download my free bedtime guide: 5 steps to a better night’s sleep.