You’ve been looking forward to your holiday for ages and can’t wait for the rest and relaxation! But if your baby doesn’t sleep well while you are away, your holiday experience will be far less enjoyable that you expected.
Holidays can also be the trigger to a baby developing negative sleep habits, that can continue to effect her sleep after the return home. We often hear from customers that their baby’s sleep got much worse while they were away, and they experienced continued night waking for weeks or months later. This can include babies who were previously sleeping through the night until they went on holiday. The issues around sleep problems & holidays apply to babies and toddlers of all ages, but in our experience it is most common for babies 5 – 12 months. Babies over 5 months quickly develop new sleep habits and this can mean negative habits form as easily as the positive sleep habits babies need to sleep through.
So how can you ensure your baby sleeps well on holiday (and when you get home)?
Have your baby in a well established routine before you go on holiday. So while you are on holiday you will know when your baby needs to sleep, be fed and have solids. You can plan travel around this, such as driving during normal sleep times. This will help ensure your baby doesn’t get overtired, which makes babies harder to settle at night.
If your baby isn’t in a routine, start working on this at least a week before you go. You are bound to have the odd day on holiday where baby’s normal routine just isn’t possible or it goes out the window. Please don’t decide not to worry about the routine for the rest of the holiday!! Just get back to your normal routine feed and sleep times the next day, or as quickly as you can.
Your baby may be unsettled initially by unfamiliar places and people, and consistency in routine is very helpful for baby settling quickly into the holiday.
Linen and sleeping environment
Do what ever you can to ensure your baby has a familiar and comfortable sleeping environment while you are away.
A few tips to consider are:
- A baby sleeping bag is a very positive and portable sleep association. This means that where ever you use it, baby knows the sleeping bag means it’s time to sleep.
- Choose a travel sleeping bag so you can use it in the carseat and pushchair, for sleeping on the go!
- Take the linen off baby’s cot and take that with you. This means her bed will smell familiar, even if she is sleeping in a strange bed.
- If she is sleeping in a portacot while you are away, get her used to it for a couple of nights at home before you go.
Another powerful and portable sleep association is a comfort blankie. Like a sleeping bag, you can take it anywhere and it tells baby it’s time to sleep.
If your baby doesn’t have a blankie, it’s well worth getting her attached to something prior to leaving. Then you can use it at all sleep times (and we recommend only letting baby have their blankie at sleep times).
If your baby does have a blankie, we recommend taking 2 of the same blankie and alternating which one baby uses. Blankies are incredibly effective for helping babies sleep in unfamiliar situations, but not if you’ve lost it!!!
Always take a pushchair with you that your baby can sleep in. Then you can keep to your routine where ever you are and your baby won’t get over-tired. If your baby doesn’t usually sleep well in her pushchair, try to work on this before going away.
Remember the effectiveness of a gravel path or road for helping baby sleep!
Put your baby into her swaddle or sleeping bag with her blankie, then a walk over a bumpy track – magic! You can then park baby under a tree, get out your book and enjoy your holiday.
A baby carrier is also a huge help when you are on holiday – both for sleepy newborns and also negotiating airports, buses, shops etc. Often you will need to check in a buggy and still have miles to walk with an over-tired baby or toddler.
Plus a comfy carrier means you can get out and about with your toddler, and carry him when he gets tired.
We highly recommend the amazing ergo carriers, as they are comfortable and can be used right up to 20kg toddlers. Ergos can be worn on the front, hip or back.
If your baby usually sleeps in her own room, she isn’t used to you being close by during the night. For lots of babies this means they generally resettle without you even being aware they stirred.
But holidays can be quite different. We are often squeezed into a tent, motel room or spare room at the in-laws house, baby and all. Your baby will quickly sense you are near-by and decide they would like some night time attention.
When you are planning your holiday think about where your baby will sleep and if this may effect her. If you can afford a motel with a second bedroom, go for it! And if you are staying with relatives or friends, check if there is a separate room for your baby.
If you are all going to be in the same room together, the next point is very important. How you respond in the night . . . This issue is crucial!!!! If you baby has been sleeping through the night, that means he can self-settle during the night without your help. This may have happened easily with your baby or it may have taken you weeks or months of really hard work.
So don’t let your baby lose those incredibly valuable skills in a week’s holiday! By that I mean don’t train your baby over the holiday that she needs you to re-settle her. You will do this if you respond to baby the instant she cries or makes sleeping noises. Babies very quickly get used to being helped back to sleep by Mum or Dad, and may continue to want this assistance when you get home.
Have a chat before you go on holiday about how you will tackle any night-waking, particularly if you are staying with people. Anticipate that your baby is likely to wake more than usual, and know how you will deal with that. If you are staying with other people, it can be worth mentioning that sometimes baby wakes in the night and that she generally goes back to sleep by herself.
Feeding to Sleep
This deserves special mention – it is very common for babies to be fed to sleep while on holiday. This may be because baby is more unsettled than normal, overtired or out of their routine.
But most often it is because the parents don’t want to wake the people they are staying with and feeding baby back to sleep is the ‘easiest’ way to get baby back to sleep. However please consider how easy it will be if you are still feeding baby back to sleep several times a night, weeks and months after your holiday. The occasional feed to sleep isn’t going to cause a change in sleep habits, but if you feed to sleep several times a night for the length of your holiday, that equals a very firmly established new habit.
As above, have a think before you go on holiday about how you will deal with night-waking. And consider if you are teaching your baby a new sleep habit that you will need to deal with on your return.
We wish you a wonderful Christmas, happy New Year and enjoy your holidays!
Louise, Matt and The Sleep Store team xx