You have packed your bags, chosen a travel time best for your child's schedule, considered how to adjust to crossing time zones, and made the trek to a destination that you will call home for the next week or so. We have one more topic to cover. The sleep environment during your stay!
The sleep environment for your child will depend on your situation. Creating a good sleep environment might be easy for you or it might require you to get creative. First, let's cover a few characteristics of your child's sleep space for which to aim regardless of your situation. Then we will discuss the various circumstances you might encounter.
Provide your child with her usual sleep routine for both naps and bedtime using any items that are included at home - just as I had suggested in the list of what to pack in part two of this blog series.
Although you are excited to hang out with family and friends whom you don't often get to see, do your best to be patient. Keep in mind the reason why you have a sleep routine! It is to help cue your child's brain that it is time to relax and to sleep. Skipping or rushing through any part of it will most likely backfire.
Safe and Ideal Sleep Environment
Create an environment as familiar to your child as possible. Again, this was mentioned in part two of this blog series.
Safety - No matter where you are, do your best to follow the AAP's safety guidelines for sleep. Unfortunately, being on vacation does not mean that tragedies cannot happen.
Bedding - In the crib, Pack'n'Play, or whatever bed you are using that is appropriate for your child's age, include everything that is normally included at bedtime. Put the used and unwashed fitted sheet on the mattress to provide your child with the smell of home; provide your child with her lovey, sippie cup, and anything else routinely used; allow your older child to use her pillow from home.
Darkness - During times of sleep, it is always ideal to make the room pitch black. If you are unsure of the sleep environment or know that it is difficult to prevent light from entering the room at nap time or bedtime, purchase Kangaroo Emergency Thermal Blankets and tape up over the windows to create the same effect as blackout shades.
Monitor - Set up the camera for your baby monitor ahead of time in a spot that allows you to see your child without any wires being near her. Then, test it out prior to a sleep time. Although it can be thrilling, having to be a ninja warrior to adjust the location of the camera during your child's first bout of sleep in a new place is not worth it!
Consistency - Stick to the daily routine as best you can and stick to one place for sleep instead of hopping from house to house. You drove or flew for hours! People can visit you if they want to be together past bedtime. If you don't want to be glued to the house, consider hiring a sitter or having one of the older cousins watch the sleeping babies while you go out. Unless one house clearly has the most optimal sleep environment, mention that you will alternate each visit to avoid hurt feelings.
Perhaps you are blessed with a host who is able to provide you and your child with separate rooms. Awesome! However, what if you are not so lucky? Well, now is the time to be creative!
Unconventional Bedroom - If you must share a room, consider the following. Is the bathroom or closet big enough to fit a Pack'n'Play for your younger kiddo? Double whammy with a guaranteed dark and quiet space! Are you able to set up a mat and sleeping bag for your older child in the closet for a fun little fort that she can call her own?
Very Limited Space - Perhaps you don't have the option of turning a space into an unconventional bedroom. Use your tape (or tacs) and make-shift blackout shades mentioned above to create a partition.
Think carefully about how you position your child's sleep space and child when sleeping. You will want to place her in an area that will be the least intrusive to her sleep. For example, you might want/need to use a lamp while your child is asleep or want to leave the room and need to be able to get through the door.
Hotels - Some hotels and vacation houses will provide you with a crib or a hideaway bed if you ask! So before before booking if you still have time and before creating an unconventional bedroom or partition in the room, ask if they provide such amenities. Some hotels will even offer discounts to families on vacation for their suites!
Daily Routine and the What If's
Although you want to make sure your child gets the rest needed, set yourself up for realistic expectations. Sleep will most likely be be thrown off at some point while away and your child's temperament might be abnormal. Do your best to help with this by keeping her on track when possible.
If you have broken any habits to help your child's sleep improve, do your best to avoid those.
If you feel like you need to provide your child with extra soothing while away, try a variety of options before falling back on the one habit you have broken.
If your child happens to get into your bed, you can walk her back to her bed. If you don't want to fight it, explain to your child during the day that this is a very special occasion and that everyone is going back to their own beds once home.
Once you are back home, make it a priority to jump right back into your child's daily routine.
For more information on helping your child stay well rested during the holiday season with or without travel, check out my other posts: Tips on how to make it through the holidays with a happy and well-rested baby, Part 1 of 3 - Tips for Holiday Travel with Your Littles: Timing, and Part 2 of 3 - Tips for Holiday Travel with Your Littles: What to Pack.
Do you have any special tips or tricks that you use for your child's sleep environment when away? I would love to know! Comment below.
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