Ahhhh . . . summertime! For many families, this means planning a much needed vacation to spend with friends and loved ones. However, many parents with young children often worry how their summertime travels are going to affect their child’s sleep habits. Parents who are already sleep-deprived and have been struggling to get their little one to sleep well often avoid taking a vacation altogether for fear the trip will make it even harder for their child to sleep and everyone will end up being miserable. Parents who have recently helped their child to become a better sleeper are often hesitant to travel as well, for fear of unraveling their child’s sleep progress as soon as they’re away from home. Fear not, parents! Here are some tips on how to enjoy your summer travel plans and help everyone in your family be well-rested at the same time:
Do what works!
This tip is mainly for parents who are currently relying on some sort of sleep crutch to get their child to sleep. If rocking, holding, or nursing your child is working at home, then do the same while you’re away. Your vacation is NOT the time to suddenly change how you put your child to sleep. If your child is used to being nursed to sleep at home but is suddenly expected to fall asleep on their own while on vacation- there will likely be lots of tears and frustration involved. Again, do what works to help you and your child sleep while you’re away. You’ll have better success if you wait and work on changing your child’s sleep habits when you get home and can make sleep training a top priority.
If you have recently finished sleep training your child, it is best to maintain your progress as much as possible while on vacation. A little regression may be expected but resorting back to old sleep crutches will most certainly unravel any progress you made and will make it harder to get back on track once you’re home. So, it you’ve recently transitioned your child from co-sleeping to their own sleep space, avoid co-sleeping with your child while on vacation. Even if you are in a hotel room or have to share a room with your child at a relative’s house, plan on creating a separate space for your child to sleep.
It’s normal for daily schedules and routines to be a bit more relaxed while you’re away from home. However, sticking to your child’s regular sleep schedule as much as possible will allow your child to get the sleep they need to be well-rested. Skipping naps or keeping your child up too late will likely result in you having an overtired, cranky child on your hands. Try to preserve time during the day for your child to nap- even if you’ll be out and about during the day. It’s best if your child has a consistent “home base” they can retreat to at naptime every day but a nap in the car or stroller is better than no nap at all!
Don’t forget your child’s lovey!
Adjusting to a new, unfamiliar sleep environment can be difficult, especially for children. Be sure to pack their favorite blanket, stuffed animal or pacifier to help them feel more at home. Since there is no such thing as “packing light” when you have little ones, go ahead and toss in their favorite pair of jammies, a few bedtime stories and their white noise machine to help the space seem more familiar. Following your child’s normal bedtime routine can create a sense of security and cues your child’s circadian rhythm to recognize when it’s time to sleep.
Create a sleep-friendly environment!
Aside from taking along your child’s favorite comfort items from home, you may also need to make your child’s temporary sleep environment darker. Blocking out the late evening sunlight at bedtime will help your child to fall asleep easier. Same goes for naptime. If your child is used to napping in a dark, quiet room at home- try to recreate a similar environment while you’re away by hanging towels or blankets up over the windows. It’s worth mentioning again to take along a white noise machine or fan to help drowned out any outside noise.
Get back on track!
As mentioned earlier, a little regression is to be expected when traveling. Be sure to keep activities light when you return home and make getting back on track a top priority for a few days.
Wishing you and your family a wonderful, fun-filled summer! If you need help getting back on track or you’re ready to focus on helping your little one become a better sleeper after your summer travels, contact me and let’s get started!
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