In the early days of parenthood, one of your biggest questions is probably, “When do babies sleep through the night?” And if you’ve just come back from traveling with your baby, your latest question may be “When will my baby sleep through the night again?”
We call it the “travel hangover.” It covers those baby sleep problems after travel that inevitably pop up. We experienced it frequently after trips. Although coping with the death of my father took an extra toll after one vacation. Both kids ended up in our bed at some point over the two weeks following it. But that was really nothing new for us after traveling together.
It doesn’t stress me out anymore, because I know eventually we’ll be back on track. But I do remember, when my daughter was a baby, fretting over our seemingly lost routine.
I admit to being much lazier once we had two kids and a King-sized bed. If either had an issue, into our bed they’d come. (In our olden days and in our olden bed, I thought differently.) I was too nervous co-sleeping in our old Queen bed. And our daughter as a baby and toddler was, quite possibly, the world’s worst bedmate. We probably would have co-slept more often if it meant we actually slept. For us it was more like co-pinching-kicking-squirming-nose-and-eye-poking than actual sleeping.
What did we do? We stuck it out.
Tips for fixing baby sleep problems after travel:
1. We went immediately back to our routine at home.
We were all much happier and more content with a structured routine, so it was important to regain our footings with that asap. Our daughter would go down ok on her own (most of the time). But there would be a late night waking that would inevitably keep all of us up if we didn’t address it.
I had a pillow and sleeping bag on standby, and if she squawked in the night I would plod down the hall and park myself on her floor. It wasn’t the comfiest, but my presence eventually calmed her and she would settle. Usually I’d wake up an hour or two later, and be able to creep back to my own bed.
2. We prepared for the worst.
And our worst was about two and a half weeks. That was when she was not quite two and a half, but I’m not sure that has anything to do with it 😉 At any rate, we had already traveled with her enough times to realize that there would be a transition when we returned home, and were already mentally prepared for it.
The reason why I was the one who bit the bullet as sole floor sleeper was simply because my husband is 6’7″, and our daughter’s room at the time was 7ft x 9ft. He actually didn’t fit on the floor space to sleep on it and we really needed her to stay in her crib.
3. We talked about our trip a lot and showed her lots of pictures.
Although usually it feels good to be home after a trip, sometimes you can be left feeling out of sorts and wonder if the trip really happened at all. Imagine how a baby or toddler feels when they are just beginning to process how everything works. Add that to no longer sharing a sleeping space or bed and it’s bound to leave them feeling wrangy.
Showing our daughter lots of pictures of our travels with her, and then Bub as well, keeps our journey fresh in their heads. The fond memories will also last a little longer.
Usually the travel days on either side of your trip are enough to tire everyone out. This gives you a head start on either developing your “travel routine” or reverting back to your home one.
If you’re coping with jet lag, you’ve got that extra added bonus of dealing with time changes. Remember, baby sleep problems after travel are temporary. And never once have we regretted going anywhere for the sake of a few days or weeks of disruption, and the beautiful memories and pictures will last us a lifetime.
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