Whether you follow the Ferber Methodor if co-sleeping is your thing, once a baby has figured out how to go to sleep, the last thing we want to do is mess with success.
For many, sleep like a baby remains a mysterious simile, but travel messes with the best of us, and everyone knows there’s nothing worse than a tired baby who can’t sleep. Well, maybe a tired toddler who can’t sleep… Well, maybe a tired mama who can’t get any sleep… See where I’m going with this? The last thing we want is travel baby sleep to be messed up.
Travel with a newborn baby is actually pretty easy when it comes to sleep – they kinda sleep in dribs and drabs all day, so sleep-wise this is probably the easiest time to travel, as they’re not set in any routines or patterns yet. Of course, YOU are tired from sleeping in dribs and drabs all day, so you likely will not feel up to hiking the Inca Trail or the Great Wall of China, but maybe a morning at a museum or an afternoon stroll would feel doable? So why not a museum or stroll in a city that’s not the one you currently live in? Our first trip as a family of four was to Quebec City when Bub was 10-weeks-old, and it was a great getaway that wasn’t overly taxing. A hotel with a pool if you’ve got a toddler or older child with you is a great way to ensure one of you rests with baby while the other has a good splash with big bro or big sis.
When baby is a bit older, and has hopefully fallen into a bit of a sleep routine, don’t be afraid of messing it up by traveling, and conversely, don’t avoid having a routine in hopes of having an easy-to-travel-with baby. Coping with jet lag and time changes aside, when you’re traveling with baby, try to stick to your usual sleep routines and rituals as much as possible. Baby sleeps in a crib at home? Bring or arrange for a travel crib for baby to sleep in when you’re away. Co-sleepers? Make sure your accommodation’s sleeping arrangements are suitable and safe.
Stick to your nap times and pre-sleep routines as much as you can. Bring special blankets and crib bedding from home, as the familiar scent and feel may help encourage sleep. Flying with baby on the red eye? Change into jammies and do your usual stories and songs, even if it means night-night is on your lap instead of in a crib. And while you’re away, don’t begrudge the baby’s naps – use that time to rest yourself! Spell each other off so you can take turns having some alone time. Here is when it might be worth it to upgrade your room to one with a nice balcony or terrace and/or a suite with a separate bedroom – bedtime for baby usually comes pretty early.
But don’t get so caught up in what you should be doing when it simply isn’t working. On our first trip with our daughter, she refused to nap in the crib in her room, and she was still on two naps at that point. By day two we stopped fighting it, and brought her out with us to the beach and to the pool. We were delighted to discover that after a dip and then a snuggle in a towel, she’d pass out for about 90 minutes on the beach or on a pool lounger, and so became our “vacation routine.” At bedtime we’d put her down as usual, and hit our balcony with a few drinks. Those “dates” were our first since she arrived, and have since become mine and my husband’s vacation routine – we look forward to those evenings together!
Will you have a rough patch when you get home? Probably. We have what we call vacation hangovers in which we all feel a little disgruntled to be home. Our worst was for about two weeks when our daughter was 21/2. She simply refused to go to sleep, and would wake up all through the night. We stuck it out – following our usual routine and things did go back to normal eventually.
It didn’t feel like they would, but they did.
And yours will too!