Here in the UK, our summer holidays are about to begin. If you are one of the lucky ones and you off on holiday with your little one, check out my top tips below:
1. Good News
The good news is that a change of scene can be good for everyone. More time together without the stresses and strains of everyday life, along with lots of fresh air can in itself lead to better sleep.
2. Different Time Zones
Often the best thing to do is to jump straight into the new time zone and treat it like an ordinary day at home. It may take a few days for things to adjust but have no fear, sleep will get back on track within a few days of being in your new destination. This is thanks to your circadian rhythm (AKA your internal body clock) which takes its cues from the rhythm of the day (meal times, activities and daylight).
3. The journey
Try to ensure that your baby has their usual, total amount of day time napping during the journey. Depending on whether they have more or less sleep during the day bring bedtime earlier (if possible) or push it later. If you think your baby will need a nap on the aeroplane, baby slings can be really helpful for this. On our way back from Greece our Ryanair flight was delayed (surely not ?! I hear you say) and all four of us managed to have a sleep, I woke up to hear Chris and Ivy snoring their heads off and George was happily snoozing on me in the carrier (our favourite was the Omni Ergobaby carrier). Two minutes later Ivy woke up and wanted a poo and the peace quickly descended into chaos!
I know it is tempting to the throw the usual bedtime out of the window during the summer months but just be aware that if little ones get overtired they will often wake earlier ! So by all means have a slightly later bedtime but if they are then waking earlier make sure that you compensate by allowing them to catch up on ‘lost’ sleep during the day by lengthening daytime naps or increasing the number of their naps . Lots of families find a later bedtime and longer naps, or more naps than usual work really well as you can keep your little ones cool during the hottest times and go out for dinners without having to worry about being back for their usual bedtime. Younger babies may well be happy to fall asleep for the night n their pram whilst you are out, if they wake up when you transfer them into the sleep space for the night, usually a feed or a cuddle back to sleep works. But if they seem wide awake keep them up for a little while until you see their sleepy signals.
5. Bedtime Routine
All children thrive on consistency and predictability. Try to use a similar bedtime routine when you are away. Often bath times can be problematic as many places lack baths. But if you want to, you could improvise by using the sink or a simulate a bath with a warm, damp flannel as this can provide the same calming effect and association with sleep. Or you can ditch the bath entirely as part of your bedtime routine. By doing a small part of your bedtime routine your little one will still understand that bedtime is coming. This might be as simple as saying your night night phrase, singing a lullaby and feeding or rocking your little one to sleep and perhaps putting white noise on (if you use it).
During the hot weather dress babies in lightly covered clothing and keep them in the shade. If you are breastfeeding you may find you need to feed more often as its thirst quenching work being a baby in the heat! Avoid trying to create shade by using blankets or thin cloths on the pram as these can have a furnace-like effect on the inside of the buggy. Also try to have some inside time during the hottest part of the day.
7. Sharing Bedrooms
On holiday, George and Ivy often share a room which they don’t do at home. When I was still breastfeeding in the night I told Ivy to go back to sleep if she heard George cry as I would come and feed him so she didn’t need to worry. She’d only ever wake up for the first feed, I’d tell her I was feeding George and she would go straight back to sleep. I am a big believer in talking to children about any changes, even if you think they are too young to understand you will be surprised at how much goes in and makes the process of change easier. It’s always a good idea to talk them through any changes to their normal routine before you arrive at your destination. It may also be helpful to stagger bedtimes so that each child has the quiet time they need to fall asleep without the added distraction of wanting to have more fun with siblings, cousins or friends.
8. Home comforts
Create an environment that is similar to their sleep space at home. Bring a teddy they sleep with (in my daughters case she has several!), a few favourite bedtime stories and a white noise machine (our favourite is the Marpac) to block out any background noise. We also always take travel blackout blinds with us because otherwise everyone is up very early!
9.Try not to overthink
Often the idea of any change is more daunting to the parent than the child. Children are very adaptable but they also feed off your emotional state. So if you are cool about it; they are more likely to feel relaxed too. The more you travel, the more adaptable your child will become.
10. Relax a little
Some sleep consultants will say ‘don’t start co-sleeping if that’s not what you do at home because this will be very hard to change once you get home’. But as I have said before children are very adaptable, I often use to have naps with my daughter on our last holiday because she was sleeping in a bed for the first time and I loved taking naps with her. When we got home she asked me for the first couple of days if I was taking a nap with her and I would laugh and say ‘noooo, we’re not on holiday anymore’ and she’d laugh and happily go off to sleep. It’s just like when your child gets used to taking their naps in a different way at nursery or childminders.
11. More Sleep; Not Less
Sun, sea and fresh air can mean little ones get more tired than usual. So don't worry if you little one seems to be sleeping more than usual.
Have a great holiday!