How to Get Sleep for Everyone When Traveling with Babies
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Traveling with babies and toddlers can be stressful. If they’re used to being in a particular routine then things can get all out of whack.
Often times sleep is the main thing that is disrupted, and let’s be honest, if the baby isn’t sleeping then it’s rough for everyone.
We don’t travel all of the time, but we have done a fair amount. Considering we’ve had 3 babies in 4 years we’ve become fairly good at knowing how to make sure everyone is able to get a decent amount of sleep.
Here are the things that have worked for us:
Try & Stick to a Routine
It can be tempting and almost inevitable to vary from the routine when you’re traveling. My advice would be to compromise when necessary but to try your best to keep things familiar for your baby.
When they’re young it doesn’t take much for them to become overstimulated and overtired. For that reason, allowing them the opportunity to wind down and rest is really important.
Depending on their age you’ll want to make sure that they get some good naps in. Newborns can be more flexible, but toddlers generally need a solid nap at some point in the day. Skipping it or keeping it short is fine for a day, but my children couldn’t handle consecutive days of that without massive meltdowns.
Create a Good Sleep Environment
Outside of the routine, I would say that the next most important factor is to create a good sleep environment. If you can set that up well it can make all the difference regarding how much sleep everyone gets.
Make sure that they have somewhere safe to sleep. For my newborns, we used to take along their bassinet. They didn’t fold down flat, but we could put bags etc inside of them in the boot of the car so they didn’t take up too much space overall.
After about 3 months we used the Pack n’ Play. It folds down nicely for transportation and storage.
Both options provided safe spaces for our babies and toddlers to sleep.
If you can do this, then do! If you and your baby are not used to sleeping together in the same space then it can be difficult not to disrupt each other during the night.
Older babies often want to play in the early hours of the morning if they spot mom and dad.
When we have the option we try and find accommodation that has an extra room or an ensuite and have the baby sleep in there.
I’ve also heard of parents putting babies to sleep in the walk-in closet. Here in New Zealand, we don’t have closets that big, but I can see how it would work provided that it is ventilated.
If we couldn’t get an extra room then I would try and get a motel with a sofa bed. That way the baby could sleep in the bedroom and we slept in the living area and had access to the bathroom, kitchen, tv, etc.
Of course, it is not always possible or practical to have separate rooms in which case these are my tried and true suggestions for making sleep happen:
Get a Snooze Shade
We bought one of these when my eldest was a baby and it has been one of the best investments that we’ve made.
It is a breathable cover that fits over the pack n’ play. It works to both darken their sleep space and also makes it so they can’t really see out.
We actually keep ours at my parent’s place so that even if the room is really bright it doesn’t affect how easily the baby goes down to sleep. And then the times where we’ve had to share a room it has worked brilliantly so that they don’t know we’re in there with them. Better sleep is had by all!
Use a Sheet
If we’ve ever been in a situation where we needed to create a separate space for the baby then I used a sheet and either some string or push pins. I used those to create a temporary wall.
I never draped the sheet over the pack n’ play though and I would recommend NOT doing that. You risk the chance of it falling into the pack n’ play and becoming a strangulation hazard. It will also make it very warm inside the pack n’ play.
The sheet is a pain to put up to create a wall and ultimately the Snooze Shade is a much better option. However, if that isn’t available to you then at least the sheet is a viable option.
Make/Buy a Blackout shade
Again, the Snooze shade would totally sort this issue, but if you don’t have one then I would at least recommend either making or buying a temporary blackout shade. There are several options available to purchase, or you could use black rubbish bags with some masking tape. I’ve also seen parents using aluminum foil on the windows to block out the light.
However you choose to do it if your child is used to sleeping in a darkened room then recreating that while traveling can really help them sleep well.
Use White Noise
I am a lover of white noise. For many years we just used an app on an old smartphone as white noise for our children. However, after having our third I took the plunge and bought this white noise machine from Marpac.
I don’t know why on earth I didn’t do it sooner. I love it so much!
The white noise machine can be charged and will run without needing power for several hours. It also has 3 choices of white noise, all of which are lovely and soothing. I love it because it is loud enough to mask the noise that my older children make but isn’t loud enough to hurt little ears.
It’s basically like when I’m in the shower. I can’t hear anything outside of the bathroom, but the noise isn’t harmful.
Anyway, all that to say, I would strongly recommend using white noise while traveling, especially if you’re having to room share. It will help both you and your child/ren sleep better by masking the noises everyone makes.
The parents will benefit from this.
Some people (like my deep-sleeping husband) won’t need these, but if you’re a light sleeper and struggle not to be woken by even the smallest of noises, then get yourself some earplugs. I’ve used the slim-fitting ones by Mack’s and have always found them comfortable.
The dull the small noises out but I’ve always woken to my children if they have needed me at all.
Traveling with babies and children is definitely full of trial and error. Sleep will be disrupted by a certain amount. If you can limit that disruption it really makes the whole traveling experience all the more enjoyable.
I hope that these tips make things easier for you and your family.