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Summer Holiday Sleep Tips  

By 4th July 2015

Going on holiday with a baby can be a bit of a worry, especially if you’ve just got them into a routine and don’t want all your good progress to come undone. Maybe your baby’s sleeping is not brilliant anyway and you’re concerned that the holiday will make things even worse.

The good news is that for lots of babies, a change of scene can actually help with their sleeping, as in a new environment, some “bad habits” associated with the home will often get dropped. Not only this, but the extra time in the fresh air and the stimulation that comes from being with not just mum [or dad!] will wear them out and help them to sleep better.

First and foremost, during the hot weather, you need to keep your baby lightly covered and in the shade. Offer lots of drinks and remember that if you are breastfeeding, your milk will become more watery and thirst quenching when the temperatures rise. So feel free to feed on demand! Overheating during the day is not only dangerous, but can also lead to night time problems.

Here are some guidelines to help you enjoy a happy holiday

The journey

Baby’s sleep can be disrupted by travelling – especially long distances. If your baby is like most; and tends to be lulled to sleep with motion, then they will tend to sleep on and off during any journey. Of course, if you have travelled during the day, this excessive sleep can affect the ability to settle down and sleep at night, once you have reached your destination. The settling can of course be further affected by the fact that you will all be sleeping in a different environment to home.

There are two possible solutions to this one:

  1. Travel during the night.
  2. Set off early in the morning..... And if your little one has slept a lot on the way; put them to bed much later than usual, and only then, when they are showing signs of tiredness. They are far less likely to struggle to settle if you do this, and you will avoid all the negative sleep associations and habits which can occasionally develop in relation to a holiday cot.

Plane Journeys

If you are intending to travel by plane or if you are going to a country which has a significant time difference, it is worth planning ahead, so that you can minimize any disruption to your baby’s [and your] sleep.

In preparation for the flight:

  1. If your baby is very young, reserve a bassinet to sleep in during the journey, or find out the policy on taking baby car seats on board.
  2. Encourage your child to suck or chew and swallow – especially when the plane is landing and there is a danger that cabin pressure will give them ear ache. Young children are much more likely to suffer pain on landing because of their tiny eustacian tubes. If your baby is old enough, buy some dried organic apple rings. Hook one onto the thumb to suck and chew on. You can also, of course, use a dummy, or give a drink. 
  3. Take a painkiller and keep it handy in your bag- fresh, unopened sachets are easier to use and have the advantage of being pre measured. If you know that your baby is susceptible to pain on landing, you should give it half an hour or so before descent.
  4. Dress your baby in a simple one piece soft suit with popper fastenings and one more with you for the journey. These should double up as pyjamas if you are taking a long flight.
  5. Try not to check in the pram until you are about to board. This way they should be able to nap in it as you wait for the flight.
  6. Check in as early as you can, and don’t be afraid to ask if there are any spare seats. They may give you an extra one, so you have more space for your baby and your stuff. Remember that it is in the airline’s own interest you make sure that you are comfortable. That way, fewer passengers will be disturbed.
  7. Give your baby plenty to drink. This will help to ease any ear pressure, as well as preventing dehydration.
  8. Allow your baby to sleep as much as they like on the plane. The motion may help them sleep for longer than normal, and you should encourage this.
  9. Regardless of the time difference, feed at the usual times, or simply on demand as far as possible. If you need a bottle to be warmed, ask well in advance. The cabin crew might be busy or might make the bottle too hot, in which case you will have to wait for it to cool down.
  10. When your baby is awake, entertain him or her by walking him up and down, showing the in flight film and allowing them to play with a few safe objects. Don’t bother packing too many toys – They’ll soon get bored with them!

Putting your child to bed in a new place

It is far better, when you are away, to be a bit flexible with your baby’s sleep routines. They are likely to sleep for longer during the daytime if they are out in the open air in the pram or being carried around in a back pack. If this is the case, allow your child to go to bed much later. If they want to stay up with you and have dinner, this is absolutely alright. It is not necessary to keep to the exact normal bed time if this doesn’t suit you on holiday.

When you do put them to bed for the night, however, try to use some of the familiar sleep triggers which are used at home. These include the same songs that you sing around bed time; same good night story book, familiar sleep bag and the usual teddy/blanket/comforter. It might not be possible to bath your baby every night, but you can still use your same bath time song as you wash hands, face and bottom, and clean teeth.

Even if the cot is very close to your bed, it is better that you continue to settle your baby there rather than in bed with you. Not only will this prevent resistance to going into the cot when you return home, but will also enable you all to have better nights’ sleep when you are on holiday too. If at all possible, after putting them into the cot or bed and kissing them goodnight, you should leave your little ones to settle to sleep alone. They may, however, need a bit of extra reassurance from you, given that they are in a strange place. Be prepared to keep popping back to offer them a bit of comfort. You might even have to stay beside them as they go off to sleep. Although you might not normally do this at home, don’t worry too much about them getting used to it– as soon as you are back in your own place, your baby will understand that its “business as usual!”

If your baby is used to sleeping in a very dark room, this same darkness level can be difficult to achieve on holiday. Increased light may lead to early waking – especially if combined with possible change in time zones. It is worth considering investing in a portable black out blind.

Coming Home

On holiday it is only natural that you relax some of your normal rules. The same goes for babies and toddlers too. If naps have been taken mainly on the go and your baby has slept in your bed or gone to bed very late, then as soon as you come home you need to get back into your normal routine. Don’t put this off – its best if you can do this as soon as possible after you get home otherwise the holiday habits can stick.

Finally, try not to let fear of upsetting your baby’s routine spoil your holiday. Babies are often more flexible than you think and these special times when you all are together are too precious to waste worrying!

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