Written by: Aileen Dunbar, Founder of Connected Slumber Baby/Toddler Sleep Support
Have an upcoming trip with your baby? Read this post which includes answers to the most frequently asked questions about how to help them sleep so you can have more peace of mind during your travels.
Tips for traveling to a new time zone
1. How long will it take my baby to adjust to a new time zone?
It takes about one day to adjust for each time zone crossed (each time zone represents an hour difference). ⠀ 2. Should I keep my baby on the same schedule as normal or adjust them to the new time zone? It depends on how long you will be in the new time zone. If you are only there for a week or less, and there is less than a 3-hour time difference, you may want to try to keep your baby on the same timing as at home, if possible, as this will avoid having to readjust them back upon your return home. If you are staying longer than a week and there is more than a 3-hour time difference, you could use strategies to help them adjust. ⠀ 3. What are some strategies to help my baby adjust to the new time zone? You could prepare them for the trip by shifting naps and bedtime by 15 minutes each day (earlier or later depending on the new time zone you will be going to) for a week or so before the trip. Alternatively, you could wait until you arrive and use light to your advantage, meaning that you would wake your baby up in the morning on the first full day in the new location to expose them to natural sunlight and help their circadian rhythm adjust naturally. ⠀
Sleep Space Tips
1. What should I bring with me?
Bring as much as you can from home with you to help your baby feel safe and secure at sleep times. For example, a sound machine, crib sheets, lovey, sleep sack, etc. To make the room pitch black to help with adjustment to the new time zone, you could bring portable blackout blinds with you.
2. How can I set up the sleep space to help optimize my baby’s sleep?
Ensure you set up the sleep space safely away from hazards such as hanging blind cords or wires. You could use blackout blinds or a hanger with clips to attach curtains together. Give your baby the opportunity to play in their new sleep space, as this helps them create positive associations with it and reduce their anxiety about sleeping there. You could be right beside them as they play to provide them extra reassurance. If you are using a crib provided by the hotel/motel where you are staying, make sure it meets safety criteria. Here is a checklist to help you: MHR_Cribs.pdf (ultrariskadvisors.com)
General Sleep Strategies while Travelling
1. Is it ok to do naps on the go?
Of course! Motion naps are totally fine and might make it easier for you to see more sites/do more activities during your trip. It is a baby sleep myth that napping in the stroller or carrier isn’t as restorative. This is because the primary purpose of naps is to relieve sleep pressure, the biological mechanism that drives us to sleep. The longer a baby has been awake, the more sleep pressure increases. This means that any time a baby naps, no matter the length of the nap or where the nap takes place (i.e. stroller, carrier, car seat, etc.), the nap has been “successful” in the sense that it has relieved the sleep pressure. On the other hand, if you feel like your baby/toddler just hasn’t been able to get a good nap on the go, then, focus on getting them to nap in their sleep space where you are staying for at least for one of the naps to avoid baby getting overtired. (I know each baby’s temperament is different and some babies don’t nap well on the go!).
2. Should I keep my nap/bedtime routines that I use at home?
To help your baby feel comfortable in their new environment, using the same routine from home as much as possible could be very helpful. When doing a motion nap, you most likely wouldn’t be doing a routine beforehand but if your baby is sleeping in the room where you are staying, you could try to recreate what you do at home to help ease them into sleep.
3. What are some tips to help my baby sleep in the car if doing a road trip?
a) Timing: If possible, you could either time the trip with one of their naps or right before their bedtime so they will sleep in the car.
b) Sound: You could bring a portable sound machine as the white noise could help lull them to sleep. Make sure it’s secured safely in the car.
c) Light: You could use window shades to block some sunlight if traveling during the day, which could help your baby fall asleep more easily.
d) Connection: It may help if someone sits in the back seat with your baby. This way, you can help settle them to sleep and provide them the reassurance they need that you are with them.
4. What are some tips to help my baby sleep on the plane?
a) Timing: Similarly to car trips, try to time flight with one of their naps and/or bedtime. For example, if they are on one nap, try to book a flight in the middle of the day when your baby has a nap or a flight later in the evening near bedtime. This could ideally help them sleep more easily during the flight and make your life easier too!
b) Sound: Try to reserve a seat away from airplane bathrooms as there will be more noise in these areas such as the slamming of the door and/or people talking, which could keep your baby from sleeping.
c) Light: Reserving a window seat could help with this as you could close the shade. Having a window seat would also give you more privacy.
d) Connection: Use whichever sleep associations baby is used to at home to provide them the same comfort and support they are accustomed to. For example, breast/bottle feeding to sleep or using a lightweight carrier and walking up and down the aisles when possible. If your baby is used to a particular sleep association that is difficult to do on the plane, you could try adding in extra sleep associations before your trip that will be easier to do on the plane (ex. Rubbing their back instead of rocking).
Overall, there can definitely be some challenges when traveling with a baby but you will definitely make some amazing memories so I believe it is well worth it!
Have you traveled with a baby? What are your top tips to make it go more smoothly? Share in the comments below.