Holiday sleep solutions
Baby's first holiday doesn't have to be a sleepless one. Sleep consultant Lucy Wolfe shares her expert tips
With summer approaching, many families will be looking forward to a holiday with a difference - a holiday with a baby. You will be forgiven for thinking that organising this holiday requires more planning than a wedding and that many new factors will need to be taken into account. The preservation and maintenance of good sleeping practises is one of them.
Travel during the day
If you are heading overseas and have the choice of flights then going during the day may be preferable. That way, although the daytime sleep will be disrupted and possibly of poorer quality, at least you can potentially maintain bedtime and the night-time sleep that follows; this strategy alone, can help get the trip off to a good start. Similarly, if you are driving to your destination, it's best to set off at the start of the day, allowing for the day time sleep to happen en route, ideally arriving at your destination before bedtime.
If you are flying
At the airport, opt to retain your pram or buggy until you get to the aeroplane steps. That means you won't be handling your baby too much while waiting, as they will have to be passed between you during the flight a lot when they do not have their own seat. Pack your sling or baby carrier in your walk-on luggage as you'll find that useful as you wait for your flight to be called or whilst waiting to collect your bags in arrivals. Ideally, maintain your typical sleep schedule, however best you can, meeting your baby's feeding and sleeping needs albeit in unconventional places.
It's a good idea to download some white noise from iTunes if your baby will require a nap during the flight time. Bring on board familiar sleeping aids, like the security blanket, a dummy (many parents forget!) and a light-tog sleeping bag can also help. The white noise may then help your baby to mask out the noise of the cabin and allow them to drift off with ease. Babies often overheat during a flight, so strip them off as soon as you take your seats; it is far easier to warm them up, than cool them down. Being too hot will make your baby fussy and resist sleep and, somehow, the journey time will appear to double in length.
At your destination
Try to choose accommodation that offers a conventional wooden cot for sleeping in. Many young children resist sleep in a travel cot for a variety of reasons - different smell, too enclosed, poorer visibility and possibly comfort. If this is not an option, offering your baby a sleep or two at home in a travel cot before you travel can help acclimatise them. Either way, try to bring some bed linen from home so that when you lower them into the new sleep space, they will be able to smell their familiar sleeping environment, helping them feel safe and secure.
Take some extra time to familiarise baby with the different surroundings. It can be difficult for all of us to sleep in a new environment for the first night or two. Spend time in the sleep space and dress, play and change them in their "new bedroom". If you no longer room-share with your child, then move the cot far away from your bed to prevent disturbing them during the night. If you don't typically bed-share with your child, try not to do this on holiday, as you may find that when you arrive home, they will only sleep in your bed.
Add an extra 10 minutes to your usual bedtime routine and give your child lots of one-to-one time along with plenty of physical and eye contact.
Maintain your regular feeding and sleeping programme whilst on holiday. Although possibly not your preference, a wake time close to 7.30am can help the day to unfold well and preserve your good sleep habits. If your baby is still taking two to three daytime sleeps, some of these may well happen on the go in the car or the buggy. Invest in a snooze shade or similar to help block out the light while out and about and here again, the white noise may help to block out external noise.
Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC, is a paediatric sleep consultant and mum of four young children. She runs a private sleep consulting practice with her 98pc effective formula for sleep; she provides knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families across the country.