Travelling with your baby? Tips for helping them sleep!
Getting your baby to sleep can feel like a challenge even in their own familiar environment, let alone when you're travelling! Sleep consultant Annette Faamausilli from Serene Sleep shares her tips.
It’s finally happening. After a couple of long years stuck behind closed borders, international travel is back! For many families, this has been the longest time they’ve ever been apart. Some will even have new babies who haven’t met their grandparents or other extended family members that live overseas. And with our winter and the northern hemisphere’s summer approaching, now is a great time to book those flights for warmer climates.
But, travelling long haul with a baby can be daunting – especially if this is your first time, and a lot of that stress can revolve around sleep if you’ve got a solid routine in place at home that works well for your family.
Firstly I'll say, don’t stress (easier said than done, I know). If the sleep routine is a little out of wack for a while, it won’t cause long-term harm, maybe just a little short-term pain if anything – but the magic of your trip away will outweigh that, I promise! That being said, a smooth trip all begins with good planning! Here are some things to consider before making any bookings...
If you can, try to book flights and connecting journeys for times when your baby might be sleeping naturally. For example, if your baby is older and mainly sleeping through the night, you might look at booking an overnight flight. Or, you could choose a flight that covers naptime.
You want to make sleeping as easy as possible for your little one. So, booking a plane bassinet for your baby will definitely help. As the bassinets are at the front of the seating area, it also tends to give you seats with a bit more room (great for all those extra things you seem to have to pack when travelling with children).
Airline blankets can be thin and scratchy so remember to pack your baby’s blankets from home for the trip. If you keep them unwashed, they will also smell and feel more familiar and comforting, which will help them settle better in their unusual surroundings.
There is always so much to carry when you are travelling. A front pack is a great option for carrying your baby through the airport, holding them when waiting in check-in queues and for using on the plane.
The front pack means you can move about knowing your baby is safe, and with your hands still free. You can also use it to make your baby feel secure by being snuggled up to your chest.
Babies struggle with the changes in cabin pressure – you know that time when your ears go funny, and you yawn or suck on a sweet. Babies can’t do that. But, you can provide them with other things to suck on during take-off and landing.
You can breastfeed them during this time or offer a bottle or sippy cup. Sucking on a dummy or thumb or even your finger can also help.
ONCE YOU ARRIVE
When you arrive at your destination, the best thing to do is try and adjust to your new time zone ASAP. Your baby (and you, hopefully) may have slept on the plane trip, but this sleep isn’t usually very deep, and they will likely still be tired.
Put your little one down for a nap at the usual time (on the new time zone) and try to follow routines for daytime feeds and naps as closely as possible. It might be a struggle to begin with, but the disruption should only last a couple of days. Being out and about in the daylight, meal times, naps and activities play a huge role in helping your little one adapt quickly to the new time zone.
TOPSY TURVY TIPS
Remember if you are heading to the northern hemisphere, it will be coming into summer so the evenings will be much lighter for longer. Think about packing some portable blackout blinds to help keep their sleeping space nice and dark, especially if that's what they're used to at home.
A darkened room will help your baby adjust to the new time zone much quicker and optimise the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.
Familiar items like blankets, unwashed sheets, pyjamas or sleep sacks and favourite toys can all help to create a comforting environment. If you are staying somewhere with unfamiliar noises or a busy household, then a white noise machine can also help.
Don’t panic too much if your routine is thrown out due to the time difference or because you have different activities going on. Stick to routine as much as you can but remember to enjoy yourself and give your family time to spend with you and your little one! Safe and happy travels.
Annette Faamausili is a baby and child sleep expert and has been advising and supporting parents since 2001. She trained and qualified in the NHS, UK, and moved to New Zealand with her Samoan husband and family in 2011. Annette has three children and lives on the beautiful Whangaparaoa Peninsula in Auckland. Find her at serenesleep.co.nz
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 58 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW