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4 Sleep Tips for Traveling with Baby

How to get your baby to sleep well on vacation.

4 Sleep Tips for Traveling with Baby

Let’s be honest: Traveling with a baby can be daunting. In your pre-kid life, you could could enjoy carefree walks on the beach, a cocktail or three, or just sleeping. But as a parent, you now have to worry about feeding, sleeping and pooping schedules. It’s normal to be worried, especially if this is your first trip with a little one or if you’ve finally hit a good sleeping rhythm. But never fear: you can enjoy a vacation and not wreak havoc on your little one’s sleep by following a few simple steps.

Here are 4 sleep tips to make sure your little one keeps sleeping like a baby while traveling.

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1. Before the trip: plan your travel well. Anticipate your baby’s sleep schedule on the travel day. Most babies will easily nap during plane or car trips, so take advantage of that downtime. If you’ll be taking a long flight that spans several nap times and/or bedtime, try to keep your baby’s schedule onboard the same as you would at home.

Parents taking long-haul overnight flights should remember that most airlines don’t turn off the overhead lights for a few hours, so aim to book a flight that departs a few hours before your baby’s bedtime. To that end, try to arrive at your final destination a few hours (or more) before your baby’s bedtime. It’s a total buzzkill to start your vacation with a screaming, overtired baby who needs to be fed, changed and soothed… when all you want is a cocktail after a long day of travel.

2. Once you’ve arrived, find a good balance between prioritizing sleep and staying cool. Any sane parent will tell you that her idea of vacation is not being trapped in a hotel room with a sleeping baby and bad daytime TV. But it’s almost guaranteed that if you ignore your baby’s sleep schedule for more than a day or two, all hell will break loose.

What’s a mama to do? Find a healthy balance between her sleep needs and what you want to accomplish that day. For example, you might decide that 50% of your baby’s naps will be in the crib at “home” and the others will be on-the-go. Or, if you have a non-stop day planned, compensate with an early bedtime that night. Find a balance that works for all of you.

3. Embrace routine. Even the most adaptable babies thrive on familiarity and routine and yours may find it challenging to sleep in a strange new place. Stick to familiar sleep routines that will help her to feel more secure and encourage her to sleep longer stretches.

For example, if she’s used to reading certain books, bring them along. If she’s used to white noise at home, consider a portable white noise machine or download a free white noise app for your phone. And I always recommend making the sleep environment as dark as possible: use a portable blackout curtain or simply affix dark garbage bags to the windows with masking tape.

4. Just remember, you’re traveling with a baby. Life doesn’t end when we become parents, but it changes. Take your baby’s age and temperament into account when your plan your itinerary. A 2-month-old will probably snooze happily for hours while you tour the Ufizi Gallery; a wriggly 9-month-old most likely will not. Take advantage of your travels but also don’t set yourself up for feeling like a failure by the end.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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