How to Manage a Baby's Sleep Needs when Travelling

Five Methods:Journeys by CarAirline TravelArriving at Your DestinationKeeping Things FamiliarThe Next Day

Babies' and children's sleep is often difficult to handle when travelling. This article provides advice[1] on ensuring that sleeping needs continue to be met despite the changes brought on by travel.

Method 1
Journeys by Car

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    Expect the motion to assist you. If your baby is like most babies and tends to be lulled to sleep with motion, then they will doze on and off during any journey. Of course, if you have travelled during the day, this excessive sleep can affect their ability to settle down and sleep at night, once you have reached your destination. Settling can be further affected by the fact that the sleeping environment will be different to home.
    • There are two possible solutions to this challenge:
      • Travel during the night.
      • Put your baby to bed much later than usual, and only do so when you see signs of tiredness.

Method 2
Airline Travel

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    Plan in advance. 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.
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    Prepare for the flight. In preparation for the flight, if possible:
    • Reserve a bassinet, or find out the policy on taking baby car seats on board.
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    If necessary, take an infant painkiller with you. Fresh unopened sachets are easier to use and pre-measured for convenience. It's wise to get a doctor's note giving you permission to take it on the plane.
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    Try apple rings. If your baby is old enough (4 months plus) buy some dried organic apple rings. Hook one onto their thumb which will prevent boredom by allowing sucking and chewing. This will also help with ear pressure changes. Alternatively, use a dummy or pacifier.
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    Dress your baby in a simple one piece soft suit with popper fastenings and take two or three more with you for the journey.
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    Have a good baby bag in tow. A light, roomy bag with lots of compartments will help you feel organized and in control.
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    Check in as early as you can, and don't be afraid to ask if there are any spare seats.
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    As soon as you can after take off, offer your baby a drink. This will help to ease the pressure in their ears, as well as preventing dehydration.
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    Allow your baby to sleep as much as they like on the plane. Regardless of the time difference, feed at the usual times as far as possible. If you need a bottle to be warmed, ask well in advance.
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    Keep your baby entertained. When awake, walking up and down will help, also, pointing out things in a suitable in-flight film and allowing them to play with a few safe objects. Don't bother packing too many toys though; your baby will soon get bored with them!

Method 3
Arriving at Your Destination

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    Allow for familiarization time. Once at your destination, if awake, allow time for your baby to familiarise themselves with the new surroundings. Do not allow another (especially unfamiliar) family member to put them to bed on her first night – no matter how tempting that might be.
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    Try to go to bed at the same time as your baby. If you are travelling with your partner, it is a good idea to organize yourselves into shifts to deal with the night, or very early morning waking, which is so common when you change time zones.

Method 4
Keeping Things Familiar

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    When your baby is in an unfamiliar place, you can help them to feel safe and secure by following the same bedtime routine as you do at home.
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    Sing the same night time songs and keep to your familiar bedtime stories.
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    Don't forget to bring along a favourite toy – especially one that your baby associates with sleep.

Method 5
The Next Day

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    Start early! If necessary, one of you should get up and start the day much earlier than usual with your baby as they begin to adjust to the time difference. This is better than bringing them into your bed. Remember that if your baby's sleep is disturbed, the chances are that yours will be too!
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    Allow for sleeping in. On the following day, allow plenty of sleeping during the early part of the day, this nap may be far longer than usual. Then restrict afternoon napping and put them to bed closer to local “bedtime”.
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    Remember that babies are far more flexible than adults when it comes to adjusting to a different time zone. Try following your baby's lead and soon you will all have adapted to the time change.

Things You'll Need

  • Good bag with many compartments
  • Travel cot/crib
  • Folding pram/stroller
  • Food, drink
  • Toys
  • Clothing
  • Medical needs/note
  • Bottle (if using)
  • Nappies/diapers
  • Ear plugs

Sources and Citations

  1. Initially shared by sleep specialist, Andrea Grace

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