At a recent Women's Conference, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Infant & Child Sleep Consultant, Christine Mizenko. She and I bonded immediately because this is a topic very near and dear to my own heart. Admittedly I had NO idea there were sleep consultants for little ones. I think this is brilliant and wanted to help get the word out about Christine and her work.
Lack of sleep is one of the hardest struggle for new parents face. As a former pediatric nurse myself, I have had very strong opinions about how parents need to teach their infants sleeping skills. Having a coach to help parents teach children these important disciplines is SUCH an important investment in the future. Not only is it healthy for your kids but the amount of hassles, stress and angst it prevents is immeasurable!
As soon as I heard all about the magic Christine creates with her company Little Night Owls Sleep Solutions, I begged her to share some of her sleeping expertise when it comes to sleep and vacationing with little ones and this is what she wrote...
When you are planning a family vacation with a baby or toddler, an important thing to consider is how your travel plans are going to affect your child's sleep routine. You will have a much more enjoyable vacation if you organize your trip in a way that allows for as little disruption as possible to your little one's sleep schedule.
This will help ensure your baby gets the rest she needs to be happy, healthy, and alert during your trip which is bound to make the vacation more enjoyable for everyone!
Here are some tips to help ensure sure your baby gets the sleep he needs during your travels:
Tip 1. Don't over-schedule
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to try to pack in all the fun and adventure they might have had back in their "child-free" days. The fact is, when you travel with a baby you can't plan to go bungee-jumping in the morning, swim with dolphins in the early afternoon, go parasailing in the late afternoon, and then go on a dinner cruise in the evening.
It's better to slow down the pace and make sure you schedule regular naps and early bedtimes, just like you would at home. Planning activities around that schedule is key and in the end will make for a happy baby which makes for a happy mom and dad. This is where Sally and her staff at Vacationkids can really help you plan and book a "balanced" vacation experience.
Tip 2. Be consistent with naps and bedtime
An occasional nap in the car seat or a later-than-usual bedtime probably won't do too much harm, but if your baby's naps are all over the place and she goes to bed much later than usual several days in a row, your baby will become so overtired and cranky that a complete meltdown will be inevitable.
This causes undue stress for the everyone. Now your baby, who has been happily chatting himself to sleep for weeks, is 1.) crying so hard that you are sure everyone on the boardwalk can hear him
2.) your mother-in-law is standing outside the door repeatedly asking you if you are sure the baby is okay.
This is a lot of pressure! And not what you envisioned when you booked your get-away. So again, consistency is worth the payoff.
Tip 3. Be patient as your baby acclimates to the new environment
Even if your baby is the best little sleeper in the world at home, when you are in a strange environment things might be very different. It's normal for babies and toddlers to test boundaries around sleep when they are somewhere new.
Just because you have certain rules at home, they won't automatically understand that the same rules apply on the sixth floor of the Hyatt Grand Regency.
In a strange place, your baby might cry for a while at bedtime or wake up at odd times during the night. Your toddler might decide to pull out every trick she knows to delay bedtime- drink of water, one more kiss, a sudden need for her socks or the tag in her pajamas is just too itchy.
The best way to handle this kind of behavior is to react the same way you would at home. Bedtime is non-negotiable! Reenact the same bedtime practices you have in place at home to the best of your ability. Go into the room every five minutes or so to offer some reassurance, but other than that, don't bend your rules. If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first night or two, your child will be used to the new environment and will be sleeping well again.
Tip 4. Make sure you bring your child's sleeping toy and/or blanket!
If your child has a treasured comfort item or lovey, it will go a long way to helping him feel safe and secure enough to fall asleep in a strange environment. Forget it and you will regret it!
Tip 5. If you are not a co-sleeping family... don't start now
Another big mistake parents make is to start sharing a bed with their baby or toddler while traveling. Even if it's only for a few nights, if your baby decides that this is her new preferred way to sleep, you could find yourself dealing with a BIG problem when you get home and put her back in her crib.
The good news is most hotels have a crib you can use or rent (Vacationkids can take care of this for you). If you're flying to your vacation destination this is often the best. If you're driving, bring along your own pack & play.
If your child is eight months or older, my advice is to try to make some sort of a private space for your baby to sleep. This could be the bathroom (if it's big enough) or even the closet. Anywhere that you can build some sort of a partition between you and your baby, so if she wakes up in the middle of the night she is not so excited to see her two favorite people that she ends up wide awake thinking it's play time! Of course, getting an extra bedroom for your child is great, if that is an option for you.
If a separate sleeping area isn't possible, you may need to get a little creative. At bedtime, you may need to dim the lights while your little falls asleep while you enjoy a glass of wine together on the hotel balcony or even in the bathroom. Of course NEVER leave your child unattended but often being out of eye sight while in earshot helps.
There is no need to cancel all trips and confine your family to your home until college rolls around. Use these simple sleep strategies and start making memories now!
THANK YOU Christine!...for these fabulous tips. I wholeheartedly believe parents who teach proper sleeping skills have the confidence to get out more often and enjoy more vacations with their kids. Travel skills, just like sleep skills are best taught at a very young age and will pay off exponentially in the future when it comes to creating happy families!