We recently asked the wonderful Jenna from Little Dreams Consulting whether she could write an article especially for us, happily she said ‘yes’…
The baby and child sleep consultant, based in Bristol, is the mother of three young children and a certified ‘Sleep Sense’ Consultant. Jenna has undertaken extensive training to equip herself with the best tools and knowledge to help get your little one sleeping through the night.
Here she shares her best tips and tricks for helping your little ones sleep when away from home in a foreign country.
Summer is upon us but, if your little one does not sleep terribly well, taking a foreign trip may fill you with dread. The good news is that you do not have to cancel all travel plans and confine yourself to the house (or even the UK) for the rest of your child’s life. It is possible to have children who travel well, if you keep a few things in mind…
Preparation is key to a more relaxed journey with children! Make sure you know what the airline provides and plan for any worst case scenarios to avoid whilst in the air (a leaky nappy on your jeans will make for an uncomfortable, and aromatic, journey if nobody has spare clothes)!
On that note, don’t forget spares, of everything; clothes, spare food (including bottles), plenty of spare nappies and any of your usual necessities for the journey to avoid any uncomfortable situations!
In relation to sleep, the ideal situation would be to book your flights around your little one’s routine but, realistically, that is unlikely to be possible. All sleep rules can be put on hold when you fly – let your little one, especially babies, sleep whenever they will sleep. This may not be too much of a problem during a short flight but if your flight is longer than a couple of hours you need to bear this in mind.
- If you need to help your child fall asleep on the plane (even by rocking etc) then do it – you can get your sleep routine back on track when you land.
- Don’t forget to bring your little one’s sleeping bag, favourite blanket/teddy and consider a feed to help their ears during take-off and landing.
- Do the best you can to keep them comfortable and happy – just get straight back to your routine and sleep plan once you land.
- If your child is a bit older, bring some exciting surprise small toys (wrapped to buy you some time). Don’t forget plenty of snacks (and treats for any emergency situations)!
Sticking to a good routine
The biggest mistake parents make, whilst on holiday, is that they try to do too much with their children. If you try to fit too many things in, or too many visits out, you will end up with a grumpy, overtired child who may not settle well at bedtime.
An occasional car/pushchair nap or slightly later bedtime probably isn’t going to do too much harm, but if your little one spends a couple of days taking car/pushchair naps here and there and having late bedtimes, they may become so overtired that by the time bedtime rolls around on the second day they will be so tired that they forget how to settle and cry…a lot. It is very important to stick to your routine; being away (or having a little one who is not settling) will make it all too easy to revert to your own familiar ways and you will be back to square one.
It’s very normal for babies and toddlers to test the boundaries around sleep when they are somewhere new. The best way to handle this is to not do too much different than you would if it happened at home. You can go in every five minutes or so to offer a bit of reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules. If you stick to your routine and maintain consistency, during the first night or two, your little one will be used to the new environment and will be sleeping well
Avoid This BIG Mistake
Another big mistake parents make is to bed share with their baby or toddler while traveling. Even if it’s only for a few nights, if your little one decides this is their new preferred location, you could find yourself starting all over again when you get home. Most hotels have a cot you can use so make sure you check in advance and take your own if necessary. One of the benefits of booking through Tots to Travel is that part of their essential baby and toddler kit includes at least one cot, of EU standard. They also offer bed guards, blackout blinds (which are essential for keeping out that holiday sun and avoiding those early wake-up calls) and a night light – should your little one need one! A full list of their essential baby and toddler kit is here.
Ideally, especially if your baby or child is older than 8 months, try to make some sort of private space for your baby to sleep. Anywhere that you can build some sort of a partition between you and your little one, so that if s/he has a wake up in the middle of the night s/he is not so excited to see you that they end up wide awake thinking it’s play time! Of course, getting an extra bedroom for your child is great if that’s an option for you.
Let’s face it – high temperatures are not something we are used to regularly dealing with, at bedtime, in the UK! One of the most important things is to ensure children are safe and the right temperature, during the day and night. NHS guidelines suggest a nursery thermometer to ensure their bedroom is the right temperature and it is easy to pack a small one of these. Make sure you take your little ones’ temperature properly by checking their neck, back or chest rather than cooler extremities.
Dress your child accordingly. Try putting yourself if your little ones’ shoes (or pyjamas). If you feel too hot with clothes and sheets, chances are s/he will too. Think about later in the night too, if the temperature drops, or the air con is on, you might get a wakeup call from a chilly child!
Keep the bedroom cool. Tips include keeping the blind down or the shutters closed in the day to block out the sun (these are standard issue through Tots to Travel)! If you don’t have air con alternative tips include a fan (with ice in front of it so the air blown is cold, be careful with the potential water and electricity though and keep it away from your little one)! You can also try cold, wet sheets hanging from chairs. Again, safety first and ensure your little one can’t reach them.
Things that really help...
During the bedtime routine try a slightly cooler bath and a cold drink before bed. A cool flannel on a little warm forehead can work wonders if they are getting too hot and bothered!
Be extra careful with children in car seats and pushchairs. The trend of putting blankets over car seats and pushchairs to keep out the sun can mean temperatures under that blanket soar, especially when abroad! Always make sure they are in the shade and slather them with sun cream!