Guest blogger Natalie, baby sleep consultant from Sleep and Settle provides advice on how to maintain your baby or toddler’s routine on holidays.

During holiday periods life is busy and you may worry your children’s routine will suffer. The reality is your child still needs to sleep, feed and play, that doesn’t change just because you have visitors or are on holidays. Sometimes you just need to be a little creative and flexible as practical in helping meet their needs so you can enjoy the holidays as well. Here are some good ideas to plan ahead as well as possible.

  • Aim for feeding, sleeping and play time wherever you are, when it is the appropriate time for your baby.
  • Planning ahead for meals, snacks, entertainment, play and sleep times for your toddler.
  • If you are going to be very social, it helps to make sure your baby and toddler are sticking to their normal sleeping and feeding routine as much as possible. Some occasions will clash with sleep times but you will want to go anyway. Just remember that your baby and toddler may appear to cope on one occasion, but the continued missed or disjointed sleeps will add up and leave you with an overtired baby/toddler and unsettled nights. Try and plan to have visitors over at your accommodation rather than going out as often if you can, at least you can be social and your children can sleep in their own beds.
  • For those parents who will be travelling on holidays, it is a great idea to ask questions about the window coverings where your baby will be staying. (Preferably ask a parent not a teenager who will have no idea). From experience, your friends’ places (especially those who don’t have little ones) and holiday accommodation never have dark enough coverings on the windows. This may be the last thing on your mind now, but will be the first thing on your mind at 5 am when your little darlings are awake with the birds because the sun is pouring into the bedroom and prevents day sleeps for the same reason. Purchase and pack a king size black sheet (or 2) some thumb tacks, blue tack, pegs and creative genius for creating dark bedrooms, or you won’t feel like you are having a holiday.
  • Take the linen off your baby’s cot or the pillow case from your toddlers pillow and use these on the holiday bedding to help create some familiar smells and reassurance at sleep time.
  • Continue to use a radio in or near your child’s bedroom in the daytime as background noise for sleeping to cover new noises and consider using some relaxing background music for evening bedtimes if necessary. I like ‘Music for Dreaming’ but any relaxation music will do.
  • Consider a Sleep Cover for the stroller or aircraft cot. Try the ‘Snoozeshade Plus’ and the ‘Fly babee’ to create a dark sleeping environment that encourages sleep but still allows air flow.
  • The other consideration at holiday time is where everyone will sleep. You may have no choice or may decide to save some money by sharing a room with your children on holidays. If you can afford to, get separate rooms. If you can’t do this you will need to try and create a visual barrier between yourself and the baby over three months of age. Hang towels or bunny rugs over the sides of the port-a-cot and pin with safety pins, if you have older babies that will pull on the towels. When your baby/toddler knows you are right there in the same room, they have a reward for waking in the night and be more stimulated to wake. Then, especially when you are at a relative’s house and you don’t want to disturb the relatives, most parents resort to feeding their baby to keep them quiet (even if they don’t need it) and this will start a new habit in one night.
  • When planning time to travel by car, plan the best time of day for your baby/toddler’s sleep. Make sure you all have regular breaks for feeding, play and to massage numb bottoms and allow the toddlers to wear themselves out. Plan activities and music for the car and shade for the sun coming in the windows. It might take you longer to get there but it’s better not to have a frazzled family at the end of the trip.
  • Try alternating days where you are out and about with the next day at accommodation for settled day sleeps to prevent over tiredness and unsettled nights.
  • Stay home for a few days when you return home to help the little ones settle back to your usual routine and quality sleeps or rest time.

Natalie Ebrill, Sleep and Settle Baby Sleep Consultant is a RN, Child and Family Health Nurse and mother of three. Sleep deprived parents, Natalie want to give you your life back!  Do you feel like you’ve read everything and nothing is working? Visit http://www.sleepandsettle.com.au for a free report “Sleeping Baby Secrets”.