If you’re preparing to travel with a baby or a toddler, and you’re a mom, you definitely worry about sleep. You worry about loosing your own sleep and then worry that your little one won’t have enough rest to recover from all the activities you’ve planned.
With the daylight savings time and packing for our next trip, sleep time switch is what we are going through right now, so I wanted to share what worked for us to gently change our baby’s routine and move the sleep schedule. As parents know, if baby sleeps, we sleep. It’s so much more important for everyone’s immune system (not to get sick from germ infested airports) and recovery from jet leg during time zone travels.
First of all, the most important thing to remember is that you need to plan your day to make sure you know what 12 hours of the day you want your baby to sleep – creating the night hours for them.
It is completely appropriate for these hours to vary depending on where you are staying and what your activities are as a family. For example, when we were in Paris, France, 7 pm bedtime in NY would be 12 am bedtime in Paris. We decided to keep it that way and started baby’s bed routine at 10:30 pm. It worked out perfectly for us because there was no switch! (except for me to count the times of day he was napping) We had a slow morning, kept the room dark with room darkening curtains, and would take turns going out in the morning. It was great because it allowed my husband and I to have alone time, which is very important when we travel and spend 24/7 together. We took turns running errands in the morning before noon (baby’s wake up time) and then went on with our day together once he was up. Parisians eat dinner late, so it fit into our schedule perfectly, we would take a stroll through the city one last time before coming back ‘home’ to our airbnb apartment around 10 in time for baby’s bed things. You may choose to do it differently, but make sure it works for your family! Another time – when we were in Arizona, baby’s sleep was 7 pm – 7 am, and we had to do a switch for him to get adjusted to a new schedule, it worked great for all of us!
Here are my top 3 tips:
Keep your baby up.
No matter what, no matter how tired your baby is, keep them up, distract them, tire them out even more and put them to bed at the time that you decide and establish as the NEW sleep time. For example, with daylight savings time, we gained an hour and what normally was 7 pm bedtime would become 6 pm. In my opinion it’s too early, so we started keeping baby up until 8 pm 2 days before Sunday, by 8 pm he was so tired and went to bed easily and very quickly. Once daylight savings day came (Sunday), he was half way to the switch; I do feel like it’s harder to move sleep by one hour, but you get it done! If the timezone is 3 hours difference or more, your baby may need a quick nap before the new proposed bedtime, so let them sleep for 45 minutes (a full baby sleep cycle) and then wake baby up for a couple of hours before the new bedtime. Same goes for nap time, keep your baby up until the new schedule nap time is up.
Keep your baby asleep.
I know, it’s the hardest thing to do when your baby just doesn’t want to sleep! Here is what works for us: keep curtains shut and put in extra layer of light blocking curtains to keep the hotel room as dark as possible. If you need some light, then keep it as dim as possible. If your baby wakes up too early and doesn’t know that you’re trying to switch them to sleep in for a couple more hours, take them to bed with you, while you’re laying down, cuddle, hang out, don’t let them play with toys, try to keep them laying down (I know its nearly impossible once your baby is on the move), give them a bottle of warm milk, it will make them sleepy, and in general keep voices low and the atmosphere as calm as possible. When the hour comes when you want them to wake up, turn the lights on, open up the curtains and let the sun in, letting them know it’s waking time. Their body will catch up to those signals really quickly!
Don’t give in!
No matter what, don’t give in and let your baby sleep in, or wake up early, or go to bed earlier then the NEW time YOU set for them! It’s so hard for those 3 days when you’re making them switch and adapt to a new schedule, but it’s so worth it in the end! My baby always did the full switch by day 4, as if his own biological clock was reset and he was ready to do it like nothing ever happened! Don’t get me wrong though, these 3 days to get there (can be more) will be tough! You will either wake up hours earlier then you want to, or loose sleep some other way. It’s hardest when its 1-4 hours difference, and easiest when its 6+ hours of a change.
For full disclosure, I did not sleep train my baby, I tried reading the books, but it was just not for me. My philosophy was to pay very close attention to my baby and his needs, his wake time and when he would want to go to sleep. I believe that we found a sweet spot where he sleeps 12-13 hours at night, 2 naps that usually last 1.5-2 hours each. This has been our schedule since he was 7 months and now is almost 13 months old. Of course we’ve had some really bad nights and teething sleeplessness, sick baby and tired parents times, no one is immune to those.
Would you like to hear more about our baby’s sleep schedule and how I learned from him what he needed?
Comment below your questions and comments about sleep, I’ll do my best to share our story. I am an expert in my baby’s sleep, because I have to be, and hope that it can help another mama friend!