Guest Post • Big Sky Lullaby • Sleep + Summer Vacation

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ev's first trip to the beach

Back before I actually had a baby, terms like 'child sleep consultant' and 'sleep training' sounded like a foreign language to me. 'Don't babies sleep a lot?' I would have asked, but it really isn't that simple. Some people get lucky and their kid is just a natural born sleep master who goes down easily at all the right times and stays asleep all night, but the majority of us really have to work at it. It's like a science. Anyway, Diana is a child sleep consultant who shares some of her knowledge through her blog over at Big Sky Lullaby and also offers private consultations. We've been emailing back and forth over the last few months, trying to find time in our busy schedules to exchange ideas and basically just get on the same page. We finally managed to get all of our ducks in a row and make this happen. It's so refreshing to interact with someone to who has an understanding of the hardships in juggling motherhood and a career. As some of you know, this family of mine has been put through the ringer in the sleep department. Ev didn't sleep through the night until she was 18 months old and by 'didn't sleep through the night,' I don't mean she woke up once or twice at night. She was awake around the clock, every two to three hours like a newborn. How we made it through that and solved her sleep issues is another post for another day, but needless to say, a sleep consultant would have been a God-send. Without further adieu, here's Diana with advice on keeping your babies and toddlers on a sleep schedule this Summer.

Sleep should not be compromised in order to enjoy your summer vacation, and the good news is it doesn’t have to be! With summer upon us, I wanted to take this opportunity as a guest blogger to provide some suggestions about maintaining healthy sleep while on family vacations. Believe it or not, there is a way to keep your children on a schedule so that their normal routine is not permanently disrupted, while also getting the opportunity to relax and enjoy your time away!
It's important to take into account your child’s age and the location you'll be traveling to. Be realistic, you can't have late nights with no concern for time, and then expect your child to cooperate the next day. Never forget that sleep begets sleep; in other words, the more they sleep, the more they sleep! When your child is put to bed at a much later time than usual, this can be acceptable if, and only if, your child is on a solid routine to begin with. It is much easier to make an exception for a special occasion and have your child snap back into their normal schedule the following day if their schedule is solid and consistent; however, a week’s vacation doesn't really qualify as a special occasion. 

Let’s begin with some tips and suggestions for your time spent traveling to your destination. If you're driving to your vacation spot, start your trip at the beginning of your child’s nap time. This is one of my few exceptions to my rule of motion sleep. (More to come on motion sleep.) This will give your child a good amount of time to nap and by the time they wake up, you'll be several hours into your trip. 
If you're flying to your destination, nurse or bottle feed your baby during take-off and landing to help with the pressure on their ears. Buy a small toy that your child has never seen before and pack it for them with some snacks and comfort items. When it is time for them to nap, hand them their usual comfort item that they bring to bed (pacifier, lovey, teddy bear, etc.) and let them know it is time to sleep. Every once in a while, take your toddler for a walk up and down the aisle in order to get their wiggles out.

Once you've arrived at your destination, set up your space in a way that will be as familiar of a sleep environment to your child as possible. For example, bring the big blanket you use to cover them in their crib at home, not just the small one that they use for comfort. Bring some of their stuffed animals or dolls. If you are in a hotel room, you can use a dark corner of the room to set up their pack 'n' play or you can also use the bathroom and treat it like their own room.
Pay extra attention to your bedtime routine; go slow and provide extra comfort and soothing time if needed. Your child might be apprehensive about the new environment at first, but just keep reassuring them that Mom and Dad are nearby, just like at home.

Always bring medicine. I travel with everything I would need if my baby were to come down with a fever while we're away. It's very common for a child to catch a cold if they're on a plane, and you don’t want to be caught off guard in the middle of the night, in an unfamiliar place, around unfamiliar people. Here is a list of 'Must Haves' and some 'Just-In-Case' items that I recommend.
Must Haves
  • Thermometer (Make sure it has batteries if needed, and the cover to go over the tip that gets changed after each reading.)
  • Tylenol and Motrin (Bring both in case you need to switch off using them every four hours.)
  • Nose syringe (If your child is having trouble breathing.)
  • Saline Drops (Helps clear what the syringe can't.)
  • Vicks Vapor Rub
  • Gripe water or Gas drops 

  • Teething tablets (Teeth like to present themselves at the most inconvenient of times, especially the molars!)
  • Prune juice or natural child laxative (Many child experience constipation while traveling.)
  • Portable Vicks Vaporizer

Let’s be realistic, you didn’t spend all of this money and go through all of this hassle to go on a vacation and not spend some nights out relaxing and enjoying yourself, whatever that may mean for you. In an ideal world we would bring along a babysitter, nanny, sibling or parent who could remain at the hotel after the kids are in bed so that you and your spouse can enjoy some nights out. If that’s a possibility for your family, I highly recommend it. If not, you just need to plan it out in a way that gives everyone time to enjoy themselves without compromising your children’s need for healthy sleep. Here is what I suggest:
If you are going somewhere where you can sit out on your porch and relax after you put the kids to bed at a reasonable hour and enjoy yourselves, this is an ideal situation. It's also something to look for when planning and booking your vacation destination. If you are on vacation with a group of people, plan your nights out in advance and take turns with your spouse. This will eliminate all surprises and will give everyone a turn to relax and enjoy things such as a late dinner or a show.  

*Motion sleep occurs when your child sleeps in motion; such as in a car, a swing, or in a stroller. Since the child is in motion although they appear to be asleep, they never enter the deep sleep phase and therefore never benefit from the mental and physical restoration that sleep provides.
However, vacations are an exception to my rule of motion sleep. Although it is not ideal, it is also not detrimental. Motion sleep is often used to “save the over tired state,” meaning that if you are out and about during your vacation and unable to go back to your hotel room in order to put your child down for a nap, let them sleep in the stroller or car. This will prevent them from being overtired at bedtime and ultimately having trouble falling asleep and waking during the night.
The key to a nap during a busy and exciting vacation day is a comfort item. For example, if your child is attached to a lovey, keep it in your bag and then right at their usual nap time, no matter where you are, hand the lovey to your child and this will signal to them that it is time for sleep. Try your best to put a blanket over the stroller to darken the sunlight, or if you are in a car perhaps use a shade for the windows.

If you're traveling to a different time zone, remember that they will not adjust to the time change as quickly as you will, so this needs to be taken into account. I advise parents to watch their child more than they watch the clock and really pay attention to sleep signals. Go about your family’s daily routine as normal and your child will follow your cues and understand when it is time for sleep.
My main piece of advice is to know your child. If they are a sensitive sleeper, don’t push them to adjust to a schedule that you know they will not take to very well. It will just mess with their regular schedule that you probably spent a lot of time and effort getting them on in the first place. If you have a child that adjusts easily to sleep situations, you are lucky and are able to be more flexible. Either way, no matter how quickly your child may adjust, everyone needs healthy amounts of sleep in order to function and ensure that every member of the family enjoys your summer vacation!

You can find Diana over at Feel free to leave any questions below, as I'm sure Diana would love to answer them.



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