Baby Sleep While Traveling
C.J. Healy, a physical education teacher in San Rafael, California, is the mother of 2-year-old Jack, a great sleeper, and 13-month-old Mary, a not-so-great sleeper. The family took several trips in Mary's first year, and Mary didn't handle the change of scenery well. At home Healy would let Mary cry it out, but on the road she worried about the noise, so she'd breastfeed Mary and let her sleep in bed with her and her husband.
Experts agree that it's all right to have road rules like the Healys'. "Sleep does not go well when you're away -- and that's to be expected," says Jodi Mindell, PhD, associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "It's okay to blow all the rules."
To help your child fall asleep in an unfamiliar setting, try sitting in the room with her, suggests Richard Ferber, MD, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital Boston and author of the newly revised Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems (Fireside). Dr. Ferber suggests doing what you need to do to get your child to sleep -- such as rubbing her back or reading her an extra book -- bearing in mind that you'll have to undo what you did once you get home. "Once you're back on home territory, go back on home rules. It might mean extra enforcement for a few nights. But if the message is clear, you can quickly get back to the way things were."
While traveling, Liz and Joe Richards, of Portland, Oregon, kept encountering a frequent sleep complaint: A Pack n' Play is great for naps, but not for sleeping through the night. Instead of being awakened countless times by their 22-month-old son, Joey, identifying objects in a hotel room -- "light, light" -- the Richardses now put a crib in a separate room. Sure, booking a suite adds to your travel budget, but it's not as pricey as getting two rooms.
Two tips from Mindell, who is also the author of Sleeping Through the Night (HarperCollins): Do not have a night of transition when you get back home. (Yes, this means standing tough even if your child balks.) And, if possible, return from a trip in time for your child's regular bedtime. If the single daily JetBlue flight doesn't arrive until 11 p.m., however, just steel yourself preflight for a bumpy "landing" once you get home -- and again stand firm in the face of some tears or a tantrum. Example: While at Grandma's, tell your 4-year-old, "While we're here, you get to sleep in the same room with Mommy and Daddy, but when we get home, it's back to your own big-girl bed in your own room."