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Top Tips for Travel

As our time together draws to a close, and everyone in the house is sleeping again, I always ask parents if they have any questions about what may arise in the future. The #1 thing I get asked is “What do we do when we travel?!?!?” Traveling with Little Monsters is not always easy, but it’s doable! Here are my top tips!

Anything special I should bring?

Travel white noise machine

Special lovey/blanket/sheets from home

Black garbage bags and painters tape if there won’t be blackout curtains – tape the foil or bags anywhere the light seeps in.

Baby monitor! Make sure you have all necessary cords, too (ask me why I state this specifically…)

Pack a change of clothing for you AND baby in an easily accessible area, as well as paper towels/napkins, wipes and dipes (more than you think you need), and ziploc bags. 

All the snacks and some new toys. For toddlers and older kids, you can wrap each new toy, adding a layer of fun and another 5 minutes off the clock.

Where should I stay?

If at all possible, book an AirBNB or something similar. This is the best way to ensure having a kitchen and a second room for your Little Monster(s) to sleep in. 

If you’ll be staying in a hotel/resort, and you have the cash, try to book a suite or a larger room with some sort of nook/bend/division.

If you’ll be staying with a friend or relative, ask in advance where your Little Monster(s) will be sleeping.

How will we get there?

For children in a convertible car seat, try to drive or fly during sleep times.

Any infant in an inclined car seat needs a break every 1-2 hours. You’ll probably need to feed them, change a diaper, and get out and walk around yourself anyway! Get more travel safety tips from the AAP here.

We’re all stuck in one bedroom!

In a hotel – Is there a large walk-in closet or office nook? (don’t close the closet door all the way!!!)

Can you use a sheet or blanket to form a curtain between your sleep area and theirs? Maybe move some furniture around?

At a home – is there a laundry room or other room not being used?

How can they possibly sleep when we’re there? What do we do all night?

My #1 tip: lay out everything you need to get ready for bed BEFORE the kids go to sleep.

Does your monitor have a signal in the lobby/bar/business center? If the Little Monster is sound asleep and you know they’ll stay that way, you can scoot out for a bit. DON’T do this if you feel the least bit uncomfortable about it!!!!!! Take turns going out with another adult in your party.

Use social media to see if anyone you know can help you get a reliable, trustworthy babysitter in the area.

Worst case scenarios – sit in the hallway or bathroom until the kiddos fall asleep. Then watch TV on your device using headphones – you and your partner can always watch them separately together!

What should my child sleep in?

Instead of dragging a Pack N Play, see if you can borrow one at the hotel. CAVEAT – drop-side cribs or any cribs produced before June 2011 can be very dangerous, so ask the hotel manager for more details, including a photo.

You can also check for local agencies renting out baby supplies. Again – read reviews to make sure these items are up-to-date, well-maintained, clean, and safe to use.

For older toddlers (2+), you have a few more options.

A small inflatable airbed

A large, thick duvet folded up to make a comfy sleep surface, covered by a fitted sheet.

What about our sleep schedules?

The week before you travel – 

Start shifting your family’s sleep schedule later or forward if you’ll be crossing more than 1-2 time zones. (Some kids are more sensitive than others).

Stock up on sleep! Keep the schedule as clear as possible and focus on nailing those sleep and bedtimes. A well-rested child can handle a few schedule deviations!

While you’re there –

Know your child. Some can skip naps but need to be in bed ON TIME. Others can go to bed later but need that nap! 

If you have multiple children, base your day on the most sensitive sleeper. Or, divide and conquer based on the adults in your party. (My dad and littlest brother, both ride haters, went to Bear Country Jamboree about 17 times one year at Disney while the rest of us went on the rides!)

You can do a hard break of the schedule a couple of times, but don’t go overboard – a cranky child is just as much of a downer as missing the fireworks, and lasts way longer!!!

Balance your home boundaries with survival mode. Do what you have to, but don’t go overboard! Example – while away, you may have to sit by your child’s bed until they fall asleep, but don’t let them sleep in your bed if they don’t need to.

If you’re in a hot climate, and/or doing theme parks, consider leaving for the hottest hours of the day. Lunch is cheaper and probably tastier outside the park, a trip to the hotel pool will cool everyone off, and a family siesta is usually much needed.

Moving naps are now your friend. Nothing < a cool, calm rest period < moving sleep < regular crib/bed sleep. Make sure your infant is taking their moving naps on a flat stroller attachment if at all possible!

When you get home – 

Go back to the schedule and boundaries as hardcore as you did when you first mastered sleep training. Everyone will be tired, cranky, and thrown off by the disruptions to their regular routine. 

Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Every developmental phase has its own highs and lows, but they all come to an end. 

If this trip didn’t go well, learn from your experience and take solace in the fact that it will be different next time!

(And feel free to ask me about the awful trips we took when Little Monster was truly little!)

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Post #1: Parents are still people

There are plenty of blogs and websites that will give you tricks and tips to help your family get better sleep, and I will be happy to point you in their direction. But instead of repeating what you can easily find elsewhere, I want to dedicate MY writing space to the shared feelings and experiences of parenthood, beyond and around the science. We make parenting choices every day – some conscious, some out of necessity or desperation – and they are strongly driven by our past, our feelings, and our beliefs about what is “right” and “good”. How and when your child should sleep is just one of them, and the fact that sleep training is seen as controversial means big emotions and decisions, and a lot of potential for judgement.

On the surface, sleep training is about implementing biologically appropriate sleep schedules and setting boundaries and expectations around sleep behaviors, in order to help families achieve restful nights and peaceful days. This is what I am certified to do and the backbone of my business. However, having been through the process as a beyond-exhausted parent, I feel strongly that it goes deeper than that.

Sleep training is about restoring a shred of sanity, one that has been whisked away by endless sleep deprivation, barfed-on shirts, poop explosions, temper tantrums (especially in public), inane cartoons, the simultaneous information overload and scarcity. Why must we hear so much about non-essential topics, but no one tells us the important stuff (in this case, baby’s sleep cycles)???

Sleep training is about ignoring the people telling us that anything we do for yourself is selfish, that every thought, dollar, and minute must be spent on your child, or heaven help your soul.  I want to remind parents that we are still people – it’s crucial, not selfish, to engage in self-care, now more than ever. A new little person (or more) is counting on us to guide and nurture them, and we need to be at our best, especially when it comes to making tough choices.

I am here to hold your hand during the emotional and mental struggle that accompanies the decision to reshape your family’s counterproductive  habits, knowing that it will be painful in the short term, and so so worth it for the future.

I’m here to help parents set limits and boundaries, both for the child’s growth and development, and for their own well-being.

If I can help one parent feel less alone in their struggle with sleep, and parenting, and life, it’s a banner day.