Traveling with an Infant - Sleep Edition

People always tell me, "You're so lucky your baby sleeps through the night."

And my response is always, "If you only knew." In a way, I am lucky because all his sleep troubles (and there were lots) early on in his life forced me to "figure him out." 

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See, my son does sleep 12 hrs straight at night and he's generally happy baby, but I learned that this won't happen unless I honor his naps.

My son is a routine-driven person. He thrives on it. He also likes to shut down, and at 5.5 months needs 4 naps a day that roughly total between 3-4 hours combined.

If he doesn't get that, then pretty much I'm up every hour with a really tired baby who can't settle for more than 40 minutes at a time.

So when I was heading on our first family vacation with baby, I scoured the Internet looking for information on how to make this work and besides a couple of message boards of moms asking the same thing, I couldn't find any. So now that we survived our first family vacation, here are my tips on traveling with an infant.

Keep in mind that my son is fairly adaptable. Not all babies are. And some babies are so easygoing, you're not even going to need my tips. But if you found this post, you might have a baby like mine, so here we go:

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  1. Find out whether the hotel/resort you are staying at has a crib or whatever your baby likes to sleep in. My son loves his crib and I didn't want to switch him up to a Pack and Play or have him sleep with us on vacation, so  I made sure we were going to have a crib. If your child sleeps in a Pack and Play, consider bringing it along. The extra luggage won't be muchof a hassle when your baby is tucked away in sleepland. 
  2. Pack sleep props. We packed his mesh breathable crib bumpers that he likes to push his head on and his Dohm sound machine. It made for extra luggage, but it was so worth bringing it. If you know the size of the crib or Pack and Play and you have sheets for it, bring your own. Anything that smells like home is welcomed.
  3. What does your baby nap in? My son won't nap long in his stroller, so we didn't bring it. But if your child does, then bring it regardless how bulky it is. We brought our Ergo and that's where he took his naps the entire time. This allowed us to be out all day and strap him on when he showed his sleepy signals. 
  4. If your baby is 6 months or younger, they probably can't stay up past 2hrs at a time. I brought along a cheap digital wrist watch so I wouldn't lose track of time (easy to do on vacation), and whether or not he was showing sleepy signs at the hour-and-a-half mark, he was in the baby carrier and he'd always go right to sleep. 
  5. For us, taking the first nap in the crib is important. So we never planned to do anything until after that first nap. My son wakes at 6 a.m. and goes back down for his first nap 90 mins later. That nap is usually a long one, so we knew that we weren't catching breakfast til at least 8:30 or 9 a.m.
  6. If your child cannot handle a change in schedule or doesn't do well when he/she is overtired, don't push your luck. Our resort restaurants weren't ready for dinner until 6 p.m. For the last two night's baby boy was ready for bed at 6:30 p.m. The first of those nights, I put him in the carrier, wrapped up dinner and had him in his crib by 7 p.m. All was well throughout the night. The second night, however, I pushed my luck and kept him asleep in the baby carrier til 8 p.m. He was up every hour unable to settle and I was pretty upset with myself.
  7. Don't go by what the other parents are doing. Yes, some babies can stay up at a party, have tons of stimulation and they sleep like champs. I saw it at the resort; moms and dads enjoying dinner with their very awake infants at 9 p.m. That's not my child. And if it's not your child, don't try to hang. Other babies sleep perfectly fine at a loud party. My son will as well but if I change the scenery, he will wake and the overtired mess begins. I can't party all night like that anymore lol.
  8. If your child has no schedule, and you're cool with that, then most definitely "do you" and go with the flow. If your child has no schedule and you're going crazy, seek help. There are tons of free articles online. I swear by The Baby Sleep Site and when I was going through sleep troubles with my son, I purchased an express sleep plan and it helped solve our troubles.

Having a happy baby on vacation takes work, but it's possible. Enjoy your trip!!