How best to travel with a baby – Tips and tricks to help them settle in a new environment and/or time change

Planning a holiday with a baby, even for a night or two, can be stressful and there is always some uncertainty around how they might react to the change of environment and/or time changes. The good thing to know is that babies can adjust pretty quickly if we are consistent in the way we deal with them, so having a plan for travelling is always a good idea.

In order to make it a nice relaxing holiday for everyone, here are my top 6 tips for helping a baby adjust quickly: 

  1. Maintain your sleep ritual

Remember that we are all creatures of habit and so are your babies. Children of all ages respond well to ritual and routine. So, if you are in a new environment try and maintain good rituals as best you can, particularly around sleep times. Keep the same ritual and routine you have had at home; a bath, a bedtime story, a particular song, their favourite comforter etc. all these things can make a baby feel comfortable even if their environment looks a bit different.

  1. Keep routines even if you have to be flexible

Try and keep nap times as close to what they have at home. If you can’t, try and make sure they get one good sleep in a cot (for younger babies still on two or more day sleeps) and make sure they are going to bed early (around 6.30pm/7pm) particularly if the days are busy and full of excitement. 

  1. Keep it dark

When you’re in a hotel or holiday house you don’t know what the sleeping conditions will be like. Removing stimulus by keeping it dark is a huge help. If you need to block out windows, garbage bags are a great way of doing this. So don’t forget to pack them along with some masking tape.

  1. Avoid introducing new settling techniques on holiday

If you are staying with friends or relatives, or have the baby in your room when they usually don’t sleep there, then a baby’s sleep can be disturbed. Try not to introduce too many new things to settle your baby overnight, including new people if you can avoid it. If you do have to have the baby in with you, keep everything the same as when you are at home. Use some white noise or music to muffle the sounds of you coming to bed etc. that may disturb your baby overnight.

  1. Keep moving forward

If you have already dropped night feeding, try not to resort to going back to that to help your baby settle overnight. If they do need some assistance, just pat or soothe them until they fall back to sleep and know that after a couple of nights the sleeping usually returns to normal.

  1. Remember to relax and have a great time!

If things do go a bit pear-shaped they can easily get back on track once you are home. So don’t beat yourself up about it!

And some bonus tips on handling a time zone change

Babies will always be affected by a time zone change. Some babies adjust quickly and others take a bit longer. It’s difficult to know before you actually do it, unfortunately. I have found younger babies adjust easier though they are usually affected more coming back to Australia rather than going over.

  • On the plane just let them sleep when they want.
  • Once in the new time zone, implement your usual routine.
  • Don’t let your baby sleep more than two hours at a time during the day. This means you may need to wake them up.
  • Overnight, try and keep the baby in their room with it dark and quiet but there may be one or two nights that they are awake for long periods.
  • Feed the baby at the same times they were being fed at home. So if your baby had a milk feed at 7am Sydney time, then feed them as close to 7am in your new local time zone.
  • If you are in a warm sunny climate, get them outdoors during the day and get a good 10 minutes of sun exposure.

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.