Changes When Traveling
Whether you take to the road in a recreational vehicle, stay in a Paris hotel or a cabin in the woods, or leave Baby for a night or weekend at Grandma's, it's not the familiar room she's used to, and she probably won't be in her same familiar crib, either. The baby who's been “good as gold” at night and who's been such a joy when she visits at Grandma's during the day might suddenly turn into a little monster who keeps you (or Grandma) up half the night with her crying.
Making New Surroundings More Comfortable
Again, one way to help your baby adjust to the new surroundings is by making them seem as familiar as possible. Clearly you can't transport to Grandma's or to the hotel the toy chest or dresser he sees when he looks out the bars of his crib at home. But whether you're leaving him at Grandma's or taking him on vacation, bring some or all of his crib toys (depending on how many he has). The familiarity of Mr. Bear or Fluffy Rabbit or whoever inhabits his little world, perched in his new or temporary crib, will help make the new surroundings seem more familiar.
The more you can reassure him that there is nothing fearful out there, the better. If you can show him something familiar in his surroundings, you'll be even better off.
The Hotel Crib
The best defense when it comes to your baby's sleeping arrangements when you travel is a good offense. Call the hotel and reserve a crib. Make sure they understand that a crib must be put aside for you. When you arrive, ask for the crib immediately. Inspect it and look for the same things you would if you were buying a crib for the house. Hotel cribs tend to get a good workout. Check to see that it is stable. Test to make sure it won't collapse when your baby moves around. Are there any sharp points or edges? Is there any peeling paint? Is there a good, firm mattress and no soft pillows or bumpers?
Should I let my baby sleep between me and my spouse and risk getting him used to sleeping with us?
Most family bed advocates don't recommend the child sleeping between the parents. You establish a bad precedent. You're probably better off letting him sleep on a bed or mattress by himself.
When There's No Crib
Despite your best efforts, occasionally you'll find yourself in a situation in which there's no crib for your baby to sleep in while you're on vacation or otherwise away from home. What can you do in such a predicament?
Plan ahead. The first choice is to buy a portable crib or a “pack-and-play” crib or playpen, using the same criteria for choosing as you would a traditional crib. Also stay current on manufacturers' recalls. For this information, contact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission hotline at
If your baby is still young enough to fit comfortably in a carrier and isn't rolling over yet, he may be happy to sleep through the night there. Strapped in, he's secure. The carrier is familiar to him. Problem solved!
Failing all the previously mentioned suggestions, if he's somewhat older, you might not have any other choice but to place a mattress on the floor and let him sleep there. Should he roll out of bed during the night, he won't have far to fall. The hazard that remains is that he can walk or crawl away and might fall down the stairs, open the front door, get into something dangerous in one of the rooms, or otherwise get into trouble. Just what he can get into will depend, of course, both on how old he is and on what opportunities present themselves in these surroundings. The hazards are different for a four-month-old and a fourteen-month-old.
If for some reason you aren't able to put him to bed on a mattress on the floor, your remaining option is to let him sleep in a real bed and put pillows alongside the bed on the floor. This way, should he fall out, he will fall to the soft surface of a pillow. However, note that this is not safe for a newborn or younger infant.
Time Zone Shifts
Another disruptive factor that can interfere with your baby's sleep schedule is a time zone shift. If you've flown from the East Coast to the West Coast, suddenly there's a three-hour difference in time to which you and baby must adjust. If you're visiting for just three or four days, it doesn't pay to try to get your baby in sync with the new time zone. Keep her as close to her home schedule as possible, despite the difference in time. This will be easier if you've only gone one time zone away than if you've gone two or three or farther.
But if you're visiting for ten days or two weeks and particularly if it's only a one-time-zone shift, it will be easier if you can get your baby onto the local time. If you're not visiting but have moved from one time zone to another, of course it's necessary. You do this in the same way that you regulate her in the switch from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time or vice versa: in short increments. Under the circumstances, though, ten-minute increments won't effect the change you need quickly enough. Try putting her to bed twenty minutes earlier or later each day, and to be synchronized with your hosts as easily as possible, you might want to try adjusting the baby's schedule before you leave, so that she's already on your hosts' local time when you get to your destination.
If the baby is not used to sleeping in your room, then suddenly sharing a room with you can have a couple of downsides. First, the noise you make, no matter how quiet you are, may wake her up if you're sharing a room. Second, she may get accustomed to it and insist on your presence at home.
If the baby isn't used to sleeping in the same room with you, it's preferable to keep her in a separate room when you're on vacation. Of course, this may not be possible. If you're staying in a hotel, you can't put her in a separate hotel room (though two different rooms of a suite would be work-able). If you're staying with relatives, they may not have two guest rooms available. The baby may have to sleep in your room or in the same room as her cousin.
But try to keep things as similar to the way they are at home as possible. Try to retain your usual routine. If you normally feed, then bathe your baby, and then put him to bed at 6:30 P.M., try to follow the same routine now. If you usually give him a massage, sing him a song, and say a prayer, do the same thing now. Don't be inhibited by the presence of others, and try not to be persuaded when someone says, “You're on vacation. You don't have to stick to your usual routine.” No, you don't have to, but it will make things go a lot more smoothly for your baby.
Again, if you have his usual crib toys, his favorite “blankie,” and anything else that feels like “home” to him, it will help.