If you are traveling internationally with your baby this Christmas to visit family, I am pretty sure you are worried about how to preserve sleep for the little one. Whether you go to a hotel or you stay at a relative's, it is unnerving to think that sleep may be broken.
No need to panic. Below I give you all my tips to travel international and preserve sleep at the same time.
BEFORE THE TRIP
Plan, plan, plan and be ready!
If possible, it is best to fly at night. This way we can ensure that baby is more predisposed to sleeping and will make things easier for both him/her and you.
When you are packing for the trip, carefully consider what the sleep environment for your little one will be, both during the trip and at destination.
Many families ask me if it makes any sense to progressively change the schedule until it matches the one at destination. The truth is that, if you live in Dubai, chances are that you have a pretty long flight ahead of you, and the conditions will not be perfect for sleep so you cannot expect your baby to sleep as well as he/she does at home.
My advice is to take it easy, do not change anything at home, and just take everything as it comes during the flight. You will be able to adjust once you are at destination.
There are a few things that will make your flight a lot smoother. For the trip you will want to bring:
Wet wipes (a lot)
Disinfectant wipes (babies touch everything! and you will want to use these when you go to the toilet)
A couple of muslin cloths (the bigger, the better)
Pacifiers and/or lovey if your baby uses one
A couple of bottles (one for formula and one for water) and formula (bring extra) if bottle-feeding
White noise will come in handy
A change of clothes
Your baby's favorite book
For destination you want to pack:
A couple of crib sheets
Videocamera + monitor (remember the adaptor)
Foil + painters tape (to black out the room!)
Medication (you never know when baby may get a fever)
A list of hospitals with pediatrics ER around
Portable humidifier (If you are in Dubai, your baby will be very used to the AC, but it is always nicer to have yours)
Baby's soap / shampoo (You can always ask a relative to get yours before you travel so that it is ready for you upon arrival. If this is not an option, believe me, you don't want to be going around looking for the one gel/shampoo that goes well for your little one's skin. Same goes for any other baby essentials)
My first suggestion is to have your foldable stroller with you. It is always much more comfortable to be able to push the stroller than carry your baby around. A Yoyo will be accepted in the cabin.
In any case, if your baby is comfortable in a baby carrier, this may come in handy too. The bad thing about bringing your stroller is that you will have to fold it and carry baby when you go through security, so you may end up carrying some luggage in the stroller while carrying your baby in the sling or baby carrier.
If you are bringing your frozen breastmilk, I advise that you allow for extra time at the airport. There should be no problem, but just in case.
You can bring your water in a baby's bottle and that will be fine, but again, to be on the safe side, just plan to be there with a little extra time.
If you are traveling with an infant you can ask to have a bassinet during the flight. Check the max weight since this is only for very small babies. If you ask for one, I suggest you remind the flight attendant as soon as you get to the plane. They will have to set it up for you.
DURING THE FLIGHT
Bear in mind that these bassinets tend to be in high traffic areas, next to the kitchen or a toilet, so that is when your white noise comes in handy. I am a huge fan of the Marpac Rohm Portable white noise machine. Make sure the battery is fully charged and you are good to go for hours!
If you need a flight attendant to warm your baby's bottle, ask 10-15 minutes in advance. They will immerse the bottle in hot water so this takes time.
During the flight it will be easier to follow wake windows.
Once you are ready for baby to sleep, you can start a shortened and slightly modified sleep routine.
First take baby to the toilet, disinfect as much as you can, and use a washcloth or wet wipe to wash hands and face. Change the nappy, put baby in pjs and go back to your seat.
Now you will want to read a bedtime story and sing a couple songs (if this is similar to your BT routine) and into the crib.
A nice and big muslin cloth can serve as a crib sheet (I have never felt comfortable using what the plane provides. Babies' skin is too sensitive). If you are able to attach the other muslin cloth as a cover (with enough room for the baby to breath) it will help isolate baby from all the distractions around. The white noise machine will also help here too.
If baby is very stimulated, the baby carrier can be your best friend here!
Once the flight is coming to an end, bear in mind that feeding your baby or providing a pacifier will help with the pressure in the ears. It is a life saver!
The first thing you want to do upon arrival is to prepare the sleep space for the baby. Make sure that you choose a spot where the AC is not hitting directly into the cirb, and make sure you cover the windows with foil paper to make it as dark as possible. Set up the baby camera and the humidifier if you brought one and follow wake windows to provide the first nap. An early bedtime the first day is always a good idea.
From that moment, my number one tip is to jump into the new timezone right away. Bear in mind that you baby will adjust easier and faster than you. To help you with this you want to take in as much sunlight during the day as possible. Visit the city, go walk the streets, go to the park...! soak in sunshine!!
Keep the bedtime routine as close to what your baby experiences back home.
When you get back home, you may expect a bit of jet lag and a couple of not so easy nights. It may happen. It may not. An early bedtime, again, will help baby adjust back into the regular timezone and recover sleep after the long flight.
This should last a day or two so, as I always say, patience and try not to introduce anything you want to eliminate after.
Now, enjoy your family or your exotic trip. Enjoy holidays and Xmas and come back ready to face a new year full of opportunities!!