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Maintaining Your Child’s Sleep Habits in Unfamiliar Environments

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Travel. Vacation. Staying with family for the holidays. Making a big move. Spending the night at a hotel.

Wouldn’t it be a dream if your child could sleep well regardless of where they are??

Solid sleep habits start at home, but there are also some things you can do to promote better sleep on the go and in an unfamiliar environment.

Start with a solid sleep foundation

You can’t expect quality sleep to happen at grandma and grandpa’s house if quality sleep isn’t a priority already at home.

Building a solid sleep foundation starts at home and will carry into other places, just as a poor sleep foundation would.

Start with following age-appropriate schedules and an optimal sleep environment to get you started. Also, nap and bedtime routines provide structure and predictability for your child, and the beautiful thing is, you can do these routines wherever you are! Having these pieces in place will help your child sleep better no matter what.

Then, if you need to add in a sleep training method to help your child solidify their sleep skills.

Once your baby has this skill, you can rest easy knowing that they have that to fall back on, even when they’re in an unfamiliar environment.

Recreate their normal sleep environment as best as you can

Make sure you have what you need to keep their sleep routines and environment as familiar as possible.

Follow their same nap and bedtime routine. Set up the white noise. Bring a crib sheet and sleep sack from home. Don’t forget their lovey! Make sure the room is dark – cover any lights from appliances or clocks with black electrical tape.

If you are room sharing, try to bring some sort of divider to provide a little bit of privacy. We personally love the SlumberPod – it provides a blackout solution AND privacy. Use the code HEAVENSENT10 or SWEETPEA10 for $20 off. If you end up using the SlumberPod as an option, have your child practice sleeping in it at home first so they’re familiar with it when you actually need it.

Continue to follow sleep routines and schedules if possible

We CANNOT stress the importance of following routines enough. We know that if you’re out of your usual environment, the schedule might be off too. That’s okay! Life happens. But no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you can still provide some consistency for your child’s sleep with a routine.

Bring everything you need! Make sure you have:

  • Bath towels, soap, and maybe a bath toy or two

  • Lotion, pajamas, and sleep sacks from home

  • loveys/stuffed animals (if your child is over 12 months and sleeps with one) and crib sheets

  • Favorite books or other items you use during bedtime

  • Bottles and/or pacifiers if your baby still uses them

Stick to schedules as best as you can. If a nap is skipped or shortened, try to offer an earlier bedtime if necessary. Remember that wonky sleep will affect the next 24 hours, so trying to maintain normalcy with the schedule will help with sleep. If it gets off track, expect that sleep will be affected for the next day or so.

Keep sleep expectations the same

Let’s say your little one is a great sleeper at home – they take 3 naps each day and sleep through the night with one feed around 2:00 a.m. Ideally, you want to keep progressing forward. When they’re in an unfamiliar environment, they may wake more simply because things are different.

What should you do??

Well, go back to the basics and try not to regress.

Don’t offer an extra feed – stick to your feed around 2:00 a.m. If they’ve awakened prior to that, let’s say, 11:00 p.m. simply comfort or support them back to sleep until it’s closer to their regular feeding time.

Regressing by offering an “extra” feed or giving the pacifier when they haven’t used it for a month or two is going to set you back and make things worse. Keep your expectations the same, and know that the extra wakings are simply due to the fact that your child is in an unfamiliar environment. It’s okay – babies aren’t robots!

Heck, we as adults don’t even sleep that great when we aren’t at home. We can’t expect our children to either.

Which brings us to our last point…

Get back to normal when you return home

This is probably the most important thing.

We understand that even though you tried your best, things may have gotten off track. That’s okay!

Simply get back to your normal expectations, routines, and schedules when you get back home, and after a few days and nights, things should get back on track.

Sometimes a sleep “reset” is necessary if things got way off track. You simply revert back to your preferred sleep training method of choice until your baby resolidifies the skill again.

But you likely won’t have to do that if you kept your expectations the same while your baby was in this unfamiliar place. Time and consistency are key.

You might even be surprised by how well your baby can sleep in a new or unfamiliar place – we certainly hope that’s the case!

Share this post with a mom friend, and make sure you tag @familyrestandwellnessco in your stories the next time your little one is rocking their sleep in an unfamiliar place!


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