Monday, February 14, 2011

Helping Our Toddler Sleep Away From Home

Sleeping away from home can be a pretty scary thing for a toddler. Toddlers crave routine, especially a bedtime routine in their own house, their own bed, with their own blankets and stuffed animals. Take that away and it can feel like the world is caving in around them.

For the better part of a year my husband and I were terrified of traveling with our daughter. She'd cry and cry away from home. We'd have to take turns rocking her to sleep and hoping we'd be able to put her down without her waking up, only to endure the same madness a couple hour later.

Our holiday trip this past year was the worst. We (unfortunately) live a 12 hour drive away from our families, and so we usually stop and stay overnight about halfway through. This time, on our way we got to the hotel and all of us went to bed at about 8pm (the only way AJ would go to sleep is if all the lights were out). I'm not going to lie, this part of traveling with a young child (the going to bed early part) is kind of refreshing. The bad news is that AJ woke up at 1am, terrified of her unfamiliar surroundings. Once we had calmed her down and she realized that her pack-n-play was only about 3 feet from the bed we were sleeping in, she decided that there was no way she was going back to sleep. My husband and I took turns watching PBS holiday specials with her, but since neither of us were getting any actual sleep, at 5am I said screw it, and we hit the road again.

This past weekend we went to Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, VA (review coming soon). We wanted to have a good time, and not worry about our peanut having sleep troubles.

This is what I did to help her out. The week leading up to our trip, I put her down for her nap in the pack-n-play. The first day she went crazy, crying. After 30 minutes she had still not settled down, so I relented and put her in her own crib. The second day she went down without any fuss, and so on it went. For our trip I packed her pack-n-play with the same sheet that she had been sleeping on all week (smell of home). I packed her favorite stuffed animals, and her sound of crickets noisemaker machine.

Saturday night, after an amazing day of play at Great Wolf Lodge, I went to set up the pack-n-play, and AJ laid down on the mattress before I could even set it up. After pajamas and one of her favorite stories, she went right to sleep, and slept well the whole night. :) I had read online that this tactic of using a pack-n-play before travel works well, and I can verify that it did work for us.

I am a little bit nervous because we will be traveling to Disney World next month, and staying for longer than one night. I do plan on bringing AJ's own sheets and comforts of home, and we'll hope for the best!

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