How to survive (and enjoy) holiday travels with baby

As the holidays are quickly approaching, some of my clients are looking for tips on traveling with their babies and toddlers.  Many parents get nervous about traveling with their little ones for fear of upsetting well-established eating and sleeping routines, which is certainly understandable. My phone tends to ring a bit more than usual after holiday or summer travel with families at their wit’s end from lack of sleep. However, with a little forethought and planning, and some extra attention paid to your child’s needs, holiday travels will yield treasured times with family and friends.

First, be aware that if you are still breastfeeding, you may need to protect your breastfeeding relationship with your child. I’ve hear stories of mastitis, plugged ducts or lowered milk supply during busy travel times. Some older babies will even wean. Moms get busy and distracted, feedings get skipped, and baby gets entertained and fed by others. In addition, some moms experience dehydration from long flights, which can affect milk supply short term. Be aware of the potential for this to happen and delegate other duties so you can tend to your most important one! Look at it not as an inconvenience that will pull you away from the festivities but as special time for just you and your baby to reboot for a spell. It may be challenging to get Grandma to release her grasp on your little one. Assure her that baby will be back after he’s fed and rested, which will make for a much happier baby in the long run.

To help prevent dehydration and lowered milk supply, drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverages during and after flying, and avoid caffeine.

Prepare your toddler for holiday travels before hitting the road or skies by talking through the details of the trip with them ahead of time. Tell her who you will be visiting, where you will be staying and how you will be getting there. Reading books about traveling is an excellent way to introduce the idea. A trip to an observation deck to watch planes take off and land might be a worthwhile adventure before your travel date, as well. I used to love packing snacks and taking my children to watch the planes at our local airport.

For while you are en route, pack a couple of new toys and books just for the trip. This might be a good time to use technology. Some episodes of Sesame Street on an iPad or an interactive game might be just the thing to keep little ones from getting bored in their seats.

Before boarding the airplane, run off some steam in the airport. I’m sure you’ve seen it in action - a parent cruising up and down the terminal with a toddler ahead of them. Some airports even have areas for children to play.

Have a plan for carrying your child, too. I love slings, wraps and carriers. I used them with my children for years and they are tools of my trade now. They allow you to be basically hands-free, which allows you to easily pull a travel bag. They will come in handy for tired little ones after an active day with the family, too.

Whether you’re traveling long distances or staying close to home, keep your child’s sleep routines as close to normal as possible. This means, like above, you may find yourself trying to convince well-meaning family members that your child’s need for sleep is more important than their need for baby time. To put a positive spin on it, the quality of their time together will be much more enjoyable if no one is melting down from too much stimulation and too little sleep.

Remember to bring along your sleep association tools from home - like an Ooly - an app-connected sleep learning companion that helps your child know when it’s time to sleep versus time to get up. Though Ooly is an excellent sleep support aid at home, it may prove to be invaluable for toddlers whose routines are out of sync from holiday travels. Your Ooly can serve as a night light in hotel rooms or guest bedrooms, too. It works equally well for reading a bedtime story or finding the way to a bathroom. Other important items to bring with you are white noise machines, which work for both lulling baby to sleep and for drowning out the sounds of party-goers. You can buy apps for your iPod (bring a docking station) or purchase a portable white noise machine. Either way, pack one along with a special bedtime toy or lovey, book and bath toy.

Happy Holidays!