How to get your baby to sleep in a strange environment

It happens to many of us in our baby or toddler’s life – we need to go away on holiday or business or move home or need to move in with granny for a few weeks. We dread the disruption to our baby’s life and wonder if she will settle back into a good sleep pattern in a strange environment.

A variety of factors affect how your baby will respond to a new environment:

  • Firstly, how she manages change and interactions in general is a good indication of how she will cope with a new sleep space. Some babies are really laid back and go with the flow. For these easy babies you probably won’t need to expect too much upheaval. Generally by the second night they have adjusted well. However, if your baby is a ‘slow to warm up’ or sensitive baby you may have more difficulty settling her each night.
  • A baby’s age also make a difference to how they adjust. Interestingly newborns to about 6 weeks, often cope quite well with change as long as their feeding patterns are kept consistent and new people in the new space do not over handle them. As your baby gets older she may have increasingly greater difficulty dealing with change.

To ease your baby into the new sleep environment and to short circuit any major sleep problems after a change, try the following tips:

  • Take your baby’s favorite toys with her and make the new sleep space as similar to hers at home as possible.
  • Place her camp cot in a similar place in the room to where she normally sleeps – e.g. put the head of the cot next to a wall or away from the door (as it is at home)
  • Make sure you can dim the room even if it means putting black refuse bags against the window to darken it in the evening and for day sleeps.
  • Take bedding from home and her special blanky. Bedding from home and a familiar ‘doodoo’ blanky smell familiar and cue your baby into a state for sleep.
  • Sensitive babies, in particular, do better in their own rooms where parents getting up or even turning over at night do not disturb them. If possible put her in her own room, if not place her cot away from your bed in a quiet corner. From the first day have her take her day and night sleeps in her ‘new’ room.
  • Keep your bedtime routine identical to the routine you follow at home. Even though holidays are exciting times, try to keep her calm just before bedtimes by taking her to her room and quietly looking at books with her before putting her into her bed. Use lots of calming activities from four o’clock onwards, such as quiet walks in a sling or pouch or pram.
  • If she wakes at night, crying for you, wait to see if she will resettle herself and then comfort her by speaking quietly and giving her or at most placing your hand on her.

By Meg Faure