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There will definitely come a day when you want or need to go somewhere and it will interfere with baby’s normal routine. Just because baby is away from doesn’t mean baby won’t need to eat or sleep, you will need a game plan for while you are out. I had a reader request I write about how to have baby eat and sleep when you are away from home. Let’s go over some various scenarios and what I try to do.
Scenario 1: Away from home, but still in a home
There will be times you are away from your home, but still in somebody’s home. No matter the age of the baby, in this situation, I have baby sleep and eat at regular times.
If you are breastfeeding, you can breastfeed where and how you and those around you are comfortable with. I would at times nurse in the room with others with a nursing cover (I have also seen people use a blanket or something). I have also gone to another room to nurse. All three of my children got to a point where it was just easier and faster to leave the room. My kids wanted to see what was going on if they heard people talking, so it was just less frustrating for me to leave for 10-15 minutes.
If you are formula feeding, bring along everything you will want or need. You might be one who likes a certain type of water–if so, bring it along with you. Make sure you have a burp rag or something you can use to make sure any formula escaping baby’s mouth doesn’t get on your host’s couch, chair, or floor.
So far as solid foods go, bring along what you need for your baby. Some people might have a highchair. If not, I find carseats to work well. If my husband is around, one of us plays highchair and the other feeds. Some people own travel booster seats. You could also sit baby on the floor on a towel. Be sure to bring the bibs, spoons, bowls, etc you need unless you know the person you are visiting has the items that you can borrow.
Now for sleeping. Here comes the point when it requires you to act in faith. Now, if the baby is still young and not consistent about falling asleep on her own, I usually will put her in a sling or hold and rock her or something to help her fall asleep and stay asleep. But once baby sleeps well on her own at home, I put her in a bed just like we are at home. When Brayden was young, I always hauled the pack and play around with me. During Kaitlyn’s first while, we hauled her bassinet because that was easier. Now, I like the pea pod.
Bring a lovey, doll, blanket, or whatever your child will need to sleep away from home. If things will be noisy, consider bringing along a sound machine or humidifier to help block out the noise. Find an empty room or large closet to put baby in for the nap.
Remember when I said it was an act of faith? I remember one time when we were visiting friends when Brayden was a baby. They had a son two weeks older than Brayden. It came time for Brayden to take a nap. We hadn’t planned on staying during nap time, but were enjoying our visit. Our friend’s offered their son’s crib. The room was right next to the room we were visiting in, and we didn’t know if he would sleep or not, but we put him in bed and he went to sleep perfectly and slept as usual.
Now, there may be times and there may be babies who will only take a 45 minute nap. At the transition, they will wake up and some will be concerned over the new place. That is fine. A 45 minute nap is better than no nap at all. For the younger babies, you might need to have the next nap time come early. For babies 6 months and older, you might be best off to just wait for the next normally scheduled nap.
In a simple summary, when I am visiting at a friend’s house, I keep feedings and sleeping times the same and just adjust as necessary for the house we are at.
Scenario 2: Away from home with no place to put baby
Sometimes you will be away from home and unable to put baby somewhere to sleep. Situations we have faced like this have included family reunions and shopping trips. And church is like this weekly! Exactly what you do will depend a lot on baby’s age. Newborns are typically a lot easier to handle in this situation than an older baby. Pre-toddlers can be difficult because few will sleep in arms and they get cranky. Then they get more flexible over time once they hit about two or so.
If you breastfeed, my advice is the same as above. Feed where you feel comfortable, baby is comfortable, and those around you are comfortable. I believe you can be respectful to mom, baby, and everyone else. I again try to feed as closely to the normal feeding time as possible. If baby is hungry earlier (which often happens if baby doesn’t sleep well), I feed early. If baby is sleeping and it is time to eat, I might wait another 30 minutes because you never know if the next nap while you are out and about will be as good.
Formula feeding is the same as above as well; bring what you need and feed baby.
Sleep is where the difficulty arises. I again try to keep nap times as close to when they should normally happen as possible. Here are some different things we have done.
- We often used a sling when McKenna was a newborn. At church, at family reunions, at the store…it was a great place for her to sleep while we were out and about.
- When Brayden was a baby, we used the carseat often. You have to be careful with a sleeping baby in a car seat. Keep baby right by you, and I don’t suggest you strap baby in. There is a strangling risk (yes, it has happened to people before).
- Another thing we did often with Brayden was put him in our stroller. It would lay flat like a mini bed. Brayden was the type who hated to be held while he slept, so we had to find solutions for him so he could sleep on his own.
- One time when we were at the beach, we put 14 month old Kaitlyn in the pack and play. We put it under our pop-up shade, put blankets and towels around the edge, and told her to go to sleep. She took a short nap, but it was better than no nap at all.
- Some babies will sleep in your arms. McKenna would do this if I brought along her swaddle blanket and swaddled her up first.
- There will come a day when your child is able to skip a nap without life coming to a stop. When your child has reached this point, you can let him skip the nap. There are some things to keep in mind. If your child has a tendency toward aggression, being tired will magnify that. As the parent, it will be your responsibility to keep an extra eye on your child so she doesn’t start terrorizing other children.Your child will also be more whiny and less obedient. Be patient with your child. My kids are also hungry when they should be sleeping. I will offer them snacks to help keep them happy. Ideal? No, but better than meltdowns and appropriate in the context of the situation.
Other tips: don’t skip more than one nap in a row. And, you might need to get the child in bed early that night if sleep was missed that day.
Scenario 3: Breastfeeding, but can’t feed in the situation
You might sometimes find that you are unable to breastfeed in the situation you are in. If you find yourself in this situation, offer a bottle. You can either pump or give formula. For those eating solids, you can also offer extra solids instead for one meal. I wouldn’t do it for more than one meal, but for one meal, your baby will be fine. You might try offering a sippy of water after the solids are eaten to keep baby hydrated.
I think that kind of covers in a generic way all the situations you would encounter. As a summary, here are the basic tips I do:
- Try to feed baby as close to normal feeding time as usual. There will be times you need to feed sooner or will feed later, and that is fine. Just make sure you get the minimum amount of feedings in for the day.
- Try to get baby to sleep when she should. Bring along a bed, use a sling, use your arms, etc. Getting some sleep is most important here; don’t worry about “starting bad habits” or “ruining your work.” Yes, it is possible you might find yourself retraining when you get back home, but that is worth it to get the sleep baby needs.
- Be sure to check out the posts on “disruptions,” “flexibility,” “context,” and “traveling” as linked below for further information on this topic.
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