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Should you sleep train before or after an overseas holiday?

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
Should you sleep train before or after an overseas holiday?

Overseas holiday

I get asked the question about sleep training, and should a parent do it before or after an overseas trip quite often? Parents worry that all their hard work will be undone by moving timezones. I think you'll be surprised that the opposite is true.

Whenever I've flown long haul to Europe or the USA, I can spot a baby who is not sleep trained vs. one that is. A flight with an unsleeptrained baby, especially one over 4-months-old, is far more challenging. You are unlikely to get sleep yourself if your baby cannot self-settle. It really can make the difference between a great flight and a nightmare one.

baby sleep on plane
I'm giving you 2 case studies and read Daisy's story below.
plane travel with baby

Case study one - Juliette & Calvin 18 months

Calvin, 18 months - was in mum's bed constantly stopped breastfeeding a month ago. Mum tried to move him to a cot herself; he proceeded to vomit every time and had separation anxiety. Mum and dad were taking Calvin to Vietnam the very next day for a 30-day trip to see family and friends. Calvin was going to be sleeping in a travel cot in many different sleep environments - hotels, family homes, etc.

Night one

On night one, we moved Calvin to a cot in Mum's room at the foot of her bed into a sleeping bag and gave him a bedtime routine. We brought bedtime earlier as he had been going down at 9:30 pm. This was way too late, and he was always overtired. Use parental presence method, discussed and demonstrated how to use it.

On night one, he settled within 1hr 20 mins, big tantrum, screaming, throwing head back, back-arching, tried to bite me! Vomited (forced vomit, not a stressed one) over the side of the cot as the last escalation. We cleaned him up and carried on settling. Calvin fell asleep peacefully in his cot, and no cuddles were needed.
Mum slept in the room next to Calvin. I explained how to do this on holiday.

Protest cry

He woke several times in the night, and using the magic rule, he protested. He cried for no more than 1-2 mins. He resettled himself, and then we woke him for the day at 7 am. I advised mum to reduce milk feeds to only one before bed and in a cup. He was having enough dairy and needed an increase in iron in the diet.

Vietnam holiday

Vietnam update

His trip to Vietnam was amazing, and he proceeded to sleep through for 13 hours EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! How amazing is that?! On the plane, all they had to do was put Calvin into his sleeping bag, zip it up and read his bedtime story, and he was out like a light.

plane travel baby

Case study two - Elliot 7 months

Four years ago, I went to help Cassie and her 6-month-old baby Elliot. Mum is a nurse and had been to both sleep schools, Karitane and Tresillian, and Elliot had 'failed' at both. Elliot had been patted, envelope sheeted (a bit like a Safe-T-Sleep where they are pinned down in a cot with 2 sheets wrapped around the baby's body and the mattress). He was also held to sleep. Eeeek.

baby sleep
He was being breastfed 6-7 times a night, gaining weight beautifully and mum was more than 'over it' and utterly exhausted. I did one overnight stay and turned this family's sleeping fortunes around in just one night.

On the night, this is what happened

Self-settled at 6:45 pm, within 45 minutes of putting him down for the night. Minimal crying and 2 short cuddles to help him. He next woke at 11 pm and resettled within 10 minutes, and woke a few times overnight, resettling himself within 3 minutes each time without us needing to go into him. Waking at 4;30 am, he resettled within 10 minutes and woke for the day at 05:50 am and was up for breastfeeding.

baby holiday flying
They went away to Fiji on night 2/3 of sleep training, and clever Elliot learned to do a sleep-through, 7 pm to 6 am on night 5 of sleep training on the family holiday.

baby sleep

Daisy & Charlie 1-year-old

Hi Karen,

I hope you are keeping well. We have just come back from a month's holiday in southeast Asia, and thanks to you and all your help with charlie, he was an absolute dream to travel with. Charlie changed time zones three times, and it really didn't bother his sleeping much at all! I really can't thank you enough.

I have been passing on your details to everyone that will listen!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your help and advice with Charlie so far.


Three very happy mama's <3 <3 <3

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Can you tell Karen is getting rather excited for all you parents who need a good night's sleep and one that happens EVERY SINGLE NIGHT and not just in a blue moon?

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