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Preserving Sleep While Camping with Your Baby

preserving sleep while camping with your baby or toddler tips
Alex Warrack

Alex Warrack

Summer is upon us, which means we are starting to plan all the fun and adventurous outings for our families!  

A memory that most parents love to create with their little ones is taking them camping in the woods. The thought of roasting marshmallows, catching fireflies at night, and spending the whole day swimming in the lake sounds like so much fun. 

As a parent, even with the promise of fun and sharing something you love, there can be some anxiety around sleep when you plan to go off routine.  

If you are worried about preserving sleep while camping with your baby or toddler, here are some helpful things to consider and tips.

Sleep Space

When planning your trip, make sure that you plan for where your baby will sleep. The AAP’s safe sleep guidelines call for babies to have their own sleep space. In that space, it should only have a firm mattress with a fitted sheet. There should be nothing else except your baby in a sleep sack. These recommendations are for when your little one is sleeping at home or in the woods!

Consider bringing a large enough tent to fit a travel crib or bassinet inside. We want babies to sleep off the ground because the ground can absorb a considerable amount of your baby’s heat.

Temperature

Typically, we recommend a temperature between 68-72F (20-22C) for optimal sleep. Obviously, while you are in a tent in the great outdoors, this may not be possible! To help prevent your baby from overheating in the tent, consider bringing a portable fan (battery-powered or solar). This is also a great source of white noise! 

White noise

If you hope to have some parent time by the campfire while the kiddos sleep or are worried about noisy neighbors, consider packing a portable white noise machine. Some mobile options use batteries, while others use a USB cord to charge.  

Suppose you’ve forgotten your white noise machine at home or would prefer to use only one device. In that case, there are many free white noise machine apps available for your phone or tablet. 

If none of these options work for you, rely on mother nature’s white noise. Between the wind rustling the trees and the time spent in the fresh air, your kiddos will hopefully be ready to fall asleep. 

Darkness

When our bodies are exposed to darkness or the sun begins setting, this signals our brain to release our sleepy hormone, melatonin. Melatonin helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. So, darkness for sleepy time is your best friend! 

However, the sun does not set until after 9:00 pm at the peak of summer and rises early in the morning. 

If you plan to do a lot of camping, investing in a tent with built-in blackout features like this one may make sense. This one is also large enough to fit a portable travel crib!

If you’ve already got a tent, you could try to drape a dark sheet over your tent to add another layer to darken it. Be mindful that your tent still has good airflow so you and your little one don’t overheat. 

Hopefully, the day in the sun and swimming will also help your little one be ready to sleep before the sun goes down!

Schedule 

You are traveling, so let’s be honest, the schedule probably won’t be perfect. And that’s ok!  

Live a little, but try to stick to their sleep schedule as much as possible to help prevent your child from getting overtired. Nap them when you usually would at home and, if possible, put them to bed around the same time.

For older children (preschool and up), having a later bedtime now and then may not impact them as much. However, if you see that they are getting cranky or not as tolerant the next night, try putting them down to bed earlier. Hopefully, all the fresh air will make it easier for them to fall asleep.

Routine

Without the conveniences of home, it will be challenging to do the same routine while camping. However, it is essential to still have a bedtime routine to help your little one relax and go from active mode to sleep mode. 

Try to keep the routine as close as you can to home but make adjustments as necessary. A little wipe down, changing into PJs and a sleep sack, a book, and a song will go a long way towards helping your little ones to fall asleep and have a better night’s sleep than forgoing the routine altogether!

When packing, make sure that you bring as many of the comfort items your child relies on for sleep from home as possible, especially their lovey and sleep sack. 

Night Wakings

Some babies and toddlers may wake up at night when they aren’t sleeping in their everyday environment. Children have normal arousals at night, and if they are startled by a different environment or are too hot/too cold, they may need some comfort to get back to sleep. My advice? Do what you’ve got to do to get as much sleep as possible for everyone! Your woodland neighbors will thank you for nixing crying quickly!

Returning Home

When you get home, if sleep is completely derailed, and you’ve created some new habits, get back to your regular schedule and routine and have a consistent response to night wakings. If your little one is overtired, don’t fear an early bedtime. Doing these things will help your little ones to get back on track quickly! 

If the preserving sleep while camping with your baby or toddler tips help, tag us @bellalunafamily on your camping pictures on Instagram! 

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