Family road trip in Europe: baby sleep habits

How easy is it to establish good baby sleep habits in a camper van? In this final installment, our road trip family tells us about the twins’ nap and bedtime schedule. Read Part 7.

BABYBJÖRN Magazine – Baby sleep habits: Dad and baby snuggle together in the camper van.
Is there anything cozier or more restful than snuggling with your baby?
Photo: Christian Göran
The story so far: After a difficult and uncertain pregnancy, Juli and Christian wanted to spend as much time as possible with their Supermagicalunicorntwins. So they swapped their apartment in Berlin for a camper van and set off on a road trip lasting several months.
They started in Germany and have slowly but surely driven through Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Now they’re back in Germany for a winter layover. Read previous parts here.
Wonder why they’re called Supermagicalunicorntwins? Read the info box at the end of the article to find out.

We try to stick to our relaxing bedtime ritual

Good baby sleep habits are important: we try to follow the same bedtime ritual to help the twins relax and let them know it’s time to sleep. After the first 30 minutes of sleep, we’re able to make a little bit of noise without waking them up. The Smuts soon got used to the loud slamming sound of our camper van door, for example.

Bedtimes can sometimes be a struggle and they tend to wake up again during the night.

We’ve been spoilt, as the twins started sleeping through the night at quite a young age and have always been easy to put to bed. But every time the Smuts go through major developmental stages – like now in week 36 – bedtimes can be a struggle and they tend to wake up again during the night. We still try to stick to our bedtime ritual to make things easier for them, even though it can be exhausting for mom and dad when baby sleep habits change drastically.

Play, then baby massage and lullabies

Our bedtime ritual looks like this: We feed the twins dinner between half past five and six o’clock. After that, we figured out it’s a good idea to give them an opportunity to work off some energy. So we let them have a final play session lasting about 30 minutes before bedtime. Then we start changing diapers, washing and massaging their feet and faces, while putting them into their sleep suits. The only light in the twins’ nursery is a dim yellow nursing light. We sing the same four lullabies repeatedly while doing all of this.

BABYBJÖRN Magazine – Baby sleep habits: the twins nap in their stroller
After breakfast and again after lunch, the family usually takes a walk so that Lovisa and Matilda can take a nap in their stroller.
Photo: Christian Göran

Juli breastfeeds the twins for a while before we put them into their sleeping bags. One of us (often both) lies or sits ‘upstairs’ with them until they fall asleep. Depending on how tired they are, this can take up to an hour and consists of gently tucking them back into their sleeping bags again and again. It helps if we don’t talk to them while doing this and just tenderly stroke their backs in a clockwise direction.

We let them have a final play session before going to bed.

After the Smuts fall asleep, we wait about half an hour before we start making any noise ‘downstairs’ again. They may wake up once or twice during the night. Once usually because they’re hungry and want to be breastfed; a second time if they’ve been dreaming and need a comforting cuddle.

Outdoor naps in their stroller or baby carriers

In addition to our bedtime ritual, we’ve tried to make sure the twins take a nap in the morning and one in the afternoon as part of their daytime sleep schedule. The Smuts are early birds and wake up smiling and happy between six or seven in the morning. But they soon get sleepy again after breakfast. We’ve made the most of this and love to use the early morning hours to go for walks with them, either in the stroller or wearing them in our baby carriers, where they usually fall asleep immediately. This is a great opportunity for us to take beautiful morning photos. We repeat this walk-nap routine after lunch every day too.

But each day is different and sometimes the twins flatly refuse to take two naps; yesterday’s two-minute catnap can be tomorrow’s two-hour siesta! And there have been times when they wake up during the night and stay awake for an hour. Baby sleep habits can be unpredictable and we try to go with the flow as much as possible.

This is the final part of our serial about the family road trip. Read previous parts here.