Camping. Being outside in nature. Pitching the tent in the perfect spot. Hiking and fun times with family and friends. But now that you have a baby, does the thought of camping and sleeping with your new bundle of joy make you want to give it all up and stay home?
Don’t put your camping gear away just yet! Taking your baby camping is enjoyable and fun. And sleeping is much easier than you think! We have the practical tips you need to take your baby camping and ensure that you all get a good night’s sleep.
What to Pack
Don’t bring it all! Now that you’re packing for a baby, you’ll of course need to bring a few more things than you did before. But don’t feel you need to bring everything that you use for your baby at home. Check the weather forecast before you leave home, so you know what the temperature is going to be. Then pack accordingly.
A good way to pack for your baby is to be prepared for anything unpredictable… and bring a few extra sets of clothes and blankets. If your baby is still at the stage where he spits up a lot, it’s better to have too many shirts and onesies than it is to run out and have to start hand washing.
Stick to a Routine
Following a routine is comforting and babies sleep better on camping trips when the bedtime routine is as close to the routine at home. Try to do the same things you do before bedtime. If you read a book before bed, read a book in the tent. If you breastfeed before your baby falls asleep, do the same. And if your baby has a favorite stuffed toy or blanket he sleeps with at home, you’ll want to make sure you bring that favorite item on your camping trip. Or you all might have to forget about a restful night!
Make Time for Naps
For naps, plan your day so that you’re back at camp so you can lay him down for his scheduled afternoon sleep. This can be a great time for you to just sit back and relax. You might not get your baby to nap as long as he does at home, but at least you tried, and he’s gotten used to the idea that the tent is the place where he’s supposed to sleep.
You can also have your baby nap when you’re out hiking or walking. Just let him sleep in the carrier or in the stroller. If he’s used to having a nap every afternoon, chances are he’ll be so tired from being outside all day that he’ll just fall asleep wherever he is! So just let those naps happen.
Routine also means putting your baby to bed at the same you do at home. If this is 7 pm at home, then aim for 7 pm at the campsite. Darken the tent with blankets over the side where your baby is sleeping if it’s too light out. Try to be as insistent as you can that it’s bedtime and he has to sleep. It may be tempting to let your baby stay up with the rest of the family, but the last thing you want miles from home is a cranky baby who hasn’t had enough sleep.
It may be blazing hot during the day, but temperatures at night can cool down… a lot! This can be a challenge when you’re putting your baby to sleep in the tent. It may be warm when you get him to sleep, but that’s going to change overnight.
Don’t put too many layers of clothing on him, just enough so he’s comfortable and can easily fall asleep. Have extra blankets available so you can add them if you notice he feels cold. And yes, this does mean that you’re going to have to check a couple of times during the night to see if he’s too warm, too cool, or just right.
Bring along clothes that are just for sleeping in. You’ll be packing your baby around all day either in your arms or in a carrier, so he can quickly get sweaty, no matter how hot or cool it is outside.
Change your baby’s clothing in the evening when it starts to cool down. This way he’ll be out of damp clothes and have time to dry off before you put him into his sleeping clothes at bedtime.
Bring along a variety of clothes for your baby to sleep in. Onesies, footed pajamas, cotton pants and shirts, fleece hoodies. You never know what the temperature is going to do at night, so a good motto is to be prepared with options for clothing. And the good thing is that clothing for babies doesn’t really take up too much room, so you don’t need to worry about taking up valuable space in your camping gear.
One of the best ways to keep your sleeping baby cozy and warm is with a sleeping sack. They come in cotton, fleece, and wool. Put your baby in a onesie, add a fleece hoodie and pants, and pop him into the sleeping sack! If you’re camping on colder nights, you can add a long-sleeved shirt to go under the hoodie.
In cold weather, a wool sleeping sack is great for regulating your baby’s body temperature, although wool will be too hot for sleeping in during summer months. You can also look for sleeping sacks that have detachable sleeves. Remove the sleeves if your baby gets too hot during the night. Or leave the sleeves off but know that you have them when it gets too cold.
Hats and Mittens
For really cold weather, put a hat and mittens on your baby at night. Babies, just like adults, can lose a lot of body temperature from the top of their head. Even a light cotton hat when he’s sleeping is going to keep him warm and protected from cool air. Choose hats that have a strap, so they don’t wriggle off your baby’s head when he’s sleeping. If your baby fusses and won’t wear a hat, try a hoodie!
Booties and Socks
Don’t forget to keep those tiny feet warm! Booties will keep your baby’s feet toasty on cold nights. And light cotton socks add a little bit of warmth when summer nights cool down. You can always remove booties and socks if your baby feels too warm when you check him during the night.
Clothing tip: Don’t put too many layers on your baby at night or he’s going to overheat. If you’re cold, he will be too. And if you’re too hot in the tent under your layers of blankets, chances are your baby will be as well. And a hot, sweaty baby can quickly turn into an awake and screaming baby, for which your neighboring campers won’t thank you.
You’ll need to decide what sleeping arrangement is going to work best for you and your baby. You have a few options depending on the age of your baby and if he’ll sleep on his own in the tent.
On a Sleeping Pad
If your baby is sleeping on his own at home, you can have him sleep next to you in the tent on his own separate sleeping mat. Use a sleeping pad covered with a blanket or two for him to lay on. Put him into a sleeping sack and cover him with a light cotton blanket, or fleece blanket if it’s really cold in the tent. You’ll be right next to him, so you can check him during the night to see how comfortable he is.
Share Your Sleeping Bag
Another option, especially if nights are cold or if you’re co-sleeping at home, is to bring your baby with you into your sleeping bag. This is a great choice as well if you’re breastfeeding. You’ll be able to feed your baby if he wakes up in the middle of the night without disturbing the rest of your family.
Use a sleeping bag that is double wide. Otherwise you’ll be cramped and stuffed inside a single sleeping bag, spending half your night wide awake worrying that you’re going to crush him! Make sure your baby sleeps high up in the sleeping bag so that it doesn’t go over his head.
Travel Play Pen
If your tent is large enough, consider bringing a travel play pen for your baby to sleep in. This way he’s off the ground and in his own space. Keep in mind that cold air can still circulate under the play pen so use a sleeping pad as the first layer in the pen. Then put a blanket or two on top of the sleeping pad to add even more warmth. Baby goes on top of this, and depending on the weather, have one or more blankets to cover him up with.
No matter how warm the weather is, the ground can get cold at night. Invest in insulated sleeping pads whether your baby is sleeping on his own, in your sleeping bag with you, or in a travel play pen.
There are a few things to take into consideration when camping with a baby.
- To avoid the risk of suffocation, babies should never sleep on an inflatable air mattress, even if you’re sleeping with him. It’s safer to sleep on foam that provides a firm surface that your baby can’t sink into.
- If your baby is crawling, zip and lock the tent at night when you’re all sleeping. Or have your own sleeping bag up against the tent door. This way you’ll be able to keep him from getting out of the tent at night.
- Sleeping bags aren’t recommend for babies. Your baby can wiggle his way down into the sleeping bag without enough air for him to breathe.
Baby on Board!
Don’t waste any time! With these easy tips, it’s time to start planning your next camping trip so you can pack up your baby and introduce him to the joys and wonders of camping!