How to get your baby to sleep while camping
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How to Get Your Baby to Sleep in a Tent While Camping

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The biggest camping challenge comes at bedtime with the inevitable question of how to get a baby to fall asleep while camping.

There’s a new environment, strange sounds, and a new bed to get used to.

When we got pregnant with our son, my husband and I knew we wanted him to share our love of camping. It took a little practice but with time, patience, and a few life hacks, we got through it (and enjoyed the experience). 

Right before I put him in the pack n play

Here, I’ll share some insight on camping with a baby and getting a head start at home. I’ll also talk about the products we used to make the process easier.

Be Flexible

Even sleep-trained babies have trouble falling asleep in a new environment. It’s as true at Grandma’s or a hotel as it is at a campground. The key is taking your time, staying calm, and making changes to your usual schedule as needed. 

Adjust Napping Schedule

Napping too early or too late can completely derail a sleep schedule. Adjusting your nap schedule is a big help at a campsite. 

Earlier naps stretch out the waking portion of the day, ensuring little campers are sleepy by bedtime. If your baby takes multiple naps, try cutting out the afternoon nap altogether. This is tricky as our little guy often slept in the Osprey Poco while we hiked.

Nap adjustments take finesse. I know when my son was small, a missed nap meant an overtired (and slightly crabby) kiddo. Be ready to improvise on your nap schedule as needed. 

Stay Up Later

All kids sleep eventually. I remember hearing this in those early weeks of motherhood. It’s also true for camping. 

Staying up late ensures sleep comes quicker when your family hits the hay. Most parents know where to find that sweet spot before the overtired period hits. 

Some signs your little one is ready to snooze include:

  • Jerky arm or leg movements
  • Yawning
  • Tugging at their ears

Your child may have some unique tell tale signs as well. Keep a keen eye for sleepy signals to set your perfect bedtime.

Practice at Home

Before we took our little guy camping for the first time, we tried out a few camp bedtime tactics at home. Some of the ways you can prepare your baby for camping include:

Camp in the Backyard

Pitching a tent in the backyard is a great way to introduce a baby to sleeping outside. It keeps you close to the comforts of home and makes it easy to change the environment if needed.

Sleeping in the backyard is also a great practice for parents. It helps determine how much of everything you need for a night away from home.

Use the Portable Crib

Changing a baby’s bed is hit or miss. Give the portable crib a few practice sleeps at home before taking it out. Set up the portable crib in your room, or baby’s room.

Go through your regular bedtime routine with it to get the baby used to the new sleep environment. 

Just like we suggest with baby life jackets, don’t have the first time your baby tries a new sleeping arrangement be on your camping trip.

Try Out the Sleeping Bag

Toddler and baby sleeping bags are more like sleeping jackets. They take a little getting used to. I recommend trying it at nap time to observe your baby’s sleeping habits and see how comfortable they are. 

It’s helpful to get the baby used to the sleeping bag. Try it on around the house during the day. 

Sleeping bags have temperature ratings matching the season of use. Keep an eye on the thermostat so the baby stays comfy. 

Make Sure They’re Tired

Tired babies sleep better when the lights go out. Like moving your sleep schedule to a later bedtime, busy activities ensure a restful night.

Sit out by the campfire and snuggle for a little while longer, star gaze or tell stories to make sure everyone is good and tired at bedtime.

Let Them Explore

Babies are curious by nature, and there’s fresh air in abundance to be enjoyed outside. If your baby is walking, let them toddle around your site. For tiny babies, a carrier lets you explore with your little one and show them all the sights and sounds of the campground. 

Critter Owned!
Osprey Poco Plus Child Carrier Backpack
$395.00 $320.00

You will LOVE this child carrier. It has so many amazing features, it stands alone with the kid in it, has a detachable daypack, and tons of pockets!

Buy on Amazon Our Review
03/11/2024 09:57 pm GMT

Keep Your Sleep Routine 

We just said be flexible, but now we’re saying keep your routine. This is true for all aspects of raising a baby, not just camping. Keep things as close to normal as possible, but be ready to be flexible with things that need to be rearranged.

While you might change the time of lights out to ensure a restful night, keep your routine. For my family, the baby sleep routine is everything. It’s like bringing a little piece of home with us at camp. 

Sleep routines look different in every house. From bath time to favorite lullabies, babies love routine. Some of the ways to keep bedtime familiar on the go include:

Bring Familiar Blankets

Sleeping bags are great for keeping little toes cozy but they’re no well-worn blankie. If your child has favored bedding or a stuffed animal, bring it along!

There’s no harm in having extra blankets on any camping trip, especially if they’re comforting. 

White Noise

There are lots of new noises in the woods. From the wind in the leaves to animal sounds, there’s a lot to stimulate and spook tiny ears. White noise is an amazing way to counteract this unfamiliar audio. 

If you want to know how to get a baby to have a good night’s sleep while camping, this can be a lifesaver. There are plenty of white noise machines out there, here’s my recommendation:

Sleep Sheep

Sleep Sheep offers six choices of animals, including the original sheep, Panda, Owl, Bunny, and Unicorn. Unicorn and Sheep on the Go have four sound settings, while the other animals offer eight. 

Sleep Sheep on the Go
$37.99
Learn More
03/12/2024 08:22 am GMT

I like that sound boxes are removable for those evenings your little one just wants to cuddle. There’s also a timer function, which is great if you’re worried about the noise being on all night. 

Pros: Adjustable volume. Machine washable after removing the sound box. Comes in travel size. 

Cons: Some reviewers aren’t a fan of the timer and wanted a longer playtime. 

Material: 100% cotton

Auto timer settings: 23 to 45 minutes

Books

Bedtime stories are a good way to bring a little piece of home to your campsite. We like to choose stories our son has been reading at home when we camp. It’s comforting to keep little pieces of the bedtime routine like storytime. 

Use a headlamp with a dimmable light to make story time in the tent more peaceful and relaxing.

Feeding & Diapers

Dry full babies sleep best. This is pretty common knowledge for mamas. Camping poses a challenge on the feeding and changing front, but not much. Here are a couple of tips to make bedtime run smoothly. 

Feeding 

Breastfeeding can be easier than bottle feeding while camping. I recommend bringing your nursing pillow, and any other additional cushions to keep you comfy.

If you put padding on your tent floor, you can even have a camp chair in the tent to sit in. Remember to stay warm and hydrated.

I recommend keeping a warm sweatshirt or jacket for mom to cover up with while feeding. Incase your baby falls asleep while breast feeding, you’ll want a way to stay warm without waking the sleeping baby.

Bottles get complicated in the woods. The best way to avoid nighttime feeding frustrations is to prep bottles ahead of time.

We would premake a bottle of formula before bed, knowing that it would still be good in the morning even if the kid sleeps through the night.

Breast milk is good for up to 4-hours at room temperature, 4-days refrigerated. 

A great life hack for bottle warming at camp is a travel warmer. No matter how fast your method of boiling water, nobody wants to try and heat water over an open flame for a midnight feeding.

Befano Portable Bottle Warmer

The Befano portable bottle warmer is a rechargeable travel warmer with five adapters. The adapters let you use a variety of baby bottle brands, including NUK, Medela, Avent, Tomme Tippee, and others.

This is one of my favorite warmers because it can be charged by USB on the go. It’s good for three to six bottles on one charge and has a temperature display. 

Pros: Fits easily in a diaper bag or cup holder. Has four heating options. Durable stainless steel construction.

Cons: Some reviewers felt the bottle took too long to warm (up to 10-minutes). 

I’ll be honest, I still think the best way to go is to teach your baby to drink room temperature formula. It saves time and headaches in all kinds of situations, not just when you’re camping with a baby.

Diapers

Even warm-weather camping runs the risk of chilly night time temperatures. Babies don’t regulate temperatures the way we do, so a wet bum makes things even chillier.

To keep your baby cozy and sleeping through the night, I recommend double diapering. 

Double diapering prevents leaks and adds an extra layer of insulation. Puppy pads are another great camping hack for baby bedtimes.

Put the puppy pad under or even inside your little one’s sleeping bag to reduce leaks.

Changing babies in the cold air is not fun. Choose a sleeping bag or sleeping sack with a bottom zipper. This provides easy access to diaper changes without minimal exposure to the cold.

Bring the Right Gear

Camping gear can make or break a trip, especially with little ones. For smooth sailing on your baby’s outdoor experience, be prepared by packing supplies you can depend on. 

Big Tent

Big tents are a necessity when camping as a family. Babies require a lot of extra supplies, and room to explore. I recommend looking for tents with enough room to stand up in.

Marmot Limestone 6P

The Marmot Limestone 6P is a six-person tent. It measures 100” by 120” and has a center height of 76”. It includes two D-shaped doors, two vestibules, and interior pockets to store small items. 

I asked for this tent as a Mother’s Day present because I knew it would fit 2 adults and a pack and play easily. Our family of 3 still uses it, 6 years later

Critter Owned!
Marmot Limestone 6P Tent

This tent is amazing. Every time we use it we forget how awesome it is until we're in it. This tent fits a Pack n Play with room for at least 3 other people!

Learn More

Pros: Weatherproofed seams. Vertical walls for added space.

Cons: Some reviewers found the rainfly a bit flimsy.

Battery-Operated Baby Monitor

Another key component to a restful night for both baby and mama is a battery-operated baby monitor. It gives you peace of mind to stay up for some grown-up time without worrying about your little one. 

Roar Battery Baby Monitor

This is a stellar baby monitor in value and performance. Roar Baby Monitors are purpose built for camping and they have a rugged exterior that’s water-resistant and drop proof.

They work off of UHF signals, so there is no need to worry about wi-fi or bluetooth connections. The belt clip is especially handy.

Small Business
Roar Wireless Outdoor Baby Monitor

The first CAMPING SPECIFIC battery operated baby monitor!

  • Both units are battery operated and USB rechargeable.
  • Operates WITHOUT Wifi!
  • 1000ft range.
  • Headphone jack.
  • Push to talk from parent unit.
  • Optional belt clip.
Learn More Our Review

Pros: Built-in belt clip. Long range up to 1000 feet. Ability to speak through parent unit.

Cons:

Power source: Rechargable Lithium-ion Battery

Includes: 1 baby monitor and 1 parent unit

Weight: 7 oz

Contain Them

Even family-friendly campsites have their dangers. Keeping your little camper contained is the best way to keep them safe. This is especially true when camping near water or wooded areas.

Portable Cribs

Portable cribs create safe sleeping areas so your baby can’t make any surprise escapes at night. Knowing your little one is tucked in bed is a big weight off at bedtime. Portable cribs come in all shapes and sizes, including:

  • Peapods
  • Travel bassinets
  • Portable play yards

I recommend choosing one that keeps the baby off the cold ground, with sides too high to climb. This keeps the baby warmer and inside the tent through the night.

Door Zippers up High

A great life hack for camping with babies and toddlers is keeping door zippers up high. When you zip the door shut for the night, ensure it’s at the top of the door and out of reach.

If any curious crawlers get out of bed at night, this ensures they remain safely inside. 

Sleep in Front of the Door

Another surefire way to keep babies in the tent all night is to situate your own bed directly in front of the tent door. This ensures the baby needs to crawl over you before reaching any means of escape.

I’m a notoriously light sleeper, so for me, this works 100% of the time. 

Regulate Their Temperature

Babies get cold faster than adults. They aren’t able to regulate temperature as quickly. This means finding ways to keep your baby warm or cool through the night.

Ways to Keep Warm

If you are a fan of camping in cold temperatures like us, cold nights call for creativity. I’m a big fan of hot water bottles.

Fill a normal reusable water bottle with hot water, and place the bottle at the base of the sleeping bag, or sleep sack to warm it up about 30 minutes before bedtime.

Be sure to remove it before you put your little one inside the sleeping bag.

Another warm tip for camping babies is hats and socks. We lose most of our heat through the tops of our heads. A cozy hat and some fuzzy socks keep the baby snug all night long.

We even used socks as mittens for our little one on colder nights and padded baby’s head with one of our extra stocking caps as a tiny pillow.

Also don’t forget to bring a sleeping pad for under the baby, especially if you’re using a peapod or other sleep method close to the ground. Use a closed-cell foam and not an inflatable version.

Ways to Keep Cool

On hot nights, cool the baby down with a pre-bedtime sponge bath. Water cools quickly, bringing body temperatures down.

It’s also wise to dress the baby in layers. If things get too warm, take a few layers off. Opt for a light blanket or summer sleep sack as a sleeping bag alternative.

Night Lights

Night lights take the fear out of unfamiliar sleep spaces. I remember our first time camping with our little guy, I brought along a night light not only for him but me. They’re extremely useful for finding diapers and supplies in the dark.

Small Night Lights

Small night lights are a good camping choice because they’re easy to store, lightweight, and portable. One of the lights I recommend for this job is:

G Keni Nursery Night Light for Babies

This is a touch-activated, dimmable light for camping. On its lowest setting it lasts 50 hours, and 15 hours on its brightest setting. It’s made from high-grade durable PP and ABS plastic. 

Nursery Night Light
$26.99 $22.99
Buy Now
03/11/2024 02:28 pm GMT

One of my favorite things about this model is the brightness memory. The night light remembers your favored brightness settings and remembers them the next time you touch it to life. 

Pros: Touch activation. Brightness memory. Built-in rechargeable battery.

Cons: Some reviewers found the light brighter on the eyes than expected.

Dimming capability: 5% to 100% brightness

Materials: PP and ABS plastic

Run time: 15 to 50 hours

Dimmable or Red Light Headlamp

Red light headlamps are a camping lifesaver. Headlamps let you see what you’re doing and hold the baby simultaneously.

Red lights are said to stimulate melatonin, helping us sleep. They’re also less harsh on the eyes than any other colored light. One of my favorite products for this purpose is:

Foxelli LED Headlamp Flashlight

The Foxelli LED headlamp takes three AAA batteries and includes a comfortable waterproof headband. It’s a super affordable lighting option and comes in eight colors. It has white and red light options.

I like that this headlamp is lightweight at only 3.2 oz. It also has a great lifespan, giving you 45 hours of light.

Pros: Includes SOS and strobe light modes. Waterproof for rainy camp nights. Red light option for night diaper changes.

Cons: Some people find the strap a little snug. 

Power source: 3 x AAA batteries

Special features: SOS and strobe light modes

Light type: LED

Camping with babies doesn’t need to be complicated. Be prepared, be flexible, and be ready to change a few home routines.

Best Portable Cribs

When you’re camping with an infant or toddler, they need their own safe sleep spot.
Check out our ideas for toddler travel cribs!

Happy Camping!

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