I just read an article on Salon.com about parents who use Benedryl (and cough syrup) to help children sleep–especially when traveling. The article was written as a follow-up to a previous article about a family who was kicked off a JetBlue flight when their toddler was too disruptive. As parents, we are frequently desperate to prove to others that our children are well-behaved and that we are super-hero parents. (How else would we have perfectly behaved children?) Besides wanting peace and quiet ourselves, we don’t want to disrupt others with a screaming child in a restaurant, on an airplane, on the train. To what end are we willing to make that happen? Many parents do whatever it takes–including giving their children medications like Benedryl which can sometimes have a sedating effect. (Melissa has actually found that Benedryl had the OPPOSITE effect on her kids!)
We’re not here to judge. We know how hard parenting is. We do think that kids should not NEED those sleep aids. If kids are not overtired, they will be happy (most of the time) and should be able to behave appropriately in any setting. In general, if you have to travel with your children, we recommend doing your best to try to preserve at least one of the naps on travel day. If that’s not possible, make sure your child is well-rested the few days before your scheduled departure. That way, if your child misses a nap or two when you have to travel, there won’t be a huge accumulated sleep debt. We also recommend packing lots of snacks, new games, stickers and a change of clothes (just in case). Drinking during takeoff is recommended by the pediatricians we know to help alleviate any ear pressure.
Most importantly, make sleep a priority for your family and commit to naps at the right times and in the right “sleep friendly” locations. When children are well-rested and have good sleep hygiene, changes in their routine such as travel, do not cause too much havoc. That’s the best part – we can have happy, well-rested children AND enjoy our vacations … without having to stop at the drugstore first!