For most of us, moving does NOT top our list of things we enjoy. Moving creates a multitude of things to worry about, after all. Once you’ve found a new place to buy or to rent, you’re still not even close to done. What about transferring your mail? Or shutting off your utilities? And if your move is an international one, the list gets even longer — what about work visas and passports? Which possessions should you sell and which should you ship?
Moving is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure!
But what about our kids? Moving is a stressful event for an adult; is it stressful for your baby? What about for your toddler or preschooler? The answer is yes — moving is just as stressful for children as it is for adults. And that stress can cause some big sleep problems for your baby or toddler.
Why Moving Affects Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
According to a report by the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “Moving to a new community may be one of the most stress-producing experiences a family faces.” As adults, we tend to stress over the logistics of the move itself — selling the house, packing the belongings, etc. While young children won’t stress about those details, they will feel the anxiety that such an enormous change causes. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers tend to thrive with predictable routines; when those routines are disrupted, it can make them anxious, particularly if they are slow to adapt or sensitive. And of course, moving is totally disruptive — new room, new house, new school/daycare, new friends, etc.
How Moving Affects Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
For babies, the stress of moving is directly related to a disruption in routine, and there is no emotional or psychological element involved. For toddlers and preschoolers, however, it’s a different story. Toddlers and preschoolers feel the stress of a move the same way adults do, but they lack the vocabulary and self-awareness to articulate those feelings. Some of the ways toddlers and preschoolers may express their anxiety include:
- Increased clinginess
- Regressive behavior (bedwetting, thumb sucking, etc.)
- Decreased appetite or complaints of stomach aches
- Anxious habits (licking lips, twirling hair, etc.)
- Unusual behavior (increased shyness, increased aggressiveness, etc.)
How Moving Affects Naptime and Nighttime Sleep
All phases of the moving process (before, during, and after) can impact a child’s sleep:
Before the move:
Stress always hinders sleep, for both children and adults. And since moving tends to be a very stressful process, it can disrupt sleep in a big way. You may find that your “normal schedule” is far from normal as you work to house-hunt, pack, and sort out the details of your move. This can lead to short naps or missed naps for your child.
In addition, the stress of the upcoming move might cause your toddler or preschooler to have frequent nightmares, or to begin grinding her teeth at night, two sleep issues that are known to be caused by stress.
On moving day:
When the time for the move finally comes, everyone’s bound to be more sleepless than usual! This is especially true if your move is cross-country or international and will take a few days of traveling to complete. During those days, your children may have to sleep in hotel rooms, or even on an airplane. Unfamiliar settings like this certainly don’t encourage sleep, and you’ll likely find your child waking more frequently, or even refusing to lie down and sleep for naps and at bedtime.
After the move:
Once you actually get to your new place, the unfamiliarity of your surroundings may cause your child to wake frequently, or to resist going to sleep at all. This is particularly true if you use the move as an excuse to redecorate and end up purchasing your toddler a new bedroom set, or if you paint your preschooler’s room a new color. That’ll only add to the unfamiliarity of the new room.
In addition, your new home may be associated with new noises. If you’ve moved to the city, for example, you may have more traffic noise to contend with. And moving to the country doesn’t necessarily mean peace and quiet — when my husband and I moved into our first house (a rural little ranch), it was the middle of summer, and the bug noises at night were deafening!
Finally, if you’re moving cross-country or overseas, your child’s sleep challenges may be extra difficult. You have all of the above factors to contend with PLUS the jetlag that comes with traveling across time zones. Even a one or two hour time difference can be hard on very young children!
How To Help Your Baby, Toddler, or Preschooler Sleep Well During the Move
A move will be less disruptive for babies than it will be for a toddler or preschooler. For infants, simply do what you can to keep the routine as normal possible, and keep familiar objects (bedding, loveys, etc.) on-hand — make sure they don’t end up packed away in a box!
For toddlers and preschoolers, there’s no way you can make the physical and psychological stress of moving completely disappear. There are, however, steps you can take to minimize it.
Before the move:
- Talk to your toddler or preschooler about the move well in advance. It may seem like waiting until the last minute to tell your child about the move will make things easier, but the opposite is true. Your child needs time to process and prepare for the move, so start talking about it early.
- Give your toddler or preschooler the grand tour. If possible, take your child on a tour of the new house and the new town. Show them their daycare or preschool, point out playgrounds, and show them each room in the new house.
- Turn your toddlers and preschoolers into packers! Encourage your child to help you pack, especially when it comes time to pack up his own room. If he feels like part of the process, it may help ease his fears a bit.
On moving day:
- Say goodbye. Walk through each room of your house and say “good bye” to it. This’ll help toddlers and preschoolers develop closure. If your preschooler has a few special friends she’ll no longer be able to see, make sure she has a chance to say goodbye to them, too.
- Get help, if you need it. If the moving process is going to be an extended affair, consider hiring a professional moving company to do the loading and unloading. That way, you’ll be available to your child and won’t be preoccupied.
After the move:
- Set up your child’s room first. Make sure that your child’s bed is made, clothes put away, and toys in their appropriate places before you tackle the rest of the unpacking. It’ll be easier for her to sleep in a neat, tidy room than in a chaotic, box-filled one!
- Take a few days. In the first few days after your move, stay home as much as you can. Consider taking time off work. This’ll facilitate unpacking and will help your child adjust faster.
- Keep things normal for awhile. Make sure that the first month or so after your move is as “normal” as possible. Don’t plan a family vacation, or a major surgery, etc. in those early weeks after the move.
If you’re moving across time zones, and you expect jetlag to be a problem, the following steps can help your child adjust to the new time schedule:
- Think twice about keeping the baby awake. It might be fine to keep a preschooler awake even when he’s tired and have him sleep and wake according to the new place’s time schedule. But beware of that approach with babies and young toddlers; it could make them overly tired, which can create even more problems. You may need to wake her from sleep or make her go to bed when she’s not tired, so that she’ll adjust to the new day-night cycle, but prepare to be patient — it’ll be best for everyone if she’s allowed to adjust gradually.
- Get some rays! Exposure to sunlight can help “re-set” your body’s clock and help differentiate between day-night cycles, so spend time outside, if possible.
- Take a few days (at least!) If possible, plan a few days off after the move to give everyone time to adjust to the new time zone. In general, it takes one day for each hour time change.
Have you moved with kids? Share your tips!
Please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan® you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.
39 thoughts on “How Moving Homes Can Affect Your Child’s Sleep”
My name is Jennifer im 26 years old and here recently we became homeless and the county is helping us out by paying for us a motel room for 16 nights my 2 month old son isn’t adapting very well I’ve kept all his stuff the same and nope he’s been very cranky won’t let me put him down and he’s having an even harder time sleeping day and night. I know he’s exhausted cuz I’m exhausted I’ve tried everything including putting him in bed with me to see if it would help and it didn’t I’ve literally tried everything how long does this last..
Hi @Jennifer – Thank you for visiting us! I am SO sorry to hear about your hardships recently! I can imagine that this is terrible amount of stress for you all. These are big changes, I am sure, and it sounds like you’re doing what you can to keep things consistent for your little one as you move through these changes. Adapting to a new situation can take some time, and you did not mention how many nights it has been so far since your living situation changed. Try and follow the same schedule as prior if you are able, and if things do not smooth out in the next week or two, please consider reaching out for a bit more help from us here:
Hang in there Jennifer, and please reach out if you need us!
Our family is moving cross country to a new duty station(military move). Over the past month we have been slowly packing items and removing items from our 14 month olds room. For over a month she has been excessively clingy, sassy, defiant, and is having a very very hard time sleeping through the night. Prior to all the change she was a saint. Very well behaved and would go to sleep on her own. I now have to rock her to sleep and when she’s put in her crib she screams. She also began to wake multiple times throughout the night.
We will be staying in hotels for about a week prior to moving into our new house, and she does not do well in hotel rooms or her pack n play. She was on a schedule and thrived with the structure, but now that everything is changing I have a completely different child.
Any advice on making the transition easier on her? We’re moving from coast to coast so another major concern is resetting her nap/night time sleep schedule based on the new time zone.
Sorry for the all over the place post/questions. Stressed momma over here. I feel like I’ve tried everything and nothing has helped.
@Eva I’m sorry to hear your 14-month old daughter is having a hard time with your upcoming move. 🙁 While that is a big change coming up, we do find schedule disruptions can cause this behavior as well. I’m sure you’re very stressed out about the move and lack of sleep makes it even more challenging. We’d love to help you assess if your daughter’s sleep can be improved before the move as well as help you plan the move, including the time zone change! You may find this article useful here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/how-moving-homes-affect-baby-toddler-child-sleep/ Of course, we know all too well that it’s hard to find time to read and plan, especially when you’re moving. If you’d like us to help you come up with a plan and support you through the process, I hope you will consider working one-on-one with us. You can learn more about that here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/services Hang in there!!
We will be moving to a much bigger home in a few months. Currently, my 20 month old sleeps in our room in her toddler bed. She hasn’t quite made it through the night yet in her bed without climbing into bed with us in the middle of the night. I was thinking of using the move as an opportunity to move her into her own room at night. I figure since it’ll be stressful no matter what we do, we might as well use the chance to get her out of our room and into her own. But now I’m second guessing and wondering if that will just be too much for her. Once we move, should I keep her bed in our room for a while or just start her off in her own room from the start?
@Britt, Congratulations on the move! I know it must be stressful thinking about, but I’m sure it will be nice to be in a bigger place. 🙂
Whatever you decide to do, I would be sure to keep your daughter informed about what is going on because no matter what, it will all be new. If you decide to transition her to her own room immediately, consider talking it up or even doing a few nights camping out with her to get her use to her room and comfortable with it! This article is about transitioning from co-sleeping, and has some helpful tips for you when the time does come: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/co-sleeping-transition-how-to/
If you need help with this down the road, please let us know! We have an amazing team of sleep consultants that would be happy to help. Good luck and I hope the move goes smooth!
Hi I have a 1 1/2 son my husband got stationed at a different base so we moved we finally got settled In and have been here for about a week 1/2 my little one has never had a problem sleeping and doesn’t typically wake for a bottle since moving only way he’ll sleep is with me and he is waking about every 4 hours. What Can I do to help him get back to sleeping through the night and in his own bed.
@Alisha – Thank you for stopping in to our sleepy little village and commenting. I hope you all continue to settle in to your new home well. Moving can be a fairly stressful and jarring time for us and especially so for little ones your son’s age. It can take some time, weeks even, for toddlers his age to settle in to their new homes and rooms and sleep environments. The best thing you can do is to be reassuring that his new room/bed is a safe place and to consistently send this message across to him. Do try to encourage him to sleep in his own bed if that is where your goal sleep place is for him – here are a few tips that may help, though the article is geared for “cribs” the tips will apply for you too: https://www.babysleepsite.com/how-we-sleep/baby-wont-sleep-crib/
This is also quite a time of mental and physical development for your little guy. We find many 18-month olds go through an exhausting sleep regression so the timing of the move may be exacerbating some of these symptoms. You can read more about that regression here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-patterns/why-18-month-sleep-regression-can-be-hardest/
Hopefully, after a few weeks of consistently working on his sleep with the tips in these 2 articles, things will smooth out for you. If these problems stick around no matter what you do, you should consider connecting with one of our Sleep Consultants, who can help you dive deeply into this and narrow it down so she can help you break this habit. You can read more about those ladies here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/about and our services here:https://www.babysleepsite.com/services
I hope this helps, Alisha – please stop in to see us again soon!
I am separating from the military and we are moving from our 2 bedroom house to my mother-in-law’s two bedroom apartment my 20 month old is used to having his own room. Now he will have to share with mommy and daddy until we are ready to get an apartment of our own, which will hopefully be within the next year.
Any advice on getting him adjusted to shating a room with us as well as gettimg him to actually sleep and stay asleep rather than wake up in the middle of the night and refusing to go back to sleep to the point of screaming and crying when he’s not playing with his bed time Scout toy.
@Kayla, Thank you for commenting! That is quite a transition for the whole family, I’m sure. It will certainly be an adjustment, but it is possible. Here is an article with some tips for room sharing with your baby: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/sleep-training-room-sharing-tips/
If you find you need more help with this, our sleep consultants have helped many families in a similar situation as you, and would love to help create a plan for getting your son sleeping better through this transition and onward. You can view our service packages here:https://www.babysleepsite.com/services
Thank you for using The Baby Sleep Site as a resource!
@Neosha …… thank you so much
We just moved from our apartment to a house and I never had my 2.5 year old son say goodbye to the apartment. He’s been pretty sad since we moved (it’s been a few days) The landlord would most likely let us go back to the empty apartment and say goodbye. Would that be good for him, or upsetting by now? I feel really awful that I didn’t have him say good bye.
@Lauren, Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear that your little guy is having a rough time with the move. Please don’t feel bad that your son didn’t say goodbye to the apartment. Change can be difficult, but there are still ways you can help him through this time. Try to stick to a normal schedule and routine for a while to provide as much stability as possible. Talk to your child about the move, and gauge his feelings about it. If you think he would benefit from a short visit to say good-bye, then consider it a possibility. But you shouldn’t feel obligated to do so. In time, with your love, support and comfort, he will adapt to the new home and may even grow to like it more than the previous one!
I am having a big challenge- I weaned my 2 year off her pacifier fully . Removing pacifier from her daynaps was not an issue at all. Then we slowly weaned her off from the night time. But it has been challenging at nights – she would suddenly wake up and scream in her sleep for an hour and would sleep off. In a months time after we weaned her off completely we had to move to a different place (different time zone). This was unavoidable. We had been trying to settle in the new place, but my toddler still screams and cries inconsolably at night for her pacifier 12-1 am at night. She then sleeps off again…can you help me here to understand how I can soothe her. Should I giver her her pacifier back?
@Priya – Thank you for sharing! Weaning from a pacifier at 2 years old can definitely be a challenge – brutal and hard even. Crying and sleeplessness during this process (and adding in a move to a new place) is bound to happen unfortunately. Toddlers this age have definitely developed a strong attachment to their pacifiers. We wouldn’t strongly encourage you to give it back to her at this point as you’ve already started the process and going back now will likely make it even harder later when you try to wean again. But, it’s going to be up to you. Consistency will pay off in time, and will ask a lot of you in the patience department as you go through this.
Please be sure, also, that she is getting adequate day sleep if she’s still napping and is going to bed at a proper bedtime for her. You could also consider offering her a lovey or letting her cuddle a favorite small stuffed animal or blankie safely during the night. Here’s an article than can help you with that: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/baby-lovey-how-when-why/
Hang in there, Priya, and please keep reading!
@ Anne — so sorry you’re experiencing this! It’s likely that your daughter’s recent sleep strike is related to all the change — new daycare, upcoming move, etc. It could also be age-related; there’s a sleep regression that happens around the 2 year mark. We’re actually publishing an article on the blog about it next week (Tuesday) — look for it!
As for what to do, we always recommend staying as consistent as possible. If you don’t want sleeping on the floor next to your daughter to become part of her bedtime routine, then you should probably put an end to it. Consider sitting by her bed for a bit each night, as a substitute for lying on the floor until she falls asleep.
I have a question.. actually 2 separate issues.. We are moving ( close by but to a new home) and the last few weeks my DS 22 mos old has been wanting “MOMMA night night” .. next to her on the floor until she falls asleep.. she then wakes up sometimes in the middle of the night and wants me back.. HELP! She used to go to bed great ( alone ) at 745 ish and now cant settle to sleep until closet to 9 pm ! she also started a new daycare about 5 weeks ago as well. her naps are a little later but not much.. Needless to say, I have caved and laid next to her on the floor.However, I want to break this association.. DO we wait until we are moved in and settled or are we prolonging it HEL!P I want my little independent sleeper back with out the TEARS!~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~!~
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