Traveling across several time zones is exhausting as an adult, never mind having a baby in tow. However, it isn’t impossible and I’d like to salute all parents who have the courage and determination to travel with a little one. One of the biggest battles with travel is dealing with your baby’s jet lag.
Just because you’re traveling, doesn’t mean you have to forget about the sleep skills you’ve been working on with your child.
But how do you deal with sleep training, nap times, and more if you are traveling across time zones? You’re inevitably going to face the complication of timing issues, nap battles, and jet lag with your baby. So, here are a few tips for overcoming jet lag with your baby.
1. Avoid the Red-Eye Flight
Many parents have the misconception that a red-eye would be perfect. They think that their baby will sleep the entire flight and be well-rested upon touch down. Heads up, this rarely happens! The odds are your baby will not sleep, you’re going to have an awful flight, and you’ll arrive overtired and stressed.
So, catch a daytime flight and hopefully, your baby will take a nap or two on the plane ride. Even though motion sleep isn’t as restful as being in a bed at home, these small rests will actually help your baby prepare for the new schedule.
2. Be prepared!
Bring entertainment! It’s a small space to be cooped up for hours at a time. Pack toys, snacks, and books. Dole them out in intervals so that they have something new to play with every 20 minutes or so. Don’t be afraid to offer a bit more screen time than usual for your older child if it’s a long flight.
As for the snacks, offer plenty of fruit, vegetables, and water to keep hydrated. Jet lag symptoms often include constipation or diarrhea, so maintaining proper nutrition and hydration is crucial on the flight.
3. Should you alter the schedule?
Experts say that jet lag lasts, on average, for a day for every hour of the time change. So, if you are traveling for less than five days, it’s probably simpler to keep your regular schedule. Otherwise, by the time your baby has finally adjusted, you’ll be turning around and retraining again at home.
If you’re traveling longer than five days, you’ll want to alter the schedule. Thankfully, your baby’s body has an inherent ability to adapt based on the light/dark cycles. However, don’t expect it to go smoothly right away. The first night might be a long one.
4. Follow your bedtime routine.
If you read a book before bed at home, have one handy to read at your travel destination. The bedtime routine that you’ve carefully crafted is more than just getting ready for bed. It helps your baby’s brain recognize that sleep is coming soon and causes the release of melatonin. Your baby will begin to relax, slow down, and be prepared to sleep.
Two hours before bedtime, start dimming the lights and closing the blinds. You may need to put something over the window in order to get it truly dark in your room. Darkness is the best tool to help your baby sleep and stay asleep.
5. Sunlight’s on your side.
When it’s not bedtime, get outside and enjoy the sunlight. Getting a significant amount of sunlight during the day charges up our melatonin production and helps get the circadian rhythm adjusted quickly to the new time zone. And as I mentioned your baby has a natural ability to adapt to the light/dark cycles.
6. Add an extra nap
Try to avoid overtiredness. It actually makes falling asleep even harder for the baby. So, consider adding a short nap (45min-1hr) to combat overtiredness. Just remember to leave enough time between the extra nap and bedtime, so that they’re tired and sleepy enough to go to sleep at night. For example, if your 10-month old usually goes to sleep at 8 pm, make sure she’s had 3-4 hours of awake time before bedtime.
7. Bring their favorite lovie
Also, if you don’t usually share a bed at home, don’t start in the hotel room. Otherwise, it will be a tough habit to fix when you get home. Most hotels have cribs or cots that you can use in your room.
8. There is going to be adjustment time!
As adults, we tend to be grumpy and short-tempered after a long cramped flight. Your baby will be similar. You’ll have to take an extra dose of patience. Your little one will likely meltdown a little more often, especially shortly after the long flight.
Keeping calm and being consistent on your part will help the baby adjust quicker when traveling.
If you find that once you are back home from your trip, and sleep isn’t going well, don’t wait too long! Contact us to help you get things back on track by scheduling a free call.