Jet lag and babies

Daniel enjoying some zzzs on the plane

Daniel enjoying some zzzs on the plane

A terrifying thought when planning a trip is, ‘How will the baby react to the time change?’. Surprisingly, we have found some good side-effects of jet-lag. I feel I should caveat this – I don’t know what it’s like with any other baby – if you’ve had different experiences, please share them with us.

Jet-lag bad

Daniel doesn't appreciate jet-lag

Daniel doesn’t appreciate jet-lag

Jet-lag can really mess with a good thing especially if you’ve just settled into a good routine. It’s frustrating when things are thrown out of whack, especially given the efforts that get put into developing the routine, all of a sudden those efforts seems to go to waste.

We’ve found a small shift can be the most difficult. We can generally push Little D 30 minutes in either direction with little noticeable effect on him, but a full hour is too much.  We’ve debated whether we should stay on the old time and even bother adjusting to the new time. For a change as small as an hour, staying on the old time works, but if you’ve traveled West remember that you’ll need to find restaurants that opens an hour earlier for breakfast and lunch which can be tricky. What we found works for us is pushing everything 30 minutes in the direction of the new time, and pushing him 30 minutes back when we get home.

The worst thing we can do is wake Daniel up before his normal wake-up time to catch an early flight or train (we learned this when we woke him up 2 hours early to get to the airport).  Whenever we have done this he has been out-of-sorts for the entire weekend, and he remains that way when we get back to London, despite in this case only having a one-hour time change.

Travelling also means that mealtimes may not be as regular as they would normally be. Late lunches are fairly normal on vacation and many countries eat dinner at different times compared to what you are used to. Factor this in when planning what to bring, and if you’re breastfeeding be prepared to breastfeed in strange places (if you think you might be uncomfortable with the exposure, get a feeding cape).

When they’re older and eating solids, carry extra contingency meals with you.  We have emergency pureed food pouches in the diaper bag at all times (we like Ella’s Kitchen, but there are many varieties) and I also like bananas and plain rice cakes for portability. I try to avoid things that could really stain the outfit Daniel’s wearing.  I do that more out of not wanting to add the extra step of changing the outfit, rather than worrying about the stain itself (now that we’re on solids, I feel like I change him after every meal). That said, poo happens and you always need to be prepared.

Babies react to jet-lag without the restraint required by adults. I have found it best to remember that Daniel has no concept of time which gives me a little extra patience. I find this especially necessary when I’m also unusually tired from a big time-change.

But have no fear, as a good friend told me, even though it feels like things will be this way forever, in two weeks you’ll have forgotten this, moved on, and you’ll be worrying about something else. Great advice for all things baby.

 We haven’t done more than an hour time-change on a short-haul flight. Have you – how did you find it?  Any advice to share?

Jet lag good

Daniel enjoying the elbow rest on the flight

Daniel enjoying the elbow rest on the flight

Jet lag can be good if you need a reset on a routine. A few times now, Pete and I have been able to sink into a lovely routine once we’ve gotten back from holidays.

Out best experience came from a time difference of 7 hours behind after flying Calgary (MST) to London (GMT). We keep Daniel in 3 – 4 hour cycles – similar to when he was a newborn – and we would wake him after 1 1/2 hours of sleeping (that’s two of his sleep cycles, I know of babies who have shorter sleep cycles; my feeling is that if we woke him after 45 minutes, he may have continued to wake up after each sleep cycle a la newborn baby) we’d feed him, change him and play with him and then put him back down when he started showing sleep cues. We continued this until it was time for his bedtime in local time (around 7 or 8 pm when ever it happened to land).

Jet-lag bad: this can be exhausting FOR YOU.

Daniel playing on the plane.

Daniel playing on the plane.

Jet-lag good: Finally, when we did put him down for his sleep, he slept all the way through until 7 am. Jubilation!! He’d previously woken up 3 times per night.

Sadly, he did start waking again at 5 am, but this was a significant improvement from 11pm, 2am and 5am we had been doing up too this point.

Sometimes we’re afraid of things unnecessarily when it comes to babies. For us, this was the case with long-haul travel. I’m sending out jet-lag travel luck to all of you reading this, and please share your experiences for better or worse with us. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *