How to Survive Jet Lag in Babies and Toddlers

Worried about jet lag ruining your family vacation? Click to read how to survive jet lag in babies and toddlers!  | Family Travel  | Travel with baby, infant, toddler | Traveling with baby | Baby Sleep | Jet Lag | Baby Sleep on Vacation | Sleep Consultant

We have partnered once again with the amazing sleep experts at Wee Sleep to answer all your baby jet lag related questions.  If you are like us, you have probably heard the recommendations of getting on local time as soon as possible and getting out in the sun. As parents when we are deep in the throngs of jet lag with our babies or toddlers, that still leaves us with a lot of questions. Covering everything from pre-planning to getting back home, this guide on jet lag will answer all your questions and hopefully get you and your baby a restful sleep on your next family vacation!

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Pre-Planning

Arrival at Destination


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When Jet Lag Happens

Returning Home

Other Questions

Pre-Planning

1. Can choosing the right flights help diminish the effects of jet lag? For example, is it best to have an overnight flight (hoping your baby will sleep) to arrive and have a full day on local time? For babies that don’t sleep much on flights, should you try to arrive mid- to late afternoon to have time for dinner then get everyone to bed?

 

It’s best to try and plan a flight in the late morning so baby can nap during the flight – if possible – and get a good first night’s sleep upon arrival. This sets him or her up for a fresh start the next day.

 

2. Is there anything you can do before leaving to lessen the effects of jet lag?  Should you begin to adjust your baby’s sleep schedule in advance? For example, getting baby up and going to bed earlier before heading east (and later for a trip west).

 

We suggest jumping right into the new time zone for sleep and feedings.

 

The other option is to shift a week out: For a week, or over a period of several days before your trip, make small adjustments (15-20 minutes) to your child's bedtime every night to gradually shift the baby's body clock to the new time. This may help minimize the impact after you arrive by avoiding having to make a large adjustment.

 

3. Would using a jet lag plan like http://www.jetlagrooster.com/ work similarly for a baby as it does an adult?

 

We don’t suggest using a jet lag plan. Babies are not as experienced in sleep etc. as adults and adapt better to a quick change. Jump into the new time zone! See above.

4. Should you use the flight to help your baby adjust to the new time zone? For example, encouraging your baby to sleep the first part of the flight, then tire baby out the second half of the flight in preparation for sleep upon arrival. Or is it better to just follow baby’s sleep cues?

 

It’s best to keep baby on the schedule he/she is used to. We often recommend a nap (if it is nap time and your baby is tired) in the airport while waiting for your flight. When onboard baby will be very stimulated, even if it is naptime. It's a sure bet – they will NOT want to nap with all the excitement. Usually when the flight has taken off, everyone is settled in, and the hustle and bustle of drink service etc. is over, it would be a better time to attempt/encourage a nap.

 

If it is not naptime and you are in the airport, tucker your little one out with play, cruising around and activities to help him or her get tired.

 

5. Will ensuring your baby is well hydrated during and after the flight help?

 

You should always ensure your wee one is well-hydrated, regardless of being on a flight. If you can, upon arrival, you should try to immediately change your feeding schedule to suit the new time zone. However, feeding on demand will probably be the best strategy. Make sure to keep yourself hydrated as well as time zone changes can impact breastmilk production.

Arrival at Destination

1. Upon arrival, should you replicate your baby’s at home schedule as soon as possible (ie. naps/ bed times on local time)?

 

Yes – jump into what you do at home, ensure it is in a dark sleep environment. Get into local time as quickly as possible. It may take a few days for your baby to adapt, but he or she will and it will make everyone’s trip easier and more enjoyable.

 

2. Should you add back dream feeds/night feedings or a snack for older babies as their eating schedule may also be disrupted? Or keep it to water during night wakings to help adjust eating schedule?

 

NO! Never go backwards! Always honour the hard work you and your baby have put into learning to sleep through the night. By introducing feeds, co-sleeping or new “habits,” you can expect those great sleep skills to revert backwards very quickly.

 

3. As per the recommendation on getting a lot of daylight, are there specific times of day you should target? For example, is morning better or is more sun better regardless of time of day?

 

Like adults, sunlight is very important for children to adjust their circadian rhythms. Try to get out in the daylight as much as possible. We do not think morning is better than afternoon – sunshine is sunshine and daylight is daylight!  Just don’t forget the sunscreen!  Plan outdoor activities on the first few days after you arrive at your destination. Exposure to sunlight and time spent in natural daylight will help you and your baby adjust to the new time zone. During designated night time, keep the lights off and use blackout blinds/curtains to keep things dark.

Baby Sleep While on a Family Vacation | Baby Jet Lag

When Jet Lag Happens

1. If your baby is waking in the night, what will help them get back to sleep faster but also help them to adjust quicker:

a. Keep it dark and low stimulus until you can get them back to sleep?

 

As always, we recommend keeping the bedroom dark, calm and having as little stimulation occur as possible during the night.

 

b. Feed them and let them play for a set amount of time then try to put them back to sleep?

 

Ideally you would follow the guidelines above. Introducing a feed would depend on the child’s age, circumstances and situation.

 

2. Is there a typical amount of time your baby will be up for (or that you should let them be up for) at night before trying to get them back to sleep? For example, are they likely to go back to sleep faster if you just let them play for 45 minutes?

 

Again, this would depend on the child’s age, circumstances and situation.

If they are content, let them be content until they fall back asleep. If they are not and protesting (again a very hard one to answer), then make sure you are checking on them and addressing their needs.

 

3. Will night waking usually happen after a set amount of time? i.e. in bed for 8pm then waking at midnight. Is waking after only 2 hours normal?

 

Night wakings can sometimes be predictable and sometimes not. Depending on when the child went to bed, his or her age and feeding schedule, awake times during the night can vary.

 

4. Generally, what is the most effective way to help a baby adjust, should you keep to a strict schedule or go with the flow? For bedtime, if your baby seems really tired, will an earlier bedtime help them get adjusted quicker or should you stick to the regular schedule?

 

You should try to stick to your typical schedule in the new time zone. Occasionally, if it is a poor nap day an earlier bedtime may be suitable. As always, keep an eye on your child’s awake times and tired signals.

5. In the morning should you let your baby sleep as long as they need to make up sleep from the night or wake them up at their regular time to get them on their usual schedule faster?

 

Again, this would depend on the age of the child and his or her circumstances. Typically for older children sticking close to the regular wake time is ideal.

 

6. For naps, should you stick to a similar and age appropriate nap schedule as at home? In addition, should naps be kept to their regular length (i.e. baby should be woken up if sleeping too long)?

 

Your established schedule is key. You worked hard. Never go backwards!  Always honour the hard work you and your BABY have put in. 

 

7. If your baby’s sleep and eating scheduled are off, can you also expect their bowel movements will happen overnight? Is there any ways to help this adjust?

 

Typically, there is a correlation between when feeds occur and bowel movements. Whether your child will have a bowel movement is the night is difficult to predict. NEVER leave your child in a dirty diaper. Always go in and change with low light and minimal interaction.

 

8. Are there any natural remedies for helping a baby adjust to a new time zone?

 

We do not recommend any herbal or naturopathic remedies. As mentioned above we recommend sunlight, daylight and darkness to help your baby’s system adjust naturally.

9. How long should/can it take for your baby to adjust to the new time zone? Suggestions have been made that it can take 2-3 weeks to adjust based on the time change (alternatively, expect one day for each timezone change).

 

It is safe to assume that it will take 4-5 nights for your baby to adjust to the new time zone. This can vary depending on the magnitude of the difference in time zones. Be sure to take this into account when you are planning your trip and the return home.

 

10. If your baby seems to be not adjusting well, is there a point where you just go with the flow and do whatever it takes to get your baby sleeping (including bringing them into bed with you)?  Would this create a bad habit that would be hard to break when arriving home?

 

NO!  Never go backwards! Always honour the hard work you and your baby have put into learning to sleep through the night. By introducing feeds, co-sleeping or new “habits,” you can expect those great sleep skills to revert backwards very quickly. Different ages will have different parameters for naps.

Getting Home

1. When you arrive home, should you immediately get back to your pre-vacation schedule and try to be strict with it?

 

This will be another adjustment period and should be treated the same way as when you arrived at your destination.

 

2. Will your baby go back to sleeping as they did before? Or will you have to do sleep training all over again?

 

If you honour your established routines and schedules, with time your baby will adjust to the time difference and go back to sleeping as he or she did before. Sleep training is an ongoing effort that requires consistency and commitment during challenges (such as travel, teething etc.)

Other Questions

1. Is there an age where your baby might be less affected by jet lag? For example, a newborn to 3 months who sleep the majority of the day off and on.

 

To some degree, jet lag will impact all children regardless of age. Your preparation and consistency in applying the schedule will help influence the impact.

 

2. Can the effects of jet lag get better with the age of the child?

 

As you know, jet lag occurs even in adults. So, to some extent if depends on the child, time difference and circumstances.

 

3. Can you give some suggestions for the following scenario:

Baby used to sleep from 7pm to 7am, but now crying in the night then insisting on getting up very early in the morning. Baby’s daytime routine is mostly back to normal with two 1.5hr naps. Some afternoon naps seem to go very long or need to be woken up. This has been going on for over a week. Should baby be woken up early from afternoon nap, then put to bed earlier?

 

Making sure daytime sleep is capped so baby is not getting TOO much baby sleep (again- this is all based on age) and then bedtime should be the appropriate WAKE time from end of nap.  Again- all age appropriate.


WeeSleep’s team of Certified Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultants, helps parents who are having challenges with their babies’ and toddlers’ sleep by providing a very personalized and high level of professional support to aid them in becoming independent sleepers.  WeeSleep is for exhausted families who want their babies sleeping properly.



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Worried about jet lag ruining your family vacation? Click to read how to survive jet lag in babies and toddlers!  | Family Travel  | Travel with baby, infant, toddler | Traveling with baby | Baby Sleep | Jet Lag | Baby Sleep on Vacation | Sleep Consultant
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