Several of my clients boldly take their babies on truly long trips – I mean several time zones! I’ve known families to fly with their little children to India, the Far East, and Africa. From these families I’ve learned the best tips I can find to overcome baby jet lag.
What’s baby jet lag?
It’s just like adult jet lag, only your little one sleeps more than you do, so it probably won’t be as tough on them as it is on you. The local clock says it’s 9 in the morning, but you feel like it’s time to go to bed! Same with the little one. There is simply no way to avoid it. Baby jet lag will probably last a minimum of 3 days, up to 14 days depending on how many time zones you cross. But there are ways you can reduce the shock to the system.
Flashpackerfamily.com has some great tips on managing jet lag for the little ones. One of the best ones is choosing a night flight. It turns out that if you choose a flight time when everyone will be sleeping (make that should be sleeping!)
Need a SLEEP COACH?
Night and Day
Most experts agree that the best way to adjust to a new time zone is to allow our own eyes to train our brains to adjust our circadian rhythm. Simply put: let daytime be light and let night time be dark. Our eyes train our brains to secrete melatonin at night so we’ll tend to get sleepy when it gets dark.
This is one of those occasions when I recommend breaking my rule about letting a sleepy child sleep. For the sake of making most of the trip/vacation more pleasant, it may be necessary to wake her up in the local time morning. Then it’s a good idea to take the child out during day time and encourage her to stay awake.
The opposite goes for night time. Though she may be wide awake and wanting to play, I recommend keeping her room dark, quiet, and relatively free of activity. This is that poor sleep-substitute that I call “downtime”. It’s better than nothing.
As for naps, to the greatest extent possible, try to time these according to local time. And good luck.
Most seasoned travelers including deliciousbaby.com recommend meal times at local times. That means, if it’s time to eat breakfast in Tokyo, eat breakfast. In a perfect world, you would start doing this on the plane, but the reality is that you eat when they feed you. Of course, you’ve brought plenty of healthy snacks with you, right?
Speaking of healthy snacks, when you and your child are up in the wee hours of the morning because you haven’t adjusted your circadian rhythms yet, someone’s liable to get hungry. I’d keep it healthy and proteinaceous. Sugar not so much. It’ll help. I promise.
Nothing wears the crew out more effectively than lots of physical exertion. This is not always the easiest thing to do depending on your location. It may come down to going outside and walking (temperature and weather permitting). Along with meals at the usual times and sleep at local time, this is the best way to restore some normalcy.
Finally, remember you’re going to have to do all of this in reverse when you return!