Handling Jet Lag When Travelling With a Baby or Toddler

Babies and toddlers suffer with jet lag in the same way as adults do. It can affect parents more than kids however and you may have a few sleepless nights while your child adjusts. If you are taking a short trip it can better to just keep your child on home time. This means a lot less disruption on your return and if you are travelling east it may mean an extra few hours awake in the evening and a sleep in in the morning.

Travelling across time zones disrupts sleeping, waking, and eating cycles. The more time zones you cross, the longer it takes your body to adapt. Most people find that traveling east to west is easier on the body than west to east. How fast your child adjusts can vary on your child’s age and how far you travel. The main thing is to be patient and your child will eventually adjust. The following tips will help your child to cope with jet lag:

  • If you are travelling further than 1 or 2 hours out of your time zone it might be a good idea to prepare in advance. A few days before you leave home you could try to move your child’s bedtime 15 – 20 minutes each night to get ready for the new time zone.
  • When you arrive at your destination, immediately change your schedule to your new time zone i.e. bedtime and mealtimes. Day light and food are strong external cues for resetting the internal clock .You may wish to alter your child’s routines in order to enjoy the holiday more and be able to stay out later so decide on your child’s new bedtime and stick to that. If you’re traveling with a younger baby you will still need to feed him or her on demand making it harder for him or her to adjust to the new time zone.
  • Exposure to sunlight and daylight will help your baby adjust to the new environment so take your child outside as much as possible over the first few days.
  • If you arrive in the morning and your baby hasn’t slept well on the plane, particularly on a night flight, allow them some catch up sleep, but try to keep them awake for  a good part of the day in order to help them to adjust otherwise they will remain in their cycle from home.
  • Try to keep your bedtime routine similar to home – bath or shower, same song – some sheets from home which smell like home and baby’s own sleeping bag.
  • Babies will generally take 3 days to settle down but if you have travelled accross many time zones it could take a little longer so be patient, they will get there.
  • If your baby wakes at night, keep the room dimly lit and interact as little as possible. Allow them the short waking period and then put them back to bed.
  • Wake your baby at 6/7am and try to take them outside or near a window for some sunlight almost immediately.
  • If you have been on a long haul flight, if possible do not go back to work the day after arriving home. Your baby will need to adjust coming home also and you may be exhausted because your baby is stuck on your holiday time.