Your baby finally has a great routine and good sleeping habits and that trip you have planned in a couple of weeks is really weighing on your mind. Is everything going to get ruined? How will my baby deal with jet lag? How will I know what do to or when he is tired/hungry etc?
Jet lag is determined by how many time zones you have to cross. If you think of our biological clock, which controls all the cells and hormones in our bodies, it is set to a certain time zone. When you leave that time zone and fly to another, our body needs a few days to catch up.
How can you deal with jet lag in a new place?
Pay attention to the time it is at home for the first three to four days. (That´s how long it normally takes to adjust.) Then you should be able to keep your babies schedule in mind and understand when he is hungry/tired and why he is acting so cranky.
It is inevitable that your baby will want to be awake while you want to be asleep. Accept it. If you understand that those first nights will be hard and no one will be sleeping soundly, it is easier to deal with. Don´t try to convince them to sleep or stay in bed by rocking, patting, using the pacifier etc. Their body is telling them it´s time to get up and eat/play. If you try to force them to sleep everyone will end up frustrated.
When your baby does wake up in the middle of the night, feed him. It is much easier to deal with a baby who has eaten and just wants to play at 4am than a baby who is HUNGRY and crying for hours.
Find something to do that´s not too overstimulating. It can be hard at 4am in a hotel to get creative, but it would be much better to have brought along some of their favorite books/puzzles/blocks/toys that you can play with. Try to avoid turning on the TV or letting them use your phone/tablet. If possible try to keep the room dimly lit. You are trying to show their body clock that is actually night time and don’t want them overstimulated or hyperactive.
When you start to feel tired, or see that your baby is getting cranky/bored (after about 2-4hours, depending on your baby and their general wake window), do your normal bed routine again and put them back into their crib. Give them a chance to settle down and sleep by themselves. Don’t start rocking them or feeding them to sleep, or putting them in your bed. This can be very difficult to get out of again later. *If they/or you just can´t settle and wont go back to sleep, repeat the above process. You might just get to see a few decent sunrises in the first few days.
For the first few days, let them sleep as much as they want. Even if you have finally got them back to sleep at 6am and they sleep until past midday. It is much easier to deal with a well rested baby than a tired and cranky one. When they do wake up, make sure you get outside in the fresh air and sunshine. It´s the best way to show their internal clock that it needs to adjust to the new conditions. The sunlight will help regulate everything in a few days.
Be patient. It is so so frustrating having a jet lagged baby and being jet lagged yourself. Try to stay calm and enjoy the moments you can have in those first few days. If you travel with a baby who sleeps well at home and knows how to sleep independently in his own bed, it is much easier to travel. Sure it takes a couple of days to adjust, but with patience and keeping all the routines the same as possible, everyone will be much happier.
After you have adjusted to the new time zone, if you notice your baby has developed some sleep associations that he wasn’t using before, it is recommended to stop using them. You don’t want to have to rock your baby to sleep for the whole holiday or have them wake up multiple times and demand to sleep in your bed. Even if this means a couple of nights of tears or crying, it is better that they understand the same rules apply as at home.
Then you will be free to enjoy your holiday to the max! Every one well rested and happy….. until its time to come home…. Then you have to repeat the whole process again….
Amelia has more than five years experience helping families with sleep problems and has helped more than 1000 families in Spain, The United Kingdom, The United States, South Africa, Doha and Australia.
Amelia uses various methods to help families introduce healthy sleep habits for their babies and children up to 8 years of age.
Amelia trained as an Infant and Child Sleep Consultant in Florida, USA completed Infant Mental Health Training with the Child Sleep Institute and Department of Psychology of the Hospital of sick children in Toronto, Canada. Most recently Amelia trained as a Pediatricians assistant in Barcelona where she lives with her family.