Have you just booked your first dream family holiday and realised that flying long haul with a child may have its challenges and how will you prepare your baby for the jet lag? Jet Lag is one serious drawback to travel and can contribute to travel burnout. Factor in a small child who hasn’t quite mastered sleeping through the night, and you might be asking for trouble. Some symptoms might go beyond just being tired or cranky. Your little one might have a loss of appetite, have some tummy troubles, headaches (though they might be able to tell you this), and just be irritable and confused. A combination of these can make any trip into a nightmare.
Luckily, you can try to help your little one before you leave home and lessen the effects once you’ve arrived and so we have put together some tips to get your little one prepared for your big adventures.
- Try to push naps or bedtime closer to the time zone you’re traveling to. If you’re going east, start the bedtime routine slightly earlier each night (if going west, hold off on bedtime). By slightly altering your baby’s schedule it won’t be quite as jarring when suddenly you’re staying up 6 hours later, or going to bed 8 hours earlier.
- Get baby used to sleeping in different places. If your child has only ever slept in one or two locations, it might be difficult to get used to a new place (or a few) so suddenly. Try to move the crib into different places in the room, or a completely different room. Sleep in the pack n’ play instead of a crib, or better yet, take a few small trips away from home to get in a completely new environment. This might not be directly related to jet lag, but when a baby is fighting sleep and already overwhelmed, adding in the fear of a new place doesn’t help.
- Try to schedule flights that will coordinate with naps (or not). My child is a pro at sleeping on planes. Between cuddling me, the bounce of the plane, and the white noise, he’s asleep within minutes of takeoff. So I always try to schedule our flights around nap times or overnight. This helps him stay on a semi-decent schedule. If your child doesn’t sleep on planes, scheduling overnight flights on purpose probably won’t work for you (though it’s not always avoidable).
- Head out. Even if it’s bed time in your home time zone, get up, get out, and get some sun. One of the best ways to fight jet lag is to trick your body into living in that time. The sun automatically helps trick your brain. And, if you’re lying in bed, you’re obviously more likely to snooze, than if you’re out adventuring. It’s the same for your baby. With all of the excitement of a new location, they will hopefully avoid sleeping until it’s a better nap time, or an appropriate time for bed.
- Immediately change to the new time zone. Avoid the urge to live by your home time. Use the current time to plan your baby’s schedule like you would at home.
- Be flexible. Even if your baby is very scheduled at home, that doesn’t mean she will be while traveling. Realize that sometimes you can’t avoid a snooze in the stroller, or he’ll be super active at bed time. Just try to keep it the same, while also allowing some wiggle room.
- Build in a day or two after arriving. If you have time, keep the first day or so pretty free of major activities. While I’ve said it’s great to stay busy to avoid feeling sleepy, sometimes your baby just will not be enjoying his time. An extra day can add in a buffer for him to get used to things before trying to hit all of the activities.
- Stay hydrated. Try to push water or milk on your child to keep them hydrated and help fight the side effects of jet lag. It will also help because, for the most part, a full tummy is an easier one to sleep on.
- Bring comforting items. If your child as a certain toy, a blanket, or maybe they’re attached to you, let them have those comfort items. I’m not saying give in to every peep your baby makes for that item if it’s interfering with other things. But let me comfort themselves however they know how.
And remember, if your child is feeling the effects of jet lag, their sleep will go back to normal. This won’t last forever and eventually his or her body’s normal rhythm will begin again. And, it was all worth it. As difficult as it might seem in the moment, you’ll always have those memories of travelling with your child, and depending on their age, they might too. It’s worth it to be able to show them the world. Even though jet lag is a menace.
This guest post was written by Mackenzie from A Wandering Scribbler & Co
Mackenzie Jervis is a writer and traveler currently living in Texas with her husband and son. She has visited 65 countries solo and now brings the baby along. She blogs about family travel at A Wandering Scribbler & Co. while writing novels and binge-watching British TV.
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