Getting through jet leg with babies and young children

The idea of crossing time zones with a baby or a young child can be scary for many parents. Understandably so, dealing with jetlagged babies isn’t easy.

Below are some tips that will help you get your child on the new time quicker and easier.

GET ONTO THE LOCAL TIME

Get your child onto local time asap but within reason.
Allow the first couple of days to be slightly more relaxed and let them rest throughout the day in a way their body clock is used to. This way they will more easily fall into their new routine as the time passes. It can be tempting to keep a child awake, hoping that they will be really tired at night and sleep better, but that rarely works. They will be overtired and sleep-deprived, which will make their sleep even worse, and it’s not good for their immune system either.
After a couple of days start to adjust the naps to their normal schedule and don’t let them sleep more than they usually would.

ROUTINE

Babies and young children rely on routines to help them understand their day. Keep your naptime and bedtime rituals the same as your routines at home as this will help your children adjust quicker.
Your child will also sleep better if you make their sleep environment similar to what it is at home. So don’t forget to pack his favourite blanket, or the teddies she sleeps with, his night light or her pillow.

DAYLIGHT

The thing that will most help babies and children adjust to the time change is daylight. It has been proven to help regulate your body clock back to normal.
Try to get everyone up in the morning and get as much of daylight exposure as possible.
At the same time, keep the nights dark. When you are up late at night, keep the lights dim, the blackout drapes closed and keep play time as calm and quiet as possible.

FOOD

The other big regulator of our body clock is food so getting your meals at the local time asap is key. Try to fill them up during the day so that they’re less hungry at night. Choose healthy options, junk foods will only make the problem worse!
However, the likelihood of your child waking up in the middle of the night when it’s meal time at home is extremely high. Don’t fight it. Their jetlagged body just told them it’s time to eat and they will not settle if they are hungry.
When travelling with a small baby, don’t be afraid to give more milk than usual.
Gradually get your baby used to taking most of their food or milk during daytime hours and the night time feeds will decrease.
Breastfed babies may take a little longer to settle into the new time zone because your body is manufacturing milk on the home schedule and may need a bit of time to adjust.
Make sure you keep yourself well hydrated as well because dehydration from a long flight can impact your milk supply.

GET UP

Your kids are going to wake up when you want to sleep, that is inevitable.
For the first few nights try to go to bed when your children do so you too get a few hours of sleep and are alert when your children’s jet lag tells them it is time to wake up in the middle of the night.
Once they are awake, get up. Have some food and if they won’t settle back to sleep, play for a bit. You may not like it, but this is the reality of the situation!
Do something quiet though which will keep your children entertained, but will not over stimulate them.
After a few hours (can be as little as 1 or as much as 3h), try settling them back to sleep. You can do a little bedtime routine again to help them wind down and ready to sleep.
Also consider having a nap when your child naps. In the first few days, it is more important that you are alert enough to care for everyone than it is to adjust quickly.

BE PREPARED

Be mentally prepared that you won’t sleep well for the first few nights and factor jetlag into your itinerary.
Knowing it will take four to five nights for your child to adjust to a new time zone will help you plan your trip accordingly.
If you have a big road trip planned after a long-haul flight, consider basing yourself in the same location for the first few days so you can all adjust to the time change.

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