Traveling Across Time Zones
This is about Baby Jet Lag, Mama.
Here’s something interesting: Do you know why it’s called jet lag? Traveling through different time zones only became an issue when air travel became common. Before then, we traveled by car, or covered wagon, or donkey. Using older forms of transportation made travel a lot slower. It took so long to get from place to place that your body had time to adjust to the new time zone, slowly, as you made your way towards the new destination.
Now, with air travel as common as driving, we can switch time zones faster than our circadian rhythms can keep up. “Jet Lag” is the lag in time that your circadian rhythm takes to catch up to the new time zone where you are. (Lag in time from flying on the jet – get it?)
What’s really fascinating about jet lag is that it affects a lot more than sleep – your body will get hungry at the wrong times and need to use the bathroom at the wrong times, too!
Here’s What You Can Do
Here are some things you can do to make the jet lag easier on your baby.
- Sunlight! This is key because sunlight controls our circadian rhythms. Exposure to sunlight during the day will help your baby’s body catch up to the new time zone.
- Physical activity during the waking hours – encourage lots of crawling, walking, scooting or running around, depending on your baby’s stage of development.
- Try not to allow your baby to take extra long naps during the day. Wake him after an hour or so. Too much daytime sleep will keep him up at night and stuck on the old schedule.
- On the day of your arrival, it’s best to plunge right into the new schedule. Keep your child’s exact schedule that you have at home, just on the new time.
- Keep your baby’s bedtime routine the same as you do at home.
- If possible, try and keep your baby awake until bedtime with normal naps in between. Letting your baby take a 3-hour nap that ends an hour before bedtime will prolong his adjustment to the new time. Keep his nap to 1 hour in length and put him to bed at his regular bedtime in the new time zone.
- It’s a good idea to move bedtime earlier the first night if you see that your baby is overtired. The last thing you want when traveling is an overtired baby.
- Expect your baby to wake up at night during the first couple of nights, even if he sleeps through the night at home. Do the math and realize that body is just following the old schedule. Don’t get stressed out about this – it’s normal.
- If you’re breastfeeding, it can take your baby a few days longer to adjust because your milk supply takes a few days to adjust to the new time.
- Keep your travel direction in mind – jet lag is more difficult when traveling east than west. West is Best, East is a Beast.
- It takes one day to adjust to every hour off. So a 3 hour time change will take your baby’s body three days to fully adjust.
A word on your return
Follow the same steps when you get home, to get back onto your usual schedule. Regardless of what happens, your baby will be back on track within a week or two – our bodies have a miraculous ability to adapt to new surroundings. Try not to stress to much and enjoy your trip!
More baby travel tips here.