The Dreaded Time Change
Traveling with a baby can be challenging but traveling with a baby who now has to adjust to a new time zone and is jet lagged can be a new sort of cruel torture.
Elah has done quite a bit of traveling in her 9 months. She has had multiple trips that involve crossing time zones and whether a 1 hour time change or a 12 hour change there is always an adjustment period.
First things first: You should do things differently if you’re traveling west-to-east versus east-to-west.
Normally, a west-to-east change shift is harder to adjust to, because you’re not tired at your expected bedtime. However a west-to-east trip that is less than a week long can actually be easy because, if the trip only spans a few time zones, you can just keep them on their old schedule.
Recently we went to London with Elah for 4 days. Everyone asked me how did she adjust to the time change when were there for such a short time...well she didn't! We purposefully kept her on her regular NYC time schedule. She went to bed at 7pm which is 12am UK time and woke up at 6am NYC time which was 11am UK time. It was a beautiful wonderful thing because not only did we have the evenings to see friends and go out to dinner but we were also able to sleep in! #doublewin
If you’re going west-to-east for more than one week then keeping a little one entertained until 12am is likely not ideal. What we found works best is to bring back the bedtime 1-2 hours at your destination everyday until you reach a bed time that works for you.
You can also try to do this before you leave but then you have to shift everything including meal times. So a few days before you leave shift 10-30 minutes per day to get you started.
You can also move the time immediately once you're at your destination. If you do chose to switch things immediately then you are best off shortening a nap when you arrive to help them sleep better overnight or just skipping one all together if you can cope.
Traveling East to West
If you're traveling east-west, things get a whole lot messier. You are going to cross quite a few time zones and likely going to be on a plane for an extended period of time. Unfortunately acceptance is the best answer because your little one will wake up early the first few mornings.
Upon arrival try to keep your little one up as late as possible to help make them more tired and sleep later. However, tread with caution because keeping them up too late can lead to them being overtired and then make them too tired to fall asleep.
If they wake up at 4am they're likely going to want to nap at 6am. The best thing you can do is to try to extend the nap time out and then when it is nap time- join in for a snooze! However, try to limit the nap time because you want them to be tired enough to sleep at night.
When it’s nighttime in your new time zone, keep the light low and dark. When it’s daytime expose them to natural light—ideally, natural outdoor light. Taking them outside during meal times is a great way to expose them to natural light and will help their bodies regular their circadian rhythm.
Try to take turns with your significant other in the early morning. Play quietly with your little one or take them for a walk if it's after sunrise to help expose them to that natural light. Some of my husband's best memories of our Philippines trip was taking our daughter on some early morning ocean swims at the beach outside our villa.
Time Zone Changes Tips
Keep with the nap and bedtime routines you do at home such as using a sound machine, reading a book, singing a song, traveling black out blinds (can also use trash bags), using a sleep sack or a favorite transitional object.
Move all meal times immediately to the new time zone
Expose your little one to as much natural light as possible during the day and darkness at night
Don't over plan activities, be prepared to go with the flow
****NOTE: A Breast fed baby takes longer to adjust to new time zones because their mother's milk has to adjust****
Remember, jet lag doesn't last forever. You will survive! Changing time zones is hard. The good news? You're in a beautiful new place.