How to Manage Baby Jet Lag

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Baby jet lag can be overwhelming for both you and your baby. However, with this tutorial, you’ll be able to better understand why it happens, the symptoms associated, and how to manage it.

My husband and I travel a lot with our kids, so we’re no stranger to time changes, fluctuating schedules, and the jet lag that comes with it. In fact, you don’t even need to ride in an airplane to experience jet lag. It comes from simply traveling to a new place, especially if that place is in a different time zone.

It’s important that you’re prepared and know how to deal with it before you leave so you can enjoy your vacation rather than dealing with a fussy baby while you’re sight seeing and doing other fun things.

What you will need to follow this tutorial:

  • Dark blanket
  • Crib sheet
  • Lovey
  • Books
  • Toys
  • Snacks
  • Pack and play (optional)

Step by Step Instructions

When preparing for a big trip, it’s important to read up about what causes baby jet lag, what to look for in your child, and how to help them through it. It can make your vacation much more enjoyable for everyone. Here are the steps you should take to ensure a seamless transition.

1. Make sure you understand baby jet lag.

If you’ve experienced jet lag before, you know it can be agonizing. While it only lasts a few days, its effects can be amplified in babies and toddlers. It can be tricky adjusting to a new time zone, especially for older babies and toddlers who have already become accustomed to a sleep schedule.

For babies younger than 6 months, a time change of a couple of hours may not give you too much trouble, especially if their sleep schedule is still a bit inconsistent. Look for signs of baby jet lag to clue you in on their difficulties and act accordingly.

Another really important thing to remember is that there may be a few days in a row when you find yourself merely surviving. Jet lag is tough to overcome, so mentally prepare yourself for a sleepless night or two, just in case.

2. Prevent it in advance, if possible.

While you can’t always completely prevent baby jet lag, you can do your best to lessen its impact on your vacation. Prep your baby before you leave to get them ready by following some of the following prevention methods.

Have a plan.

If you’re only going to be gone for a week or less, you may want to consider not switching your child’s schedule at all. Just as soon as you get your child used to the new time zone, you’ll be headed home.

If you do want to adjust your child’s schedule for a short trip, you can begin to shift their schedule gradually over the few days before you leave, so that once you get there, they’ll already be adjusted.

baby sleeping on baby bed

Make the shift gradually.

If you’re going to be gone longer, it’s easier to make the adjustments as you’re traveling. Begin making the adjustment before you go, but remember that you’ll have some time to finish making the adjustments when you get there, too.

Move bedtime 15 minutes earlier or later each evening until you reach the desired bedtime depending on the time zone where you’re going.

Sleep more before you leave.

Make sure your child is well rested before you go. Rest up with plenty of sleep by napping more frequently or encouraging periodic rest time with quiet activities. You can also ensure your child is well hydrated with plenty of water before you go. Traveling can cause dehydration, which will exaggerate your problems.

Think about traveling at night.

Traveling at night can be a huge blessing. Your child will likely be tired enough by bedtime to sleep on the flight or go to bed when you arrive at your destination. This can help you keep up with your schedule while putting in minimal effort.

If you’re driving, you can also consider driving during nap times or at night. Most children will fall asleep in the car, especially if they’re tired enough, so this can make traveling a lot easier on you. Keep in mind that if you’re going to drive at night, it may put a bit of extra strain on you, but at least you’ll be dealing with a happier baby.

Bring a dark blanket.

If you’re flying, bringing a dark blanket on the flight and draping it over your baby while they sleep can help keep light out and get them the rest they need in preparation for your arrival. It can help alleviate tiredness when you get there so they’ll survive until the next nap time or bedtime without too much trouble.

3. Look for signs of baby jet lag.

Once you’re on the road, if you notice signs of baby jet lag, you can spring into action more quickly, especially if you’ve already done everything you can to prevent it in the first place.

You’ll begin to notice the typical signs of tiredness in your baby. Yawning, rubbing eyes, fussiness, and clinginess are just some of your clues. However, what you’ll notice is that they happen at times during the day when they wouldn’t normally, which can give you an extra heads up that your child may be struggling.

4. Keep things consistent.

You already know that babies are suckers for a routine, so keep up with it on vacation, too. Make sure they have a bath, a book, or a song when it’s time to go to sleep. Their body will receive the message that it’s time for bed and they may fall asleep easier, even in a strange place.

5. Pack the lovey.

Do not, under any circumstances, forget to pack that blanket or bear. Bring their favorite item to give them comfort on the road. In a strange place, it will give them what they need to feel more comfortable.

You may even want to consider bringing your own pack and play or your baby’s crib sheet because the fabric and the environment will be more familiar. The small could be calming and improve their quality of sleep.

toy van

6. Use books and toys.

For times when your baby just can’t seem to sleep, employ the use of quiet, age appropriate toys or books to encourage rest. When struggling with jet lag, your child may not always sleep when they’re supposed to.

By keeping the lights dim and making sure they have something quiet to occupy themselves, you can still stick with the new schedule, get some rest yourself, and try again the next night.

7. Bring along your favorite treats.

Travel can often upset your baby’s tummy, so bringing along their favorite snacks and drinks will help make them feel more comfortable and can alleviate an empty or upset stomach. It can also keep their energy levels up and help them sleep longer on the first night rather than waking up hungry at what would be a normal mealtime at home.

8. Pay attention to sleepy cues.

Yes, sleepy cues are a sign that your baby is struggling with jet lag, but there’s still something you can do about it. React to them by putting your baby down tired, but awake, so they can get used to the new environment and hopefully fall asleep on their own.

9. The sun may help.

Sunlight can help reset your baby’s natural clock. Spend time outside when you get there to help reduce jet lag and help their body adjust to the new time zone.

10. Stay awake.

This may be contrary to some of the other tips, but staying active during the day can also help your baby’s body adjust. The park or pool will allow your child to use up their energy for a more restful, restorative sleep.

By not only getting a lot of sleep, but better sleep, your baby will recover from jet lag more quickly.

11. Be patient.

Just like you, your baby will recover in time. Adjusting to a time change will take a few days, so be understanding of their difficulties, even if they’re needy or cranky. Your love and support will help them just as much as anything else.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. It can be helpful to know you’re not alone. Everyone suffers from jet lag, and the tips for overcoming it in a baby are much the same as in an adult. You can still relax and enjoy your vacation if you know what to look for and how to handle it.

Be sure to share your tips for overcoming baby jet lag in the comments below.

Sarah is a full-time freelance writer and mother of 4. She loves Jesus, cars, and coffee.