How To Survive the Holidays Without Wrecking Your Baby’s Sleep
(Part 5) Jet lag & crossing time zones
How To Handle Jet Lag during the Holidays
Before you had children, jet lag meant grogginess, a sleepless night or two and extra coffee. Jet lag with kids….can be downright torture. There’s nothing that makes you second-guess spending Christmas in Paris like a baby bouncing off the walls at 3 am.
The Best Way To Handle Baby Jet Lag
The goal with overcoming jet lag is to reset your baby’s body clock to sleep, wake and eat at new times. The best way to do this is by using light and exercise, and also paying attention to sleep and meal times.
If your trip is less than four hours time difference: allow one day for your baby to adjust for each hour time difference you travelled. So if you’re flying from Los Angeles to New York, it should take your baby 3 days to adjust before naturally falling into a New York schedule.
If your trip includes a big time change: say 8 hours, you’ll have to be more vigilant about your baby adapting. The following guidelines will get you there.
During the Day
- Wake baby up everyday at a decent hour (7-9 am.) This may be rough the first few days, but it’s essential for resetting the body clock.
- Get outside! The best way to help everyone adjust to the new time zone is bright, natural light and exercise. Find a playground or children’s museum to help baby burn off energy and have lots of play.
- Work toward having your meals based on the new time zone. If baby won’t eat a full meal at the right time, that’s ok. Offer snacks and hydrating drinks every 1-2 hours. Feeding baby often helps his body adjust to the new “daytime.”
- Allow baby to nap when he’s tired. But try not to let him nap longer than he would normally at home. It’s better to limit napping and give him an early bedtime.
- Bring along the stroller or baby carrier for naps on-the-go.
- If the entire family is napping at the hotel, set your alarm! The last thing you want is an accidental 4 hour nap, throwing off everyone’s nighttime sleep.
- Give your baby a decent bedtime (7-9 pm.) Put him to bed early while you enjoy take-out in the hotel room. Remember, late bedtimes can cause over-tiredness, which can lead to multiple night wakings.
During the Night
The first few nights, your baby will probably wake a few times. He may think it’s day time and want to play. Prepare yourself mentally.
- If your toddler is hungry, offer a snack like yogurt, cheese, nut butters (as appropriate depending on age.) Anything with protein and fat to keep him full. No candy or simple sugars which could give him a surge of energy.
- Try your hardest to get him back asleep. But if it’s clear that he can’t sleep, keep the lights dimmed and read books together or let him play with “quiet toys” appropriate for his age. Soft blocks or rattles (for young babies) and coloring books and Play Doh (for toddlers) work well.
- Try to avoid giving your toddler the iPad. The light it emits sends stimulating impulses to the brain, making it difficult to sleep. If you’re desperate for an electronic babysitter, it’s better to turn on the TV at a low volume for 30 minutes. Then encourage the quiet toys again.
- If you have an older toddler or preschooler you may end up offering bribes like “I promise you can have an ice cream after breakfast tomorrow, but you have to close your eyes and go to sleep now.” Hey, whatever works.
Watch Jilly walk you through surviving the holidays here…
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