How to manage your baby’s jet lag

It’s exciting (and perhaps a little daunting) to go on an overseas trip with your baby, but the undeniable downside to visiting distant shores is jet lag – both for you and your bub. You may even find that your baby gets over it a lot quicker than you do!

We have some great tips for you to manage your baby’s jet lag, so you can get on with enjoying your holiday, or get back into your routine once you return home. In fact, your body clock is less confused if you travel westward, so if for example you’re travelling from Australia to the UK, you might suffer from jet lag much more when you get back home.

What causes jet lag?

Jet lag is a combination of fatigue and the symptoms associated with travelling across time zones. Many bodily processes are governed by a 24 hour clock, called circadian rhythm, which is determined by the action of sunlight through brain chemicals. In other words, if you’re on a plane, and miss a day or night, your body clock is mixed up.

Jet lag and newborns

Newborn babies have virtually no hormones that influence whether they’ll sleep day or night, it’s all one and the same for them. So, if you’re travelling with a tiny baby, the disruption will be minimal (to them, anyway!). Having a newborn is like being jet lagged anyway, right?

Jet lag and older babies

By about 7-9 months, your baby’s melatonin levels (the hormone associated with sleep) are evident, so your baby will need to have their routine tweaked until their sleep patterns are back to normal.

Tips to manage your baby’s jet lag

Before the flight:

  • If possible, prioritise their sleep and nutrition in the week leading up to the flight. Sleep deficit will make jet lag worse, so try not to miss naps or push bedtimes out too much.

During the flight:

  • Encourage your baby to nap whenever they look sleepy, and ensure they’re well hydrated with plenty of milk feeds or cooled boiled water (for babies over 6 months).
  • Choose nutritious foods, such as simple fruits and vegetables, for babies on solids.

At your overseas destination:

  1. Your baby may become suddenly cranky late afternoon, so be prepared to give them a catnap. You will probably need to wake them, so you can then feed, bath, and settle them back to bed for the night. Bedtime will probably be earlier than normal for awhile.
  2. As is typical of jet lag, your little one will most likely wake around 4 am. Be patient, keep the room dark and non-stimulating to gradually give your baby the idea that it’s still night time.
  3. Try to get up at dawn to help hormonal readjustment, and have early nights. Get out in the early morning sunshine to help reset the clock. Perhaps go for a walk using your baby carrier, or head to a park or beach to let them get some activity.
  4. Encourage yours and your baby’s melatonin production, otherwise known as the ‘sleep trigger’, by following these tips for better sleep.
  5. If your baby is ready for bed by 5pm, you can stretch them out 15 minutes every few nights until they reach their usual bedtime. Try to maintain your typical evening routine as it will help your baby adjust quicker if the pattern feel predictable and familiar.
  6. Depending on how much time you have, you might like to keep your plans flexible and to a minimum for the first few days. You will probably need plenty of rest yourself after the flight.
  7. Here are more of our Top Tips for a First-Time Holiday with Baby

Remember that jet lag will pass, so be patient, kind, and supportive to your baby’s needs. Provide plenty of sleep opportunities as well as periods of play and calm. Stick to your routine as much as you can, whilst getting in plenty of enjoyment for yourself. Babies are compact little travel companions, so try to relax, make wonderful memories, and don’t forget to ask someone to take photos of you and your family!