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Air Travel: Helping your Baby Cope With Jetlag

I am writing this partly because it’s 5 a.m. and we are both wide awake (Correction. Toddler: wideawake. Brit: caffeinated awake) and it’s a shameless plea for sympathy.

My two-year-old has racked up more Air Miles than your average Midwesterner.
Doesn’t appreciate them of course, he was seriously disapointed that you can’t buy tree frogs with Air Miles. Toddler’s current obsession is the accumulation of plastic tree frogs. It’s cute when they get to that age when they fall in love with random things, but less cute when plastic and fairly realistic tree frogs have to travel everywhere with you, and get thrown at fellow passengers. I apologise to the other passengers on United 56 the other day, especially if you have a frog phobia.

A further complication of travelling with tree frogs, is when you fly into the USA, you have to fill out a customs declaration, and there’s tight restrictions on bringing in animals. Our form says we have nothing to declare. The immigration official checks with me. “You aren’t bringing anything into the USA?” ” Tree Frogs!” yells toddler. It takes a little while, but we find the tree frogs and manage to convince the official that they are indeed plastic.

Now I’m tired and rambling, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned about traveling to different time zones with your baby, and how to cope and adjust. Clealy, not traveling with tree frogs is a given.

  • Less than 3 hours: Most USA trips involve less than 3 hours difference. it’s fairly easy for baby to adjust. It’s also easier to run on whatever time it is back home, since if baby is getting up a little earlier or later then it’s usually still possible to get her breakfast, and go to the beach, or whatever you want to do.
  • 6 hours: It takes a couple of days to adjust, and in the meantime you are going to be woken up by a bouncy, confused baby who wants you to put the lights on and get up. Whatever the time difference, attempt to enforce the local time. Don’t let baby nap for much longer than she does at home, or she’ll think it’s nighttime, sleep for hours and hours, then be awake all night. And you have a nap too – it will help you adjust as well. Set and alarm clock or have someone wake you up if you sleep too long.
  • 9 hours: this takes longer to adjust. One trip we took had an 8 hour time difference and Toddler was jetlagged all week, then jetlagged for another week when we got back. Before travelling, try to push your baby’s body clock a bit closer to the time zone you are travelling to. Even an hour or two in the right direction will help. It’s a little easier to have to get up at 5am than 3 or 4am. Just.
  • 12 hours: Resign yourself to being nocturnal, at least for a few days. If you are planning to travel to the other side of the world, and you’ll be stopping on the way, consider spending a night at the stop to help baby adjust in two steps, rather than all at once.

Do you have any more tips for coping with jetlag? Share them in the comments section below.

Happy, safe travels to all, this summer vaction season!


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