Jet lag with a baby

How to avoid jet lag with baby

There’s no perfect science in making a child adjust to a new time zone and cope with a long-haul flight. But here are a few tips to help.

My friend Daisy is travelling to New York via Dallas in the next few months with her son Jack who’ll be 18 months when he takes off. Like many new mums flying long haul for the first time with their baby, she’s somewhat nervous about getting him to sleep and adjust to the new time zone.

TEDDY1-747x1024As any parent knows there’s no precise science to getting a child to sleep. Every little being is a unique individual who is going to react differently to the flight experience. I’ve recounted a few horror stories by parents in my book but the thing to remember is that it doesn’t last forever either, and that kids often get over their jetlag much faster than their parents.

Daisy wanted some order around how she organized his sleeps on the flight, given she was travelling on a 15 hour flight (the world’s longest non-stop flight, as it happens) with a layover in Dallas before the onward flight to New York. Jack normally naps for two hours in the middle of the day, and sleeps for about 11 hours each night. They leave at 2pm Sydney time, and arrive at 10.30pm New York time (roughly 24 hours of travel).

This is what I advised her – and it might be useful for other families travelling the same route.

  1. Skip midday nap on day of departure (you’ll have to do it anyway to get to the airport on time).
  2. Feed him on plane as soon as you’re airborne (book an infant’s meal which arrive before the regular meals, or take your own stuff).
  3. Try and get him settled quickly: change him into his PJs, read a favourite book, have some extra milk to help sleep.
  4. Let him sleep most of the flight to Dallas (if you can). Kids sleep surprisingly well in the bassinets (if they fit, and as long as there’s no turbulence).  The cabin lights will be dimmed for nighttime for much of the flight anyway. If he has his own seat consider bringing an airline approved child restraint (car seat) which means he’s much safer and will probably sleep better.
  5. When he wakes up give him bottle, and then the meal they serve before you land.
  6. Get him to run around as much as possible at Dallas airport. Have a shower and change in the lounge, if you have access, and hopefully something decent to eat.
  7. Have a tiny foldable umbrella stroller with you on the plane so that if he gets tired in Dallas airport you can strap him in. Ideally his daytime nap will coincide with the next flight but you might find he’s too stimulated so have some little toys and books with you.
  8. I find the worst bit is usually the arrival airport when you’re waiting around for luggage. Good to have him strapped in at this stage too – as you’ll be knackered.
  9. Put him to bed once you’re settled in your accommodation but let him have a look around the hotel room so he is a little bit familiar (midnight in New York is 4pm in Sydney). Hopefully he’ll settle OK and wake up about 8 or 9 am having had a semi-decent sleep.
  10. Try and get close to normal nap time later that day. Alternatively skip the nap and get him down early that night – although that might be hard and you risk him getting completely overtired.

The important thing is not to expect miracles, and if you’re suffering collective family jet lag take it in turns to deal with the baby while the other parent sleeps.