Home Ask Shelly Ask Shelly: How to help a baby adjust to a 9-hour time change and jet lag?

Ask Shelly: How to help a baby adjust to a 9-hour time change and jet lag?

by Shelly Rivoli
Phuket sunrise with baby, Thailand, Travels with Baby
Up for the sunrise in Phuket, Thailand – your baby might make it easier to get up on time than you expect!

Since the topic of SLEEP (and its ugly cousin Jet Lag) comes up very frequently when I talk with parents planning travel, I thought this question (posted to the Travels with Baby facebook page) would be a great choice to feature in the blog. Traveling mom Maggie writes:

My husband & I have your book, and we have been reading it eagerly in anticipation of the first international trip with our 8 month old daughter. We have dealt with a 3-hour time change before when she was 3 months old, but this time it will be a 9 hour time difference. Do you have any specific advice for how to adjust a baby to such a big time change? Is there a certain schedule/routine we should start following from day one? Thanks!

My quick answer, which I’ve found to be the most valuable antidote to jet lag in all of our travels, is to let natural daylight work its (biochemical) magic in the mornings by getting outside early.

Even if you arrived in the middle of the night, you may be surprised how forcing yourselves up and out at your regular time to rise can get your biorhythms in sync with the new time zone. Just try to allow for a little nap time together if you can the first couple of days—and keep your baby’s or toddler’s daytime naps as close to their regular duration at home as  you can within reason (if naps are usually 2 hours, gently wake at the appropriate time for another dose of sunlight).

I always love hearing back from families, and Maggie was kind enough to include this update to her Facebook post:

We have been here four days so far, and she has adjusted super well. I think getting out and letting daylight work its magic has been the absolute best advice. We take her out in the mornings and afternoons, and she has been napping well, eating well, and sleeping through the night!

Hooray for sleep – may we all have more of it on our next family vacations! You’ll find many more sleep and jet lag survival tips in Chapter 4: Preparing for Changes in Travels with Baby and in the “While You’re There” section of Take-Along Travels with Baby.

Have an Ask Shelly question of your own? Click here to see how to contact me with your own travel question!

Related posts and pages:
Tip #14: Sleep in.

Should I give my child Benadryl to help him sleep on the airplane?

Safe journeys,
Shelly Rivoli

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Marilyn Friesen August 29, 2013 - 4:31 pm

If you’re heading north instead of towards or away from the sun, you might find that your children will rest easier in a homelike atmosphere like a Bed and Breakfast.

Catherine June 19, 2013 - 11:08 am

In my experience with my first child with a 6 hour jet lag (from US East Coast to France), it would take close to a week to get her adjusted to the new time. First nights she would go to bed “late” around midnight (6pm EST) and that was not bad. And then we’d move up the bed time. I usually find adjusting back to US time to be easier. At the time she was about a year old.

Shelly Rivoli January 13, 2012 - 6:03 pm

Patricia – I hear you on the midnight playdates! Actually the daylight dose can helpful in any case, as far as speeding up the adjustment process (9 days is just too long to spend adjusting to a 9-hour change!), and if it's possible to get outdoors to a local park, for example, and just play low-key in those tired hours before or just after dinner, it can be helpful in postponing the bedtime to a more regular hour. In the case of a 1 a.m. wake-up call that can come in the first few nights, I've usually had best results from just allowing an hour to deal with the needs that usually accompany the waking – hungry from the off schedule (see the "sleepytime snacks" recommended in Take-Along Travels with Baby!)? Body feeling the urge for relief that usually comes at 9 or 10 a.m.? Etc., then doing an abbreviated bedtime routine again.

Patricia January 13, 2012 - 5:26 pm

Hi Shelly,

I enjoyed reading this post because we always struggle with adjusting our kids to the new time zone when we travel. This post only seemed to deal with when you are traveling east and your are adjusting forwards. We travel west often and I find that more difficult because my kids are waking up when it is the middle of the night and wanting to go to bed before it is dinner. If I keep them awake longer to adjust them, all I find is that they are still waking up early and we get crankiness by mid-day. I find that my kids adjust an hour a day to a timezone change. Do you have any suggestions to adjust them quicker?

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