There are so many theories on how to deal with jet lag, but for me keeping it simple is the key. There are enough things for me to think about when travelling with my small person without having to worry about adjusting her feeding schedule an hour per day, one week before we leave, to coincide with our holiday time zone. It’s just not going to happen in our household! The truth is I think it’s unnecessary to over think and complicate jet lag, especially when there are simpler methods that do work. Everyone suffers from jetlag, whether travelling as little as 3 hours difference or as great as 11, and babies and children are no exception. From my personal experience, here are my top (simple) tips:
Tip #1 – Keep yourself and your baby well hydrated and well rested on the plane ride.
Good hydration gives your body the best chance at coping with jet lag. This is especially important for breastfeeding mothers. Poor hydration on a flight can reduce milk production and in fact I’ve heard of a personal story of a lady whose milk dried up due to dehydration on a London to Auckland flight, not the type of situation you want to be in with a hungry baby and no back-up plan. So drinking plenty of water is essential for feeding your baby during the flight and also for ensuring that milk production is up to scratch when you arrive in the new time zone. I feed my baby on demand yet I still find there is a period of feeding adjustment when moving to a new time zone because there are particular times of the day when she prefers to feed more. Keeping hydrated makes this transition much easier.
It helps to purchase a couple of 1.5 litre bottles of water prior to boarding the plane. Some airlines (which I’m not going to name) divvy out water infrequently in tiny little cups throughout the flight, which really doesn’t help battle dehydration.
Tip # 2 – Sunlight, sunlight and more sunlight.
Lots of exposure to daylight in the first few days of your trip is the simplest and best method to help combat jet lag. I was given this tip many years ago, and it really does work. The body clock is regulated by melatonin which is produced only at night and is regulated by light and darkness. So sunlight will help your body re-adjust to the new time schedule. Little bodies are no exception, so get your kids out into the sunshine! It’s also good to leave the blinds open at night for the first few nights so that everyone can wake to the new day naturally.
Tip # 3 – When you arrive at your destination treat it like any normal day.
It sounds daunting, and pre-baby I never heeded this advice, but this technique actually works, even with big time zone differences. When I took my daughter to Australia recently she quickly adapted to the new time zone despite the 11 hour difference, we arrived in the morning and I think the continuity of her day routine in the new time zone helped. She was fed at what would be considered her normal meal times in the new location, I also encouraged her to have a nap at the times she normally napped in the local time (a good opportunity for me to take a sneaky nap as well). Her bath/bed routine was also maintained. Keeping busy with activities also helped distract from the fact that it was really 3am back at home.
Tip # 4 – Anticipate upheaval and plan appropriately.
Anticipate that it’s going to take a couple of days to adjust to the new time zone and aim to have a relaxed and flexible schedule during this time. It’s normal to have a bit of upheaval in the first couple of days. For example, a baby/toddler may initially wake-up to play or may be hungry in the middle of the night, this is to be expected and will be gradually phased out. In any event, most parents of young children are not unfamiliar with night waking.