Traveling with a baby is definitely challenging as a parent. Now, add changing time zones to the mix – daunting to say the least! But, before you decide to spend the holidays at home or opt out of a summer vacation, it’s important to remember that there are ways to help your little one adjust to the new schedule. As with any change involving your baby, patience, preparedness, and understanding their needs is key. Let’s dive in!
Research the time difference between your current location and your destination; this will help you anticipate the adjustments you and your baby will need to make. Remember, if you’re traveling for less than 2 weeks, you can opt to stay in your home time zone. Another option would be to let your baby’s body slowly adjust naturally without feeling like you need to make the adjustment for them. They will likely end up somewhere between your home time zone and your destination time zone, and that’s ok!
Adjust sleep schedules gradually.
If you’re going to be gone for more than 2 weeks, you can start adjusting your baby’s sleep schedule a few days before the trip if you’d like. Gradually shift their bedtime and wake-up time to align with the new time zone. Shifting their schedule 20 minutes each day can help them adapt. If you’d rather wait until you’re actually in your new time zone, that’s completely ok too! There’s no perfect way to go about this, so do what feels right to you and works best for your family.
Get ready for a long day!
When you arrive at your destination, your body clock will be confused by the new time zone. It can take several days to 1-2 weeks for it to adjust, depending on how big the time change is. Your baby’s body clock will also need time to adjust, so it’s important to be patient. You will need to be flexible as your baby adjusts.
Maintain familiar routines.
During travel, try to maintain familiar routines as much as possible, especially through the adjustment period mentioned above. This includes feeding times, nap times, and bedtime routines. Consistency will help your baby feel more secure in the new environment.
Keep naps to 2 hours max.
If your baby is taking more than one nap, you’re going to keep each nap at no more than 2 hours; this will save the long sleep for bedtime. Allowing for longer naps only delays the adjustment period. Also, make sure to end your baby’s last nap of the day with enough time for a full wake window BEFORE a 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm bedtime in the new time zone. If your baby has to go to bed a little earlier, that’s ok! Ideally, you want to shoot for no earlier than 6:30 pm.
If your baby or toddler wakes in the night, do your best to keep it dark and keep stimulation to a minimum. If you let them get up or turn on the lights, you are going to compound the wakings and elongate how long it takes them to fall back to sleep. This will only prolong how long it takes your baby’s body to adjust to the new time zone and new environment. Comfort and hold your baby as necessary, but try to avoid a full wake up.
It’s important to keep your baby hydrated during the trip. Make sure to offer them fluids regularly, whether it’s breast milk, formula, or water (based on their age and feeding preferences). It’s easy to get dehydrated while traveling, so have a plan for making sure everyone gets enough water. Electrolytes are also good to add in if you have a toddler or older kids.
Adjust meals and activities.
When you arrive at your destination, adjust meal times and activities to match the local time as quickly as possible. Exposing your baby to natural light first thing in the morning and throughout the day regulates melatonin (a.k.a. a naturally occurring sleep hormone in the body) and helps their internal clock adjust to the new time zone. It also increases serotonin and dopamine, so getting enough natural light will make everyone feel better!
Keep baby comfortable.
While traveling, make sure your baby feels comfortable and secure. You can do this by bringing familiar items with you, such as their favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or pacifier. These comforting objects can help them relax and feel more at ease in the new time zone.
Remember: Every baby is different, so it’s important to be flexible during the adjustment period. With time and consistency, your baby will adapt to the new time zone. If you need more guidance, please feel free to reach out to me! Safe travels!