Are you brave enough to be heading off somewhere warm this summer with a new baby in tow? We’ve asked sleep expert The Magic Sleep Fairy, aka Alison Scott Wright for her tips on travelling through a different time zone with your baby. Happy holidays!
The summer season is nearly upon us and many parents face the dilemma of whether or not to travel with their baby. Some recommend – “Do all your travelling whilst they are still babes in arms and before they reach the toddler stage, as whilst they are still babies they are unaware or what’s happening, stay in one place and are easier to manage”. Others advise – “Wait until they are toddlers or older as they can better appreciate the experience and you can explain the whole travelling scenario to them”.
Whilst writing my book The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan, I included a small section on this subject and offered some practical tips and advice for travelling. I shall never forget my mother’s words, however, and after relaying the story since to many of my clients – they have agreed that neither will they!
My then, 78 year old mother sat alongside me at my PC most days to help me with exacting grammar, proper punctuation and correct wording, as her knowledge of the Queen’s English is second to none and she knows how to make a sentence make sense!
I would type up the title of the next piece to write and we would discuss how to put it into word format and so came along the title of ‘Travelling With Your Baby’. My mother peered at the screen and asked what I meant? I explained about the popularity of worldwide travel today and her reply was simple – “How ridiculous Dear, just tell them blooming well not to!!”
I typed this up and we both had a good laugh, but in some regard, my mother’s words were actually sound advice. It can be quite a challenge. Whether you decide to travel with your baby through necessity, for holidays or visiting far-flung relatives, it’s a simple fact many of us do, and will, travel with our babies and children and I hope the following gives some useful tips on making the experience as pleasurable as possible – for your baby, for you and your fellow passengers!
The simplest way to ensure easy travel and quick acceptance of a time zone change with your baby is to have a well-established daytime feeding and night-time sleeping schedule in place before you go. If your baby’s body clock is already programmed to eat during the day and sleep during the night, it will make adapting to a different time zone much easier. To ensure your baby’s body clock is already used to the natural combination of set feed-times and naps throughout a 12 hour day, have a regular bedtime routine and for him to be sleeping 12 hours throughout the night, (age dependant) please refer to my book and follow the schedules advised, appropriate to the age of your baby, in order to achieve this.
So, depending on where you are travelling to, you may need to lengthen the day of travel and shorten that night or visa versa and this can more easily be achieved if your baby’s body clock is already set to understand the natural difference between day and night. For example, if you are travelling to a country that is 8 hours behind GMT you will need to extend the day by giving an extra feed and or solids and although I’m sure baby will be very tired and need to sleep, once you arrive at your destination aim to adapt to local time as quickly as possible. Always try and do your bath and bedtime routine (including the last feed of the day even if he has had extra during the journey), but according to the local time even if baby is asleep and you need to wake him to do this. Then once you have put baby to bed, where possible, try not to give any further feeds until you start your day the next morning. The most important tool you have to use is your baby’s own body clock being used to a long period of night time sleep with no food and a daytime of eating with scheduled naps.
It might take a couple of days for baby to fully adjust to the new time zone, but in general, I have found that the outward journey is easier to adapt to and takes less time than the homeward one, and as a rough guide you could expect for the outward journey to take a 24 hour adjustment for every 2 hours’ time difference, but just 1 hour per 24 hour on the way back.
This means for a 6 hour time difference you could expect a 3-day adjustment period on the way out and a 6-day adjustment period on the way back.
If you are travelling to Spain for example, where there is only a 2 hour time change, you could decide to leave baby on the English time of 7am to 7pm, which in effect means you would do 9am to 9pm and I know of many people who have found this to work really well.
Even with all the above advice, some people choose to simply go with the flow, not have any set routine, allow baby to sleep as and when, maybe have baby sleep in bed with them and then re-establish the schedule when they get back. This is of course fine if that’s what you choose, but personally I recommend trying to keep as close to baby’s usual routine as possible which will minimise any upset.
Wherever you go and whatever age your baby, I wish you happy, sleep-filled and safe travels and don’t forget to take a copy of my book with you!
Alison Scott-Wright, The Magic Sleep Fairy.