How to Help Your Baby Overcome Jet Lag

In January, my husband, our five-month-old son, and I embarked on an epic journey, spanning four weeks and taking us into four different time zones. What was our grand strategy for getting our baby over his jet lag? The truth is we didn’t have one, but things still worked out pretty well.

Serenity Now! First, I think it’s helpful to start off by taking a deep breath and accepting that whatever perfectly crafted schedule your baby is on will probably go right out the window as soon as you board your flight. Some might even say that those of us with less than perfectly crafted baby schedules (or no schedules at all) are finally at an advantage here. It’s going to be OK!

Fly at night. The first leg of our trip took us from New York to California. It was an evening flight, which I highly recommend. Whenever possible, choose an evening or red-eye flight so your baby will sleep on the plane. Stellan slept on my lap the entire way there.

Be flexible with the sleeping arrangements. Stellan wasn’t interested in sleeping in the new travel crib we schlepped 3000 miles. So, instead of losing sleep trying to make it happen, we went back to our co-sleeping roots and brought him into the bed with us, instantly undoing all our hard sleep training work. The good news is the three of us slept soundly after Stellan had used us as human Jumperoos for a good half hour.

Let your baby nap on the road. We rented a car in California, so Stellan caught naps en route to grandma and grandpa’s house and was awake for visits and activities. The three-hour time difference helped us get an early start and make the most of each day there, and because we were only going to be in California for three days, we weren’t terribly concerned with getting him on Pacific Standard Time, although he pretty much did.

Reserve bulkhead seats and a bassinet. From California, we took a red-eye back to New York for a day and then hopped on a plane to Spain. If, like me, you can’t justify buying your infant his own seat, it’s advisable to reserve bulkhead seats and request a bassinet for your baby on international flights. By the time we made our reservations, the bulkhead seats were taken, and I found myself wishing I could put our chunker in a bassinet more than once during the eight-hour flight as my leg muscles gradually atrophied. We again took a night flight, which worked out really well for everyone, except my aforementioned chicken legs.

Keep moving, spend ample time in daylight, and eat when the locals eat. In Barcelona, Stellan still wasn’t interested in spending any significant amount of time in his increasingly well-traveled travel crib, so we kept right on co-sleeping. He and I awoke at 2 am the first night and had a hard time getting back to sleep, but we got up reasonably early in the morning, kept busy during the day, spent as much time as possible in natural light, and ate customarily late, all of which added up to our being on Barcelona time within a day or so. That’s right, our five-month-old went to dinner with us at 9 pm on most evenings and slept in until 10 am. Don’t judge. Because we were out and about every day, he ended up taking all his naps either in his carrier or his umbrella stroller. I said, don’t judge.

Be flexible with the feedings. From Barcelona, we flew back to New York on a daytime flight, during which Stellan slept intermittently and spent the bulk of his awake time comfort nursing. The surrounding passengers got more than a passing glance at my breasts because they were pretty much out during the entire flight. In fact, I might have dozed off with at least one nipple poking out of my shirt more than once. You’re welcome, 21E!

It’s OK not to know where you are anymore on the last leg of your trip. It took us a couple of days to get back onto Eastern Standard Time, and then we flew to Minneapolis, where my in-laws live. At this point in our journey, Stellan had mastered the art of sleeping anywhere, anytime, including church pews and restaurant high chairs. Meanwhile, I was waking up at the crack of dawn with nothing to do and no idea how I had ended up wrapped in Paul Bunyan’s plaid flannel sheets.

Now that we’re back home, we just have to get Stellan sleep trained again. Sigh.

How about you? What are your secrets for getting your baby over jet lag?