Are you crazy to consider travelling long haul with your small baby? Some parents take the view that its best to travel while they’re still babes in arms, unaware of what’s happening, while others prefer to wait until their child is a toddler, and better able to appreciate the experience of travelling.
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, as she sat alongside me at my computer, helping me with my punctuation. She peered at the title “travelling with a baby” and said: “how ridiculous dear, just tell them blooming well not to!”.
In many respects her advice was sage – the experience can be hellish. But many of us have no choice or still want to fly across time zones with our babies and children. In my experience, keeping as close to the baby’s usual routine as possible minimises any upset. I’ve put together some tips for making the journey as pleasurable as possible – for you, your baby, and your fellow passengers!
1. Get a good routine in place beforehand
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 nighttime 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.
2. Adapt to local time as quickly as possible
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 eight 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.
3. Keep up your bath and bedtime routine
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) 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.
4. Be patient
Prepare for it to take a few days for baby to fully adjust to the new time zone. In general, I have found that the outward journey is easier to adapt to than the homeward one, and as a rough guide you could expect for the outward journey to take a 24 -hour adjustment for every two hours time difference, but just one hour per 24 hour on the way back.
This means for a six hour time difference you could expect a three-day adjustment period on the way out and a six-day adjustment period on the way back.
5. For short haul, consider sticking to British time
If you are travelling to Spain for example, where there is only a two 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.
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.