My old job as a flight attendant had me flying through several times zones in a month. It was certainly easier managing just my jet lag, but after flying with a baby and toddler to several long haul destinations, including The Big One; UK to Australia. Here are some useful jet lag tips for babies and toddlers that have helped us avoid and manage jet lag symptoms. Followed by specific tips for jet lag in babies, toddler and older kids.
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TIPS TO AVOID A JET LAGGED BABY OR TODDLER
- If you are leaving on a night flight, let them sleep as per normal schedule and grab as much rest as you can too. This will help you get through the rest of the day. Don’t expect your tots to sleep their normal length of time. It may not seem like it at the time, but this will work in your favour in your battle against jet lag. (See our best seats guide to help maximise some sleep). For sleep tips for a baby on a plane see here, and for sleep tips for a toddler on a plane see here.
- However, when booking a flight, bear in mind that once you board the airplane will be a hive of activity with bright cabin lights, noise and movement. It won’t be until after the first service when things calm down. If you have an airplane bassinet requested for the flight, then you might want to consider purchasing a CoziGo UV stroller and bassinet cover to help shield baby from these distractions. CoziGo (affiliate link) retails at AUS $99.95 and can be shipped worldwide and shipping is FREE to Australia USA, Canada from their site. Check if baby fit the bassinet first though with this bassinet guide to over 50 airlines!
- If you are at the airport and it’s not naptime, look for an airport soft play area or place where you can set them down to crawl or play before boarding to help tire them out.
- Consider boarding last if it’s not nap or sleep time. It’s not worth having a wriggly baby wait on everyone else to board and get restless. Have your partner board earlier with any baby gear and luggage if you want to guarantee overhead locker space near your seat.
- If the flight is over nap or sleep time, see if your airline allows an airplane bed for toddler or inflatable pillow. These genius inventions are not permitted for use with every airline but they change a seat into a child or toddler travel bed for the airplane! You will need to have purchased a seat for your baby or toddler to use these though, as you will not be able to stand up for the duration of their nap in case of turbulence etc.
- Shift the sleep pattern before you go: Depending on you rtravel plans, you may want to shift babies sleep pattern by a couple of hours gradually before you go to help them settle on arrival.
- Keep hydrated before and during the flight.
- On arrival (or if on an ultra long haul flight), begin to establish a new routine. Eat and sleep at the right times in the new time zone.
- Go outside. Light exercise and the natural light will help re set your body clock on arrival. Spend as much time in daylight over the first few days.
- During the night, if you need to, pack some aluminium foil and a peg, to act as black blinds or keep hotel curtains completely shut. Alternatively, purchase some travel black out blinds.
- Get on local schedule as soon as you can on arrival and eat the correct meal fo rthat time of day – make sure most of the calories are eaten during daylight.
- Try and avoid long naps and wake little ones up if they nap too long. I wake my baby up after 2.5 hours at lunchtime and my toddler after an hour during the first few days of arrival. If you can and need to, nap when they do as you will need the energy!
- Avoid caffeine after 2pm if you are breastfeeding baby (and for you to to wind down for sleep.)
- Speak to your doctor about using melatonin tablets. Our bodies naturally make melatonin, which helps create the urge to fall asleep. Melatonin tablets can help induce sleep, but it will not maintain sleep.
- Aim for consistency. Keeping a familiar routine established as much as possible can help them settle. Once at your destination keep the familiar bath, book pattern before bed.
When you are returning home from your family trip you will find it a little easier as you will have all your own home comforts and no hotel neighbours.
HOW LONG DOES JET LAG LAST IN BABIES AND TODDLERS?
Jet lag is thankfully a temporary stage, and usually lasts a few days. Babies and toddler tend to adapt quicker than adults, particularly younger babies who are still working out a routine. If your little one is suffering from infant jet lag, they will also be able to sleep and nap during the day whilst at your destination either in your travel stroller if you are out sightseeing or at your accommodation.. Here are some extra jet lag tips specifically for babies and toddlers:
TIPS TO RESOLVE JET LAG IN BABIES
Long flights, mean more time zones to cross, and one of the biggest is flying from the UK to Australia or New Zealand. In general, baby jet lag UK to Australia is more manageable with a stopover, but if you go all the way through (like we have occasionally), it can mean a few sleepless nights. Expect several nights of disruption but rejoice that jet lag in babies doesn’t seem to last as long. Babies often have to re-adjust their sleep through growth spurts, teething, not feeling very well etc, and jet lag will be temporary like these times.
HOW CAN I HELP MY BABY WITH JET LAG?
- Take turns with the night shift. When the little ones wake up during the night, try a 4 hour ‘duty’ time with your partner. This will help you get through the day. It helps if you can sleep in a separate room to the kids, so that connecting room or 2 roomed suite can be a god-send at your destination.
- Aim for consistency. Keeping a routine established as much as possible can help them settle. Once at your destination keep the familiar bath, reading a book pattern etc before bed.
- Pack something familiar from home. A favourite muslin, or teddy or even a familiar Baby Sleep Spray can help calm and settle baby. Even some homemade baby food or your usual brand can help bring that familiarity.
- Go outside: Light exercise and the natural light will help re set your body clock. Even if it’s difficult, do get up at your normal time for breakfast.
- Look for sleep cues: If baby is yawning or fussy and grumpy, see if you can settle them down for a nap.
- If you are breast-feeding, your supply may also need time to re-adjust to the new time-zone, so keep hydrated and consider napping when baby does. Try not to revert back to any dream feeds.
- Keep an eye on dirty nappies/diapers, they may need more changes during the night if feeding at different times. If so, keep the room dark, calm and quiet.
- Try and keep any night time play fairly calm and quiet, with only minimal lighting. If you need to pack some alumiumium foil to stick on to a wind
- During day light hours, try and encourage baby to eat solid food if they are weaning and gain most of their nutrients and calories then, rather than at night.
EXTRA JET LAG TIPS FOR TODDLERS
Toddler jet lag symptoms are very similar to baby jet lag symptoms, although you may notice more vocal displeasure and tantrums if they get over tired.
- At this age they are pretty much guaranteed to wake up at 2am for the first night or two. Again, try to encourage quiet games such as puzzles, colouring in, stickers etc.
- Keep the calm lighting if they are up in the middle of the night.
- Give a little snack if needed during the night, such as warm porridge and some milk. High magnesium foods such as bananas can help you feel sleepy.
- Settle in for a few stories.
- If you have other children sleeping or your partner is still sleeping, a little stroll around the hotel lobby can help avoid disturbing everyone else.
Please do comment below if you have any other jet lag tips to add.
- If you are planning on going out and about or travelling soon, you may find these other travel gear recommendations for kids useful too.
- These great travel toys and activities for toddlers are handy – for days out, to trips on planes, trains or even cruising or camping
- There are also sleep tips for babies or toddlers on the plane too.
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Sunday 30th of May 2021
Thanks for all the tips. I have some big plane plans for this vacay - seeing my husband's family abroad - and I'd like everything to go perfect.
Sunday 23rd of February 2020
I have a choice between two flights for London - Brisbane. One leaves London at 9.10pm and arrives in Brisbane at 6.25am with a 3hr 25min layover the other leaves London at 3pm and arrives in Brisbane at 10.20pm with a 1hr 25min layover.
What would be best for my babies Jet lag. He will be about 11months at the time.
Thursday 27th of February 2020
I would probably go for the quickest flight as babies seems to adjust better than we do. :-)
Saturday 26th of October 2019
Hi Carrie, we have just got back to the UK from a holiday in Mexico and our toddler (just about 2) has woken on first night back at midnight and is wide awake. We don’t know what to do - he’s obviously in another pattern totally - and it seems Impossible to keep him In his cot and darkened Room to go back to sleep. But now he is up he wants attention, naughty things like TV etc and if we indulge (we see no option as understandably he thinks it is awake time) how do we break the cycle that looks like it will form and get him back to normal sleeping (he traditionally has been a great sleeper). Help! Your site seems to address flights, but we need help with the aftermath!
Sunday 27th of October 2019
So now on night two - did everything “right”. Made toddler wake up decent time, limited midday nap despite protestations, bed time with usual strict routine. Boom. Awake again three hours later same as night before. Zero improvement. Hopefully you will come back and reply with advice!
Monday 8th of July 2019
thanks for the information
Wednesday 17th of July 2019
Your site is so great, I'm so pleased I stumbled across it!! I am flying Sydney to UK in 2 weeks time with my 11 month old who will turn 1 a few days after arriving. Due to a recent massive sleep regression we are currently following a sleep program that has him sleeping for 20mins for his morning nap at 2 hours at his lunch sleep. You mentioned about jet lag and that you wouldn't let them sleep for longer than an hour when reaching your destination for daytime naps. Would you feel that he should do say 1 hour for morning and 2 hours for lunch instead for the first couple of days? Would value your thoughts on this! Thanks so much
Monday 4th of March 2019
Hi Carrie! This website is a godsend! It's so good to just be able to get some ideas and helpful tips all in one place. I'm looking for some advice, we are flying canada to uk in a month with our then 11 month old baby boy to see his grandparents. He normally goes to bed around 7pm and wakes 7 am. Our flight leaves at 10.30pm canadian time and the uk is 5 hours ahead (3.30am.) The flight is 7 hours long so we arrive at 5.30am canadian time (10.30am uk) I can't put my baby to bed before the flight as we'll have to be at the airport 2 hours in advance which would result in him only getting maybe an hours sleep before being woken up. What would you do? Just try and keep him up till take off, add in a nap? Or try to move his schedule forward before hand so hes not over stretched? As hes only going to get 7 hours max sleep on the plane I'm worried hes going to seriously crash at the other end and we still have some tube travel to go after...any advice would be appreciated! Thanks Shona
Tuesday 5th of March 2019
Thank you- so glad it has helped! We had exactly the same issue with our youngest when we flew to Australia. She was also 11 month old and it was a 10pm departure. I opted for putting her down for an hour and then picking her up last to put int he car on the way to the airport. it really helped her managing security and boarding without being so grumpy. I had some extra warm milk with me to settle int he car so she dozed for a bit longer. Hopefully this will work for you to? Let me know!