How To Beat Jet Lag In Babies & Toddlers

Many parents work extremely hard to get their baby into a consistent routine and schedule at home.

But when traveling across the country or internationally, your baby’s schedule will frustratingly be thrown off.

So what’s the best way to deal with jet lag in your baby or toddler?

By choosing the correct flight time, moving on to the local time quickly, not overdoing the first day’s activities and getting enough natural light and exercise, your child should get over jet lag within 2-3 days.

How To Beat Jet Lag In Babies & Toddlers

Here are some top tips to overcome jet lag when traveling with a young child:

1. Consider A Layover

If you’re going on a very long trip with for example 16+ hours of flying, you may want to consider breaking up the journey and including a layover.

This will not only help your child transition across time zones, but should help you get some rest to make the journey slightly easier.

2. Choose The Right Flight

Night flights are often better for traveling with children, because even if they put up some initial resistance, the dark and quiet cabin is likely to eventually send them off to sleep.

This means parents and baby alike will arrive well rested, making it easier to combat the effects of jet lag when you arrive at your destination.

3. Move On To Local Time Quickly

Aim to move on to your destination’s time as soon as possible.

Some people even like to adjust to the new time zone on the flight, but this can be tricky if you’re traveling with children.

However, once you’ve arrived you should aim to move on to the local schedule as quickly as you can.

4. Easy First Day

While you might be tempted to jump straight in, especially if you’ve been looking forward to a beach vacation for a while, it can be better to ease your way in.

However, this doesn’t mean you should stay in your hotel all day, because fresh air and exercise are both important in beating jetlag (more on this later).

But try not to plan too much on the first day, especially as even the most fun experiences may not be appreciated by an over-tired and grumpy toddler (or adult for that matter)!

5. Take Something Familiar

Things like your baby’s favorite blanket, favorite teddy or bedsheets can help make unfamiliar surroundings more comfortable, so if space allows consider packing these on your next vacation.

6. Exercise

Exercise is a great way to help reset your child’s body clock, so if you have access to a pool or are close to the ocean, consider going for a gentle swim to help combat jet lag.

7. Sunlight & Fresh Air

As with exercise, sunlight helps your body adjust to the local time zone more easily than staying indoors.

8. Take Turns

As an adult it can be exhausting dealing with jet lag, but it’s even more challenging if you’re having to care for a child or several children as well.

So wherever possible take it in turns with someone to look after your little one, whether that’s with your partner or with understanding friends and family at your destination.

Do Babies Suffer From Jet Lag?

Yes. Just like adults, babies suffer from jet lag when traveling across time zones.

Newborns and infants under 6 months are usually less impacted by jet lag, because they are yet to develop a consistent sleep schedule and nap many times during the day.

But for older babies and toddlers, the effects can be just as pronounced, or even more so, than in adults.

How Can I Prevent Baby Jet Lag?

If you are traveling for only a few days, or going somewhere with only a 2-3 hour time difference, it may be best to keep your child on the same schedule as they are used to back home.

However, when traveling further afield or for longer periods, it’s not possible to prevent jet lag in your baby or toddler.

But by following the advice above, there are definitely some things you can to do lessen the impact of jet lag and overcome it more quickly.

Symptoms of Jet Lag In Babies & Toddlers

The symptoms your child will experience will be similar to the ones you experience as an adult, and will include:

  • Being unable to sleep
  • Waking up in the middle of the night
  • Feeling sick or unwell
  • Mood changes
  • Overtiredness and tantrums

How Long Does It Take For Toddlers To Overcome Jet Lag?

While all children vary slightly, on average it takes 3-4 days for a baby or toddler to overcome jet lag.

However as this is an average, sometimes it can take babies up to a week to get over it, while in other cases your child may overcome jet lag in only 2 days if you’re lucky.

Some people also say it takes 24 hours to overcome each 1-hour change in time zone, but again this is not a universal rule, and when crossing many time zones in one go this rule becomes less relevant.

Can You Give Babies Melatonin Before Flying?

Many adult travelers across the globe take melatonin to help them sleep better on long-haul flights, so you may be wondering if it’s safe to give melatonin to your baby or toddler.

Unfortunately melatonin is not safe to give to babies who are under 3 years of age.

Can I Take Milk And Snacks On A Plane For A Toddler?

With your child’s body clock thrown off during long distance travel, they are likely to become hungry at some fairly unusual times.

The good news when traveling with a baby or toddler on airplanes is that you can take formula, milk, snacks such as puffs or Cheerios, and other food in your carry-on or diaper bag and in quantities greater than 100ml / 3.4oz limit, provided the quantities you take are deemed to be “reasonable” by airport security official.

So you can take as much milk, water, juice, pureed pouches, snacks and jars of baby food as you like when traveling on a plane, both domestically and internationally.

Nick is a passionate dad who co-founded Rockinbaby to share his parenting journey with other new parents. He has a BSc and MBA, and works as a senior marketing professional. In his spare time Nick loves watching sports, staying fit and traveling. Learn more about Nick here.

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