Tips for changing time zones with a Baby
When Baby B was 4 months old we enlisted the help of the Baby Sleep Site to help him develop better sleeping habits (read our articles here). The results were exactly what we needed. After implementing the changes to Baby B’s routine, his sleeping habits changed and he wasn’t waking every hour anymore.
Over the past few months, Baby B has continued to be good at taking his naps throughout the day. We’ve recently eliminated his third nap, so we’re now down to two naps a day (about 3 hours per day).
Unfortunately, Baby B still does not sleep through the night. We were down to one feeding during the night, but we traveled a lot last month so we are up again at night. I know that part of the reason he still wakes up at night is because of me. When he wakes crying, I easily give in and feed him. It’s easier to just feed him instead of letting him cry because it means that I can go back to sleep quicker. This is the real battle.
I know this is not good and I need to break the habit because he’s getting used to night time feedings again. When I feed him, it only takes 10 minutes and he goes right back down in his crib and falls asleep again. It doesn’t disrupt my sleep too much because he doesn’t fuss or cry. But I know this is a bad habit and I need to deal with it.
On top of that, he’s now teething. Four teeth have appeared in the last 2 weeks!
Now that his teeth are through I am determined to eliminate a night feed (at least for the next short while). The last couple of nights have involved 1 ½ hours of crying, but eventually he does go back to sleep. I comfort him every 20 minutes and it seems to help.
Last month was the first time we had to deal with time zone changes while traveling with an infant. We went to Maui, Hawaii (3 hours back) and Windsor, Ontario (3 hours forward). Within 2 weeks, Baby B had to deal with 6 hours of time zone differences – not ideal for an infant’s sleep schedule.
Thankfully, Baby B is an excellent traveler. He’s great on planes and seems to know when it’s time to be a good boy. However, these past couple of trips did disrupt his sleep habits.
Tips we used to help Baby B deal with time zone changes
- Keep the day after arrival as an open day – We didn’t book anything or have any concrete plans. Instead, we let Baby B decide what our schedule was going to be. It was a day to play in the pool, explore the hotel and get familiar with the new surroundings. It also gave us a chance to evaluate his new sleeping times.
- Stay consistent – Try to give your baby the same routine and sleeping environment as at home. If 3 naps are normal, try to give your baby 3 naps a day. The timing of the naps will change, so expect this and plan your day accordingly. If 7:00PM is normal bed time, this may change to 10:00PM because their internal clock doesn’t adjust instantly. Don’t fight it, just adapt and accept the fact that you’ll be going to bed earlier or later than normal.
- Get your baby outdoors and active – The more fresh air you give your baby, the better they are likely to sleep. An active baby equals a tired baby.
- Try to shift the schedule before leaving – A few days before you leave home, try to shift your baby’s bedtime by 20 -30 minutes each night to get ready for the new time zone changes.
- Immediately change your meal schedule – Once you’ve arrived at your new destination, get on the current eating schedule. This will help both you and your baby adapt to the new time zones.
Additional travel tips when heading back in time (West):
If the time zone change is only a couple hours we prefer to keep our at home schedule. But when we went to Hawaii, it wasn’t going to work because Baby B’s bedtime would be too early. Each day for both naps and at bedtime, we kept Baby B up a little later. Naturally, his body started to adapt to the new time.
Additional travel tips when heading forward in time (East):
Since it was only a 3 hour time change when we went to Ontario, we kept Baby B on the same schedule as at home (we recommend this for short trips). It meant Baby B went to bed a little later (around 9:00PM) but then he also slept in later (around 8:30AM). It was actually a nice change. We could go out to dinner and not have a cranky tired baby and in the morning we all got to sleep past 7am – remember those days?!
I didn’t notice the time changes bothering Baby B that much. When we arrived at our destination, he adapted to the new time zone within a couple of days. We actually found that when we came home, it was more difficult to get him back on his previous schedule.
Traveling is not the only reason Baby B is still not sleeping properly through the night. He’s teething, learning new skills and might be going through the common 7-9 month sleep regression.
Sleep training is an ongoing effort that has frequent minor setbacks. I’m trying very hard to keep Baby B’s routine normal over the next month, but it’s difficult because we’re moving to a new house in two weeks.
We’re curious to see how Baby B handles the 9 hour time difference when we visit Europe next month – that will be the real test! Check back in to see how we do…