during his first year of life Leonardo has been on the plane 15 times, but never before he experienced changing time zones for more than 2 hours. needless to say that after 17 hours of traveling from New York to St. Petersburg, and with 8 hours difference in time, his built-in clock was as confused as mine. still, he was happy and energetic (as opposed to zombie-like me who didn’t have a chance to close my eyes during the red-eye flight with 14mo infant on my lap) but his napping and eating schedule was completely mixed up and unpredictable. I decided to play it by ear (that is, just pay attention to what he felt like doing) and stopped looking at the clock in vain attempts to figure out what time he thought it was. this is how we fought our very first jet lag:
upon arrival first thing we did was a refreshing bath – warm water, just 5 minutes, with a full change of clothes. after the bath I let him explore the new environment and play with the new toys. he was excited but his energy was wearing off quickly. I fed him a light meal – delicious chicken soup made by my Mom. then I nursed Leonardo to sleep, not knowing if it will be a nap or a night sleep (it was 7pm in St.Pete, that is his normal night sleep time – except that in New York it was noon, that is time for his second day nap) surely enough, 3 hours after he awoke – happy and ready to play. I was no match to his energy, so my parents came to my rescue and let me rest while they took him to a playground outside . I know, I know – 11pm is an odd time to go to a playground, but hey, whatever works. and it did. he came home tired and ready to sleep, and from 2am till noon (!!!) he didn’t wake up not even once.
day napping and eating was a mess – again, we just did it when he felt like it, and after his usual 2 day naps I was ready to put him down for the night. warm bath as usual, nursing and reading, my baby was fast asleep by 9pm. not bad! – I thought, secretly hoping ing that we conquered the jetlag in a record time. but of course I was wrong. Leo woke up at midnight, ready to play. so we did. this time it took us a little shorter to get tired, and at 2am I put him for the night, while I couldn’t fall asleep until 4am myself. at 7am he was wide awake… hmm, so I guess he started adjusting but only on one end – 6am was his usual wake up time in New York.
since his wake up time became somewhat normal, on our 3rd day I decided to stick to the usual schedule – and it worked! (we were late only by one hour) at 8pm I started putting him down for the night. worked again! he slept by himself in his travel crib. around 11pm he woke up, crying but sleepy. this time it was not for a play but simply for comfort nursing to help him fall back to sleep. his sleep was light and superficial, during the night he woke up several times and insisted on nursing and sleeping in bed with me – something we haven’t been doing since he was 6mo. but somehow it felt like the right thing to do, I knew he needed me to fight that jetlag bug, the same one that still kept me awake at night as well.
normal schedule during the day, usual bedtime, but same story with waking up and insisting on nursing at night. I didn’t even bother trying to transfer him to the crib this time – we slept all night in my bed cuddling, and it was beautiful. I couldn’t believe the time when we woke up – my iPhone clock was showing 10:30am. we were both a little sleepy but rested and happy. I felt like we finally won that battle with red-eye monster, and in fact I was right.
no jet lag! yohoo!!!
so my two cents on the subject: don’t force it, play along and let your little one adjust to the new rhythm in his own pace. from my own experience, as well as from what I heard form other mamas, it takes about 3-5 days. yes, it is brutal. but the good news is that it is temporary. and hopefully it won’t fog the beautiful memories from your trip.