Baby Jet Lag Blues

 In Travel Tips

I’d like to rip my ears off, drown them in a stiff drink and sit alone on the beach. That’s what I am thinking as I am trying to get my son to sleep in Seattle after a 3 week trip in China and Japan. Baby jet lag has reared its head and it is ugly indeed.

Now traveling with my son is worth it in every way, and I will continue to do it, but this week, as we work through his baby jet lag sure has tested my resolve.

Bottoms Up

If you follow me on Twitter, then you know how hard the baby jet lag adjustment has been for Dek this week. We got back to the States on Sunday night (May 22nd) and have been ever so slowly creeping our way back to Pacific Coast time.

Oh, and did I mentioned that Mike and I both had to go back to work on Monday? I’m only in my office on Mondays and Wednesdays, so obviously there was some poor planning on my part, but every vacation day is precious. Why waste one on parent and baby jet lag?

When we first got back, Dek was waking up from around 10pm to 4am thanks to his baby jet lag. We allowed this the first couple of nights since he was still not sure when was day and when was night, and when exactly he should be sleeping. Mike and I took turns going out to the living room with him and watching a movie or playing with toys, and having some food.

Separation Anxiety In Full Effect

Dek didn’t just suffer from baby jet lag, but he also had some separation anxiety while we were away and who can blame him. First he didn’t see his dad for two weeks while we traveled together. Then I threw a crazy babysitter at him for a few hours a day for a week while I was working. He was sleeping in a new room every few days, there was new food on the table at random times, and his usual sleep schedule had been thrown out the window. For a boy who thrives on a schedule, he managed remarkably well for the three weeks we were gone. I still can’t believe how awesome he behaved and all he put up with.

I guess I am paying for my good fortune now though. Naps have been easy. He goes down without a peep. He even goes to bed at his normal time without a peep (well, apparently not tonight). Then 10 or 11pm rolls around, which is exactly when we are trying to go to bed ourselves most nights, and he tries every trick in his book to get out of bed. Baby jet lag strikes again.

So what is he yelling? “Down,” his new favorite world and one he learned on our trip.  Now my boy who once would go to sleep without much of a fight, and definitely could not sleep if we were near him, won’t go to sleep unless we are physically sitting in the room. Except he isn’t actually going to sleep. As soon as we think he is firmly passed out, he will wake up as soon as we leave. This goes on and on.

Last night Mike finally got Dek back to sleep a little after midnight after lying on his floor for over an hour. We’ve been trying the Sleep Lady shuffle method this time since nothing else seems to be working. Twenty minutes later, Dek was up. I gave up and finally brought him into bed with me. This had worked while we were away, so I was hopeful we could all finally get some sleep. Nope, he didn’t want to sleep with us either. So now what? Finally he started signing for milk. I gave him a quarter of a cup of milk and put him back down. Finally he went to sleep.

At 6:58am he was up and ready to go, or so he thought. He had to have a morning nap by 8:30am. Thanks to baby jet lag he was a wreck.

Mishaps along the way

Granted, we have had some mishaps as we have tried to adjust Dek back to Pacific Time and push through his jet lag. Our first full day back (Monday), I had to go to work, so I had our old nanny come for the day. This was both good and bad. It was good, because she has a baby and this was a very nice distraction for Dek after the nanny had to wake him up around 9am. The bad part was that Dek’s separation anxiety was put to the test. Mommy had disappeared. Would she come back? We had to do the same thing on Wednesday when I went to the office. This schedule had not been upsetting before we left, but after having mom for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the past three and a half weeks, he wasn’t sure what to expect anymore.

My second mishap came on Tuesday. I had been up with Dek until 4am. In my exhausted brain, I never set myself an alarm. When I finally woke up to Dek yelling for me, I assumed it was 8 or 9am. It was 11:59am. Almost noon! This was a disaster. How was I supposed to get Dek back to a normal schedule if we were sleeping half the day away? We were both up till 2am that night, possibly longer. I’m starting to block out how little sleep I’ve gotten this week thanks to both of our jet lag from this trip.

Our third mistake has been to not stick to a method of getting Dek to sleep and really sticking to it. Kids thrive on routine, schedules and knowing exactly what to expect. We have been so tired, Mike and I are just desperate to get him to sleep in any way possible so we can sleep too.

The Grandparents Come to Visit

My parents arrived on the Thursday after our return. Their visit had been planned for months. My last-minute trip to Asia was a bit of hiccup in our plans to wander with them. We would now be sticking closer to home so we could all try to catch up on our sleep. Normally a trip from my parents, or any family for that matter, would be enormously welcome. My mom normally gets up with Dek, so we can get some sleep on the weekends. It’s heaven. With Dek sleeping in late and up all hours of the night though, there was not much my parents could do except let us take a few naps during the day if we needed too. This conflicted with my desire to actually see my parents though and spend some quality time with them. I only see them 1-3 times a year.

So Now What Do We Do

I have one more week left of work and then I will be home with Dek full time. Hopefully I will have a little more sleep in me, we will be past the parent and baby jet lag, and have the energy to tackle all of the bad sleep habits and other naughty behavior Dek picked up while we traveled in Asia. I spoiled him while away and certainly let him do stuff, like sleep in my bed and eat stuff with sugar in it, that he normally does not do at home, so I need to reverse some of the effects of that.

As far as sleep goes though, what am I doing wrong? How do I get this jet lagged baby to sleep as well as he used to, or even as well as he did while we were away? Coming back from China has been so much harder than when we came back in December and faced our first huge bought of baby jet lag. Dek is six months older of course, and much more aware of his power over us. I think he is also hitting the “scared” stage. A nightlight has now been added to his room, which helped initially.

I have heard it can take up to three weeks to get over baby jet lag. Can I really wait that long? Not sure I have much of a choice.

Read more in our Baby jet lag survival page.

Baby jet lag

Baby in sunglasses via ShutterStock.

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Showing 9 comments
  • Jessica

    That is so tough! Jet lag in England once had me questioning every bit of my resolve to travel with my kids. But, somehow we survived! Hopefully, you will get some good sleep soon.

  • Happily the jet lag does not seem to be as bad when we get to the destination, just when we get home. It has never been this bad before, so it caught me by surprise. But, he’s still sleeping so far, so fingers crossed!

  • Myra

    Oh I loathe jet lag! What I noticed when we came home from our trip, was my kids finally letting loose, and releasing the pent up frustration and worry that comes with traveling to a new place, eating new foods, and sleeping in a foreign bed. That first week home was rough. Especially when you add on sleep deprivation.

    • Yes! Ok, I’m so glad you said that because I just kept scratching my head thinking how did we transition to Asian time so much easier but coming home has been so rough. I think your right. They just let loose all of that tension they have been holding onto while on the road and are now free to just freak out cause they are comfy again.

  • Jessa

    Where’s the follow up to this? Just had a similar experience with my 5 month old. We are coming back from 1 month in China and are trying to adjust to Pacific time. It’s so rough! Thanks!

  • Olivia

    As I read this it is 3am and I’m typing with one hand on my iPhone with my three month on in my oth arm. We just got back from Tokyo three days ago and this is night three. I haven’t had any sleep and was worried of what’s to come but this blog entry has made me feel better. I’m not alone.

    • Keryn Means

      I feel your pain Olivia. Hang in there. It WILL get better. I promise.

  • Juliana

    Please tell me how to solve this situation?!????,
    I’m going trough exactly the same situation, 6 mouths old baby isy got back from 3 weeks holiday in Brasil with 5hrs time difference behind ours.
    Over there he was sleeping in bed with me getting super spoiled, now trying to make him sleep in he’s room inside he’s cot! Nightmare !!!
    Please tell me that wl end

    • Keryn Means

      Oh Juliana, I’m so sorry! Yes, it will get better. Jet lag isn’t your biggest problem, it’s that he got used to being with you and on you all of the time. Some sleep training may be in order. Start with naps. That’s always easiest because you are more awake. 3am is definitely not the time to try something new. After I got back from Europe with my 5 month old he wouldn’t go to sleep unless he was physically on top of me because I’d spent 5 weeks walking around with him strapped to me in a baby carrier. It took about a week, but we got back into our rhythm. You will make it!!! I promise.

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