It’s the height of the summer travel season, and for those of you about to embark on your first major vacation with your baby, you’ll need to prepare. And we’re not just talking about how to pack — but how to deal with the impending overhaul of your baby’s (and your) sleep-schedule when skipping time zones.
Managing your child’s sleep if they’re under the age of two — “That’s really where the struggle is more prominent,” says Karen Schwarzbach, a Northern California-based private sleep coach and founder of Babies To Sleep. “A child that is a year or 2-years-old needs to get anywhere from 13 to 15 hours of sleep in a day… If they get to Paris, they could care less about looking at the Eiffel Tower if they haven’t slept.”
Schwarzbach, who has three children of her own, including a pair of twin boys, has been helping parents with sleep training (including for long-distance traveling) ever since she went through it herself — her sons are now 18. “Not only do I have clients that travel within California,” she says, “I have many, many families who travel back to india, who travel to Europe or the East Coast. It’s a very common conversation.”
The main goal is to organize traveling around your child’s nap times. Some parents will even begin to incrementally change their child’s schedule before takeoff, adjusting forward or backward depending on when they’re going. “For some reason, if families are traveling east, the body adjusts a little more easily,” says Schwarzbach. “But going west, they’re gaining a lot of hours, so that can be very challenging for babies.”
And if your trip is a quick one, it’s not necessary to make the shifts. “If you’re going to be gone for a week or more, it’s better to be on the time zone for where you are,” says Schwarzbach. “If only three or four days, it almost doesn’t make sense to do that.”