Toddler jet lag. Oh what fun.
I don’t know about you, but jet lag really does my head in. I’ve never been one of those people who bounce back within a couple of days. It takes me at least a week when heading to Europe and closer to two when heading back to Australia. Needless to say I was dreading what jet lag would do to a 19 month old toddler. Here’s how that went down.
Before we left I did as much research as I could about how to deal with kids and jet lag. There isn’t all that much tangible information out there, but I found a few things here and there that gave me a few ideas to try. At least I was preparing myself for a potential chaos. Right? umm… yes.
Australia to Norway
From Australia to Norway the time difference currently sits at 8 hours. I had read that young children could take as many days to adjust as there is hours in difference between home and the destination. I tried my best to be aware of Australian time as much as I could during the first days to better understand how Anakin was experiencing his days.
Of course, all routines went out the window the first day never to return. Yes, i cried on the inside. Coping with new sleeping spaces and bright summer nights was hard. The first few nights Anakin would wake up around 3-4 am. I was prepared for this and knew he was probably hungry, so we got up and had a bite to eat. I kept him up for a little bit (1-2 hours) playing very quietly before going back to bed to have a bit more sleep. This worked surprisingly well.
Local meal times
Once we got to Norway we immediately switched to local meal times. We obviously adjusted a bit the first few days by offering bigger snacks between, but made sure dinner happened as close to local dinner time as possible. This definitely helped us adjust faster. Anakin is used to eating at the same times every day so his body clock needed to work out this new schedule in a bigger way than we did.
New sleep spaces
Our bedtime in Australia had a very specific routine. Once we got to Norway this vanished and Anakin was faced with new sleeping spaces all the time. This was less than ideal and had a huge impact on him. I thought it was hard myself, and I’m supposed to be an “adaptable” adult, for him it was terrible. We tried as best we could to replicate as much as possible of our old routines, like bath before bed and bedtime breastfeeding, but the shit still hit the fan in a big way most nights in the first week. It was impossible to get him down in a portacot so we started co-sleeping full-time. This helped make Anakin feel safe when he woke up at night and found me next to him. Naps were equally impossible and would only occur in a car or in the stroller. Needless to say there was a lot of walking.
Milk supply and comfort
The first days in Norway Anakin would feed a lot during the night and not much during the day. This was partly due to his days being upside down still, but also because my milk supply needed time to adjust. Anakin would seek out the breast for comfort the whole trip and would feed more frequently than he did before we left. We also started doing the feeding lying down at nighttime, which he, for better and worse, loves. It was a big adjustment for me to go back to night feeds and I can honestly say it was the trip that nearly broke my will to continue breastfeeding.
It’s a huge adjustment for a small child to travel far and be exposed to all new things and people. We were more or less constantly on the go and Anakin was surrounded by new people wanting to engage him all the time. The first few days he rejected both me and my partner except at nighttime, everything was exciting and it was all systems go constantly. By the end of the 5th day he had reached a peak and had a massive three-hour meltdown at bedtime. It wasn’t pretty and I’ve never seen anything like it. After this Anakin became very clingy and would stay close to me most of the time.
Norway to Australia
I was really nervous about how coming back would play out. We landed in Melbourne at 1am and Anakin had slept quite a bit on the last stretch here. By the time we went to bed at home it was 4am and I was only expecting a couple of hours of sleep. Everything I had been told and had read said it would take longer to adjust coming home than it did going over.
The first morning we slept from 4am to 12.30. Anakin fell asleep without trouble next to me and happily snoozed for hours. There were no naps that day and we kept bedtime to the same time as usual. At 7pm he was asleep again and slept for just over 2 hours before waking up as I went to bed. After being awake for an hour, but staying in bed the whole time, he fell back asleep and slept all the way until 12.30 the next day again, as did I. I can honestly say he’s never slept for that long in his entire life.
After the initial sleepathon was over we started to see the other side of the jet lag. Anakin would go to sleep at his normal time, but wake again 1-2 hours later. He would then stay awake anything from 1-4 hours. We didn’t get him out of bed, but stayed there with him until he fell back asleep. This continued for over a week.
Night feedings and wake up times
Anakin started feeding at night again, and would wake up around 4am for a feed. He’d then go back to sleep. For the first few days he would sleep until 8.30-9, then it became 7.30-8, then 6.30-7, and now, almost 4 weeks later he still wakes at 4 demanding boob, which he does not get, and then sleeps on and off until 5.30 when he decides it’s time to start the day. Our hopes of maybe getting a somewhat normal start time of 6.30 has vanished. After Anakin started demanding boob every hour from 4, I decided it was time to stop his night feed as it did not look as if he would stop on his own. We’re still working on getting rid of the 4am wake up, but with no luck so far.
Naps coming back was a big issue I wanted resolved quickly. Anakin does not sleep well in the pram and will only do short naps if you keep him on the move constantly. And I do mean constantly. No stopping for anything and no going indoors anywhere as this will wake him up. I tried co-sleeping for naps, but that simply did not work. I then decided to give the cot a go again, making sure to wind him down with a bit of a feed beforehand. I discovered that his baby call has music it plays for about 10 minutes before stopping. I put this on and laid next to his cot holding his hand. Surprisingly this worked from the first day and is still the way we do nap times now. I guess the boy deserves credit for being more adaptable than I thought!
Coming back definitely wasn’t as bad as I feared. And co-sleeping full-time is something I really enjoy doing. Anakin goes to sleep content, generally stays asleep, except his 4am boob alarm, and wakes up happier than ever. The difference in him is quite noticeable. I also sleep better knowing that he is right there, there is no baby call to listen to and no need to get out of bed. Besides, I love getting night hugs and feeling his warm body next to me. We have been bedsharing part-time for a while, but I much prefer it the way it is now.
(All images are Instagrams @didajenta)