Ready to Land? Handling Baby Jet Lag

Ready for Baby Jet Lag? -

Ready for Baby Jet Lag? –

This summer I traveled back from Asia with my husband. Like the other trips, this involved a long total flight time of about 16 hours with an additional 2 hour layover in Japan. This time though, I traveled with two children, one being just four months, and the other being three and a half years old. That was a challenge in itself, but I was preparing myself for the bigger challenge: that of adjusting my four month old to the time zone changes, and readjusting my infant’s bio-clock. In a previous post, I had described the excruciating process (involving nearly 2 weeks) of converting my oldest daughter (then 4 months of age) to Eastern Standard Time (EST) after we returned from Singapore in 2013. What my husband and I ended up doing was to move our child’s bedtime half an hour to one hour later every night, so that her long stretch of night-time sleep could be preserved each night. Eventually after about 12 days we got her bedtime to where we wanted it (see post Baby Jet Lag…It’s Real). However this method meant that we as an entire family had to follow her schedule, down to eating our meals at night and having black out curtains.

This time, traveling back with our second daughter to the western hemisphere, I was open to trying a different method. The baby would be sleeping in a crib in the master bedroom and the idea of the whole family following our infant’s pace of time adjustment just didn’t seem feible with a toddler. The toddler would be used to playing in daylight hours, so would be very noisy and may interrupt the baby’s sleep during daytime. It is also likely that the toddler won’t be able to sleep with a baby crying several times at night. So I decided to try a different method: going cold turkey.

So what happened? The first day we arrived home, as our baby ended up staying awake most of the daytime hours. Then that first night she woke up at least 4-5 times at night, about once an hour. Each time she started to cry I had to quickly scoop her up out of the crib and then shush her by feeding her, as I was afraid to wake up my toddler. She would feed a little bit each time and then go back to sleep. In the end I put her in the same bed as me, as it was easier to breastfeed that way since I felt so exhausted from the day’s traveling. In the morning the baby passed some gas so I suspected she was waking up and crying at night more from gas in her tummy, and was really feeding more for comfort since she didn’t feed for long each time she woke up.

The second night she woke up about 3 times. Once it was about an hour after she had slept and seemed to be more from gas or an unresolved burp. I was able to quickly pat her back to sleep. Then she woke up again about 2 hours later. This time I made sure she drank at least 10 minutes on both sides in the breastfeeding session before putting her down, in the hopes that this would settle her the rest of the night. However, I really felt I needed a place to put baby without having to worry about the baby’s crying waking up our toddler. I ended up using a spare room that was away from our toddler’s room and putting an infant bath tub with a pillow for the ‘mattress’ cushion at the bottom. When the baby then woke up a few hours later, I was able to then scoop her up quickly and take her to this other room. I could then close the door. Even though I still fed her via my breast, I noticed she didn’t seem as hungry. The spare room (in this case we used a storeroom) provided some insulation of her crying from our toddler and other neighbors in the surrounding apartments.

The 3rd night, baby woke up about 2 times. The moment the baby awoke and started crying, I took her to the spare room. There I breastfed her only 5 minutes on each side as I wanted to slowly wean her off of being fed breastmilk at night. This seemed to satisfy baby and baby went back to sleep for 3 more hours.

The fourth night was when I went cold turkey. I decided she needed to cut out feeding altogether. I made sure I fed her a lot during the day (about every 2 hours and offered both breasts each session). The baby ended up sleeping quite well, though she did wake up with brief crying spells twice in the night. When she did wake up, I put her in the bed in the storeroom, and closed the door. She cried about 10 minutes the first time and then went back to sleep. Then she awoke briefly an hour later but was able to put herself back to sleep with only a few cries before waking up another hour later this time wide awake and hungry. So by the 4th night, our infant managed to sleep a 7 hour stretch relatively well, and was able to put herself back to sleep without much intervention on my part. In the end our infant got over her jet lag in just 4-5 nights…truly a miracle! The dark storeroom and the white background noise I created likely also helped.

The rest of the family survived relatively unscathed. My eldest daughter managed to get over her jet lag within 3 days. This involved some intentional steps of not allowing her to have an afternoon nap or a minimal one at best, lots of physical activity and waking her up in the mornings at the desired time. I think she would have gotten over it faster if her sister didn’t wake up wailing at certain times in the night the first few nights causing her to wake up and then have difficulty falling back asleep. My husband had broken sleep the first few nights but was able to sleep well by the 4th night, and quickly resumed his working during the daytime. As for me, I ended up just having a few sleepless nights!

I am writing this post to share my experience. Of course every baby is different and the age of the baby as well as the traveling circumstances (e.g., how long the flights are and the duration of travel) will also affect how quickly he/she gets over jet lag. Hopefully as you travel during this winter season, your baby will be able to adjust smoothly to each location and time change! Merry Christmas!


10 Tips for Road Traveling with Young ‘Uns

MH900422768Appropriate traveling advice obviously depends on the length of your car journey and the age of your child! But here are some tips I’ve gathered from traveling with a toddler on the road and using hotels:

#1 Bring 1-2 spare changes of clothes
You really never know when you might need these, so it helps to be prepared. We’ve had our experience with unexpected toddler vomiting in the car. It can be useful too if your child is just about potty trained. Potty accidents can still occur! Our toddler is pretty much potty trained, but we still find it helpful at times to put the diaper on for long car trips, since sometimes it can be difficult to find a place to stop to use the toilet.

#2 Choose layers for your toddler
This is not so much of an issue in summer time, but more for the colder seasons. Dress smart by bringing layers that can be easily removed or added on when it’s time to get out of the car like jackets and vests.  It can get hot in the car or sitting in the car seat, but be much colder/windier outside.

#3 Bring 2-3 spare plastic bags!
These come in useful as garbage bags, vomiting bags or to put soiled clothes/shoes. Especially for those unexpected vomiting/diarrhea moments!

#4 Be clever about food
Pick items that won’t fill up too much but take a while to eat (helps kill time on the road), and are still age appropriate for your child. For example for an older toddler, you might be able to bring some grapes on the vine, mandarin/satsuma oranges, rice cakes, raisins. If the toddler is able to, let him/her figure out how to pluck the grapes off the vine or peel the orange (under parent supervision of course!). Mini wrapped cheese rounds or cheese sticks are also good options if you aren’t going for a long trip and can use cold packs to keep these foods cold. For an older infant or young toddler, what I’ve found works is to carve small amounts of banana using a spoon from a banana and feeding it slowly to the child…

#5 Pack a bit extra – food
These come in useful for those unexpected (long) car jam moments. Choose foods that are child and adult friendly such as bagels, granola bars, bananas, dried fruit and grapes. Grapes are also helpful for keeping the driver awake!

#6 Pack less – toys
You really don’t need to bring too many toys; there will be plenty of distractions where you are going, and you can always buy a small fun child-friendly souvenir or two along the way if needed. I always end up using only about half of the toys and other entertainment items I’ve brought.

The key is a small variety so it feels ‘fresh’ in terms of different activities to the child (e.g., 2 thin new books or  library books, an old toy friend she hasn’t seen in a while, stickers, a slinky, paper/crayons to draw on or a magnetic board, a tactile toy or 1-2 new toys from the dollar store). An Ipad or tablet computer is useful for playing movies, music, games, videos, show past photos taken. If not, a DVD player can be an alternative. My toddler also often enjoys listening to children’s music or language CDs played during car trips.

#7 Bring a small sponge and a bit of dish detergent in a small travel bottle
These come in very useful when you need to wash your toddler’s dish/utensils or sippy/travel cup, and if you’re buying back food to eat in the hotel room.

#8 Sleep smart
If you going to a hotel/motel, it often helps to bring your playpen (unless the hotel can provide a crib or playpen); everyone will likely get a better night’s rest. The toddler has a familiar place to sleep and you get more room on the bed to yourself.

#9 Drop the booster seat
You can bring a booster seat if you want, but this is not really needed if the child is at least 2 years of age. Why? This is because most restaurants provide booster seats or high chairs. Also, in the hotel room, you can use a pillow in a hotel chair to create a makeshift booster seat (it works!).

#10 Find a hotel with the right amenities
You’ll definitely want a decent sized fridge (not a bar fridge) and a microwave in the hotel room. These are so useful and money saving as you can then have the option of buying in from the nearby grocery store to have a simple meal, as well as store milk and other essentials for breakfast. At times we’ve enjoyed having a hotel room that comes with a small kitchenette area. It’s an additional plus if the hotel has an indoor pool too, if rainy stormy weather hits during your vacation!


Preparing Well for Take-Off: How to Prep Your Toddler

airplanewindowSpring’s here –flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, pollen is in the air and summer vacation is around the corner.  Is this the first time your toddler will be traveling by air? For the best results when traveling, take a little bit of time to prepare your toddler for flying on an airplane. Below are 5 key tips that may help:

Start Early
Start preparing your toddler at least 2-3 weeks in advance. Don’t wait till the last day or two, because some things take time getting used to (like wearing headphones for a young toddler, see our experience further down in this post).

Make it Familiar
Prepare your toddler (and yourself) by talking to your child about taking an airplane journey, what airplanes are and what they look like. You can show video clips, images and even videos of children in airplanes, read books about airplanes and tell airplane stories. Of course you don’t have to do all these items, but the aim is to keep talking about the upcoming trip so it sounds exciting, and so it won’t be that scary and overwhelming when the traveling time comes.

Get & Use a Headset
Get your child used to a child headset (needed on the airplane). It can be as simple as just 5 minutes a day watching a video, so the toddler gets idea that he needs the headset to get sound.  Parental modeling of using headsets helps too. Unfortunately, we started this process too late so she refused to wear a headset on board the 8 plane rides to and fro Asia. Luckily back then she was a 20 month old and was fine watching silent animation.

Get Used to White Noise
If your toddler is not used to this, get him or her used to sleeping with a bit of background white noise or in a slightly noisy environment. Why? Because the airplane is very noisy environment with frequent announcements, meals being served, seat belt signs being lit up with sounds etc…so it will help if your child is used to sleeping through a bit of noise! That way, he or she (and you) will be able to better rest on the plane.

Get Comfortable
If you get extra gear to take on the trip like a portable potty seat (small/light) or a booster seat, start using it a few times at home or when you are out and about, so that the child gets familiar and comfortable to using them. This will ease the transition to using them on the plane and during traveling later on.

Hope these tips make the next plane ride with your toddler a success!

Pre-Travel Considerations (Part 4)…What to Set Up With Your Airline

dadbabysunsetbeachSince there’s bound to be a lot of traveling during this busy holiday season, here’s a quick post on some traveling tips for you and your baby/toddler before you take to the air. Specifically, I would like to provide some advice on things you should set up with your airline before you travel. The tips below apply more to international traveling, but hopefully some of it will still be helpful to those traveling domestically.

Bassinet seats
Be sure to check with your airline ahead of time to determine what procedure they use in assigning bassinet seats. Some airlines will ask you to call into their office 1-2 weeks in advance of flying to request bassinet seating because they only open up those seats at that time. When we used Eva airlines, we called about 5 days prior and were so thankful they still had bassinet seats available for 3 out of the 4 legs of our international journey! Other airlines (like Delta airlines when we flew with them internationally), require you to go to the check-in counter on the day of the flight in order to request bassinet seating. This can be a pain especially if you happen to have an early morning flight (which we did at one point). Imagine having to get to the airport another ½ -1 hour earlier especially with a baby early in the morning!

If you’re traveling internationally or with a foreign airline, the airline will often provide special perks like tailored age-appropriate meals. To get these age-appropriate meals assigned to your child, you would need to request them ahead of time (often within 24 hours of the flight) from the airline office. Having some meals provided really relieves you of the burden of trying to carry all of your baby’s or toddler’s food on the plane. And it tastes pretty good too! I was impressed by the number of different options provided by Eva airlines, depending on the child’s taste and weaning status. For example, there was a Baby Meal (BBML) for those between 6 months to 2 years of age, a Post Weaning Meal (PWML) for those over 2 years old with soft and easy to chew options, and a Child Meal (CHML) for children 2-5 years old. This means that for children under 5 years of age, parents can request for the child’s meal on the plane ahead of time, and just bring snacks/supplements!

Another sometimes overlooked perk of certain airlines is that diapers can be provided on board. Yes, it’s free of charge! This can be a real blessing because you then don’t have to worry about bringing so many diapers on board (believe me, they take up quite a bit of carry-on baggage space). However, you would also need to call into the airline office ahead of time to request these for the flights that you’re taking with the airline. A request for diapers usually needs to be made at least 24 hours in advance, but may vary with different airlines. There are 2 other things you should be aware of when requesting diapers on board. First, figure out your child’s size in diapers as international airlines may use kilogram weights and different designated sizes (e.g.,  a medium M 16-23 lbs or 7 -10kg diaper provided on the plane differs from the  ‘stage 3 diapers’ usually sold in the United States which is 16-28 lb or 7-13 kg). Second, the number of diapers provided does not correspond to the length of the flight. We have experienced receiving only 2 diapers on one long all flight lasting over 12 hours, and on a short-haul flight of 4 ½ hours receiving a whole package of 8-10 diapers!

Request Special Assistance
When you’re on the phone with an airline agent, don’t forget to request ‘special assistance’ if you feel you might need it with your family. This is especially the case if you have multiple children in the family and need assistance getting from one gate to the next during a short layover. This will help to make the transitions between flights much smoother and less stressful!

Lastly, I would like to make a note about travel insurance, even though it doesn’t strictly fall under airline requests. Before you travel, it is wise to look into travel insurance. Check if your existing insurance covers your travel, or get some other insurance that does. This can be helpful if you or a family member end up needing a doctor or hospitalization during the trip, especially if there are any medical concerns existing in the family. Not to mention, travel insurance plans often also cover issues like loss of luggage, damaged luggage, or delayed travel plans. Happy Holiday Traveling!

Pre-Travel Considerations (Part 3)… Pros, Cons & Considerations of Bulkhead Seating

totbasketrabbitTo further help you in your decision making of whether to get a bulkhead with bassinet or row seat for your under 2 toddler, here in Part 3 of this series we examine the pros, cons and considerations of bulkhead seating:

Pro: Bulkhead seating with bassinets can offer many advantages especially when on a long haul flight. Besides sleeping in it, our toddler actually enjoyed sitting in it for periods of time with her toys and allowed us to spoon feed her from it. The bassinet then became multifunctional as a playpen and high chair! It seemed she enjoyed facing the other passengers so that she had more to see and observe (instead of just seeing the back of heads in front of her). When she became bored with her toys, we engaged her visually using the entertainment monitor (since this swiveled and so could be angled for her to watch from the bassinet). Just remember to immediately pull up the video monitor from the middle bulkhead seat after the plane takes off, before the bassinet is set up. Otherwise you will have trouble getting the video monitor out once the bassinet is set up!

Unexpectedly, the bassinet also became incredibly useful for putting personal and miscellaneous items like purses, jackets, meal trays, pillows, toys and blankets. Another plus was having more leg room in front to stretch our legs, and our child could stand up and walk a little bit in front of our seats before and after takeoff.  An air stewardess on one flight did approach us to say that the bassinet was meant more for sleeping and so hinted that we should not have the toddler sit in if she was awake, but in the end she let us keep the toddler in. (Why mess with a happy toddler?) Having a bassinet can also be advantageous if you have a young baby or toddler because it provides a place for the child to sit in if needed even if it is just a short while, and so helps to take a load off your legs.

Cons: One big disadvantage to using a bassinet is that often when there is turbulence, the  flight stewardesses will ask you to take the baby out (i.e., wake the sleeping baby/toddler up and potentially make it more difficult for the child to fall back asleep) when the ‘fasten seat belt’ sign comes on. This can be very annoying for the toddler/baby trying to sleep, so make this decision of whether you really want bulkhead seats or not. Even though Eva airline’s bassinet comes with a safety seat belt and a zipper up cloth tummy strap, we were still advised by the stewardess that we needed to pick up the toddler in the event of turbulence. We were also told to zip up the zipper when the child was in the bassinet, but this proved difficult to do if the toddler chose to turn on the side to sleep. So we ended up just covering our toddler with a blanket without zipping up the tummy strap, since we reasoned we would need to pick up the baby during turbulence anyway. Thankfully during one of our long haul flights, no one asked us to take the toddler out even though the fasten seat belt sign had come on a few times. Another disadvantage is that the middle armrests of the bulkhead seats cannot be moved, which was an inconvenience when our toddler wanted to lie flat across our laps. Finally, since it is bulkhead seating, all items needed to be stowed up into the overhead cabins for takeoff and landing so you can’t keep the important diaper bag or other items within reach during these times.

Considerations: Each airline has its own regulations, so check to see if you need to call 1-2 weeks ahead of time to the airline to obtain a bassinet seat, or if you need to arrive at the airline counter earlier on the day of the flight to obtain a bassinet seat. Note as well that not all bassinets are created the same! When you request bulkhead seating, first check that airline’s weight/age bassinet requirements to ensure your toddler will be able to use it. Thankfully the Eva airline bassinets allowed a heavier/older child than the Delta airline bassinet regulations, so we were able to still use the Eva bassinets for our 20 month (11kg) toddler. The Eva airline bassinet was also larger and roomier than the Delta airline bassinet (quite narrow even for a 4 month old). It had enough space that our toddler could curl up in a fetal position on her side, even if she could not stretch her body out all the way.

Pre-Travel Considerations (Part 2)… Pros, Cons & Considerations of Row Seating  

Hand Holding Toy PlaneAs mentioned before in Part 1 (see Pre-Travel Considerations…Tips on Booking Flights), planning is everything in regards to traveling successfully with a young toddler under 2 years of age. One important consideration is whether to get a bulkhead seat with a bassinet or get the child his/her own row seat. On our recent trip to Asia, we had the chance to experience both, so here in Part 2 are some thoughts and considerations on getting a row seat for your toddler.

Pros: There are quite a few benefits to getting your child his/her own seat in a regular row. One advantage is that you can keep some needed items stowed under the seat in front during takeoff and landing. The middle armrests between seats can be pushed up, so a child will not only get his/her own seat, but he or she can also lie down quite easily across your laps. Also the video/entertainment screen is right in front of your child so it is up close and available for touch screen fun. Having your toddler have his/her own pull down tray also means all 3 can have meal trays  and eat at the same time.

Cons & Considerations: When we had a row to ourselves, we were surprised to see that our toddler found it more difficult to sleep on the harder seat cushion. She would wake up every 10-15 min when she turned, then scream for 5-10 minutes until she went back to sleep. Finally we had to get her deeply asleep first on a breastfeeding pillow on our lap and then transfer the whole pillow and her body to the seat itself. After that she slept beautifully for the next 6 hours. Another disadvantage of getting your child his/her own seat is of course the cost. However, generally the fare of a seat for a child under 2 years of age is not the full adult fare. Finally, having a row seat could mean the possibility of annoying passengers in the seat in front, especially if you have a fidgety toddler who loves to kick things like the back of seats!

Stay tuned…next up is Part 3 of this series where we examine the pros and cons of getting a bulkhead seat for your child. Of course the best case scenario is if you get the bulkhead seating with bassinet AND an empty seat next to you as well, but this has only happened once during our 3 flights with assigned bulkhead seating!


Pre-Travel Considerations…Tips on Booking Flights

Travelers with Baby in Stroller

Having just successfully made it to Asia and back to the States, and taken our toddler on 8 plane rides over the span of a month, I feel I have now learned a thing or two about airplane traveling with children. One crucial step to planning out the trip well is to choose your flights wisely. So here are 3  key recommendations on booking flights if you are planning to travel with a baby or toddler under 24 months:

Choosing the Flights
If you are taking a long haul flight, it is advisable to book an overnight flight. This obviously depends on the availability of flights to the destination, the airline you choose as well as your air fare and traveling budget. However, if you are able to and are traveling a long distance (e.g., from Asia to US or vice versa), I would recommend choosing a flight that leaves at night and gets into the destination early the next morning. This means that the baby/toddler will be sleeping most of the plane ride, and then the child is kept up most of the next day since it is daytime and you will be already doing things like sightseeing. That sort of forces the baby/toddler to be awake for longer than he or she is used to that first day at the destination, and hopefully will lead to a quicker adjustment to the destination’s time zone. This will likely result in less jet lag! But if you are not able to book an overnight flight, don’t worry. There are still ways to start adjusting the child’s sleeping on the flight to help with the jet lag transition later on.

Lap or Own Seat?
This is a question every parent of a young toddler will have to face. Lap ticket or buy the toddler his/her own seat? If it is just a short flight (e.g., domestic travel), then having a toddler or baby sit on the lap may be the most economical decision since babies and toddlers under 24 months usually travel free on domestic flights. However, if it is a long haul flight and you can afford it, it may be worth getting the child a seat, if not simply so that you won’t have to get sore legs and muscles from having the child sit or sleep on you for the 10 hour plus journey. If you obtain a lap ticket, know that there is a chance that you may be able to obtain (later down the line) bulkhead seating (with a bassinet) or an extra seat for the child at the check-in counter depending on how full the flight is. (For more about the pros and cons of bulkhead with bassinet seating compared to regular row seating, stay tuned for an upcoming post on this.) For now, here are a few important things you should know about airline tickets for children:

• Lap tickets are usually much cheaper to purchase for international flights, and are available as an option for those under 2 years of age. However, it will likely still be more than the 10% of the adult airfare often advertised by different airlines. Why? Because the child’s actual fare may be 10 %, but then you may need to pay additional taxes on the ticket. This could mean paying a total of about 30-35% of the adult fare by the time you add on the 10 % baseline child’s fare.
• Buying a separate ticket for the child can actually be less than you think (for one international flight, it turned out to be about 83% of the adult fare, so not 100% as we imagined). Also know that even if you buy a seat for your toddler, you won’t need to lug a car seat onto the plane or check it in, if you don’t need it at the destination. This is because if your toddler is under 24 months old, he/she can just sit on your lap for takeoff and landing.
• If you buy a lap ticket with a travel agency/travel agent, be aware that they may charge you an extra 5-10% commission charge on top of your own airline tickets. If you want to avoid this, I recommend you buy the lap ticket over the phone with the airline directly or at the check-in counter on the day of travel.

Plan in Breaks!
If you can afford it, break up a long traveling journey as much as possible by planning in stopovers at mid-way points in the journey. This could mean stopping for 1-2 nights after 2 plane flights and staying with relatives, friends, or in hotel before traveling on. This allows time to handle unforeseen circumstances, and helps with jet lag transition. It also gives everyone the chance of a bit of a break so that the whole family won’t be too tired. In our recent trip, we ended up having to take our child to urgent care because of a sudden yellowish eye pus discharge, but fortunately we had planned a 2 night stay in San Francisco before traveling on to Asia. So we were able to take our little one to see the doctor and get an antibiotic eye ointment before taking a 12.5  hour flight to Taipei the next day.

Also, if there is a layover at an airport, plan an adequate amount of layover time in the schedule (at least 1 ½ to 2 hours). This way, you won’t feel you need to rush and fight with all the other passengers to get off the plane, will have time to stop for a potty break, navigate to the other terminal gate, and perhaps buy food (and gifts) to bring on the plane along the way. Your toddler will also appreciate having a longer break to stretch his or her legs and burn off some energy exploring the airport. Besides, an increasing number of airports are now quite ‘kid-friendly’ (e.g., Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Boston Logan International Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Portland International Airport) with fun tours, LEGO tables, bead mazes, interactive museums, aviation-themed play spaces, padded jungle gyms and other playscapes for children!