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!


Qn of the Month: US-UK Terms: What’s That Again?

wordcloud-welcome-heart-1This month, I thought we’ll take a little digression and poke fun at the differences between American and British terms and pronunciations of food and nutrition terms. I came across this great website recently ( which really touched a chord, as it made me realize more people than I thought had the same issues I experienced when working abroad, be it in the UK or US! I still remember all the stares I got and polite but determined attempts to correct me when I pronounced terms like basil as ‘baaysil’ instead of ‘bahsil’ as the Brits do, and oregano as ‘o-REG-gano’ instead of ‘oh-re-GANN-no’. It took a while but I eventually learned some key differences in vegetable names in both countries ‘across the pond’.

Here is a list of 10 different names and pronunciations to be aware of in case you’re planning to work abroad or work with clients from abroad on food and nutrition. Read and have a laugh!

American                          British

WAH-ta                                 wodder

erb                                         herb

VITE-a-min                         VIT-a-min

Eggplant                              Aubergine

Zucchini                              Courgette

Snow pea                            Mange tout

Arugula                               Rocket

Rutabaga                             Swede

Spring onion                       Scallion

Beets                                    Beetroot

Brown B. The Brit List: 10 Words Pronounced Differently in Britain. BBC America. September 19, 2012. Accessed July 28, 2015.

Langford J. 7 Veggies with Different Names in Britain and America. BBC America. October 3, 2014. Accessed July 28, 2015.)


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!

Qn of the Month: Can Milk Be Frozen?

milkA: To some this may be a rather unusual question, but since I had to recently test it out myself, I thought I’ll share the results! We usually take 5-6 long car trips a year to visit family and stay a week or two at a time. As a result, I have had to always clear out the fridge and usually dump any extra milk I have on hand the day we leave. I had previously done a quick Internet search but the results did not seem very clear on freezing milk, with some reporting that the quality, consistency and taste of the milk changes upon freezing. Well, prior to this last trip, I got fed up with having to toss milk away, and also with having to rush to the store on the day we arrive back home to get some fresh milk and other supplies. I had a half gallon container of reduced fat 2% milk (containing about 8 ounces as the remainder) left and space in my freezer, so I decided to pop it in there. Can’t hurt right?

Two weeks later, we arrived back home and I immediately put the frozen container of milk in the refrigerator compartment to start thawing out. What did I learn? Frozen milk takes a looonng time to thaw out in the fridge, possibly 24 hours or longer. Think of a chunk of ice melting. Of course it really depends on the amount of milk you have frozen at one time. I found it helped to put the container in some cold water for 10 to 15 minutes, before putting it back in the fridge. Then over the course of time as milk slowly thawed out, I firmly shook the closed container a few times to help break up the milk chunk within. Once thawed though, the milk tasted fine for at least up to 4-5 days afterwards. My verdict? I plan on doing this again the next time I have a car trip!

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.